Friday, 13 March 2009

Jon Stewart vs Jim Cramer, Round 3 [update 3]

Two snake oil salesman . . . least, that’s how it looks.  One of whom at least knows that about them both, the other of whom has been made braindead by fucked economic theory.

Watch the unedited interview here:
Jon Stewart and Jim Cramer: The Extended Daily Show Interview.

And ask yourself why people so eagerly buy predictions from anyone, with so little apparent thought about it.

Take home message from the whole thing: the future is inherently uncertain, and it’s even more so when your only guide is bad economics and a talking head on the tube.  So learn a little something for yourself about where your money’s going and why before you decide to put it there.  Get your head around some decent economic theory yourself.  And take advice, but in the end make your own decisions based on your own independent judgement, so you can’t blame anyone else for your errors.

And always keep in mind those two words we hear so little about these days, but should be hearing much more: Caveat emptor.

UPDATE 1: Stuart Wood at the Austrian Scholars’ Conference makes more explicit what it means to think independently in this context, which is to say, to think entrepreneurially:

“The future is unknowable but not unimaginable” - Ludwig Lachmann

The future is created by the actions that we take now. The future is changed by our actions. Entrepreneurs create a new world through their actions…

The market for goods is essentially known. We value a good with respect to our own personalities… The asset market is different. The values are constantly changing and very hard to predict…  The stock market function quite differently from the good market. Risk perception is subjective… Risk is the opinion a person has regarding his own ability to forecast the future accurately.

UPDATE 2: Also speaking today at the Austrian Scholars’ Conference is Peter Schiff, who (not incidentally) backed by Austrian scholarship reckons “The Meltdown Should have Surprised No One.”  Indeed, that’s the title of his talk. Best lines from his presentation:

    “I don't see why anyone should have been surprised by the meltdown. It seemed obvious that is was coming. . . “
  • “The government still looks at … prices falling as a bad thing. It's a solution!”
  • “So, the free market was getting the blame for a problem created by the govt, and the govt is using this econ crisis to get even bigger!”
  • “The govt doesn't want to stimulate the economy, they want to stimulate spending.”
  • “America became the world’s richest economy because we borrowed and produced; recently we've just borrowed and spent.”
  • “The only way we'll rebuild is with a smaller govt, not a big govt! We need sound money, and high interest rates!”
  • “This crisis will end up being a currency crisis!  There's no contraction of the money-supply, it's expanding!  It's like a giant explosion and everyone's running towards the blast!”

Here’s the notes from his talk, via Twitter] “

    I don't see why anyone should have been surprised by the meltdown. It seemed obvious that is was coming. . .
    Mark Hanes [the man who started Etoys] told me "you expect me to believe we could have TWO bubbles in ten years!!!???" 
    But both bubbles were related, they were basically the same. We just replaced one bubble with a bigger bubble. 
    We had a stock market bubble because the fed reserve pushed interest rates too low.  Eventually, Greenspan began to raise interest rates. He burst the bubble.  And when it burst, the bad investments were exposed.
    But instead of letting the recession run it's course, the fed stimulated the economy, and behold, another bubble appeared.  We had record car sales, record home sales, and people got the money for this by going into debt.
    This time 'round everyone bought real-estate with someone else's money.
    In 2005 the average homeowner believed his house was going to appreciate by 25% for the next ten years.  People didn't care what the mortgage payment was, all that mattered was that they thought they were going to be rich.  For a few years, this worked. The people who bought houses were getting rich. . .
    I knew that problems were coming because the banks had all these IOU's, but those are no good if people can't pay them!  Everybody had this idea that housing prices couldn't go down. But I knew that it wasn't so.  Everybody wants to go back to prudent lending, but nobody wants to go back to prudent pricing.
    The government still looks at home prices falling as a bad thing. It's a solution!
    Unfortunately, people keep placing the blame on the market. "Not enough regulation! Too much greed!" they cry.  They don't understand that there's a reason that people acted that way.  "Whenever there's a problem, don't worry, the government's gonna rescue you!", that was the mentality.
    The only things that needed regulation were the ones created by the government/  We didn't make the losses go away, we just postponed them. Once you've got securitization, you've got the moral hazard.

    For normal lenders we don't need govt regulation.  The rating agencies want jobs, and they get jobs by coming out with good ratings.  In the old days when banks lent their own capital, they wanted a fair appraisal. [Now they lend ‘money’ created by the Fed.]
    Nobody in this countries cares at all what the banks do with our money, because it's insured by the govt!  The govt has created a moral hazard by guaranteeing the accounts.

… So, the free market was getting the blame for a problem created by the govt, and the govt is using this econ crisis to get even bigger!  To save us from capitalism with socialism!  … Obama wants to replace the invisible hand with the hand of the state.
    It's not government that's going to restore the economy, it will be the free market.
    They wanted to bailout companies that should go under. Companies that are not making a profit.  We don't want work just so we can have a job, we want work so we can produce something. We work because we want stuff, not because we want to work.  I can understand why the executives want to preserve their jobs, but society shouldn't want to preserve them.  If we let [companies] go bankrupt, is that an end to [say] the auto industry? Of course not!  An entrepreneur would step up and buy the assets and and once again start making cars profitability. . .
    We don't need all these investment banks! And there's a lot of small firms out there that are expanding and will expand more if the govt gets out of the way. How can these guys make multi-million salaries when their business's are going out of business?
    The govt doesn't want to stimulate the economy, they want to stimulate spending.
    The only reason is sort of worked before is because we were able to borrow from the rest of the world, so as we spent money, we counted that as our GDP.  But we weren’t growing at all, we were simply spending . . .
    We have a lot of Americans working in jobs that they shouldn't be in; we need more Americans making stuff, producing things.  Back then, we borrowed money to make investments, to build infrastructure, to build farms, we didn't just spend it.  When you invest you have a real asset, and then you can generate revenue.
    America became the world’s richest economy because we borrowed and produced; recently we've just borrowed and spent. The only way we'll ever rebuild the econ is by stopping the stimulus and bailouts.
   Obama talks about how's he's different from Bush. Everything's the same! (only worse):Obama's fiscal policy is worse than Bush's. The things [Fed chief] Ben Bernanke is doing now will dwarf what Greenspan was doing.  The combination of Obama-Bernanke is worse than Bush-Greenspan.  Only the rhetoric is different, the policy is the same!
    The fact that credit is being denied to Americans is a good thing.
    We need to eliminate the deficit and go with surplus.  We need a recession! We need one badly.  This is the price we pay for years of indulgence and reckless spending.  
    The only way we'll rebuild is with a smaller govt, not a big govt! We need sound money, and high interest rates!
    The results instead will be no different this time 'round.  We are right now suffering the consequences of the stimulus and bailouts of 01-02 . . .
    This crisis will end up being a currency crisis!  There's no contraction of the money-supply, it's expanding!  It's like a giant explosion and everyone's running towards the blast!
    . . . We're exactly repeating the 1930's.  Everything Roosevelt did only made the great depression worse -- that situation is very similar to what's happening now. Bush = Hoover, Obama = Roosevelt.
    Look at the problems we had in the 70's, but we at least had a sound economy at that time.  People say we can't repeat Japan's mistake, but we're doing just that.  Japan kept their interest rates too low, exactly like we've done -- real-estate prices are still falling in Japan; the govt in Japan refused to allow the market to function, so they kept intervening.
    When the world stops financing this, it's going to come to an end, and we'll have to make these hard choices, but people still think that when America stops consuming, the world will collapse.  America isn't the engine of the world, it's the caboose!
    . . . Because the world lends us too much money, there's a capital shortage. They're better off not lending to us.

ASC09_event UPDATE 3:  In response to a few questions on the Austrian Scholars Conference, presently under way, you can watch live video of presentations here, and find all the archived videos here.

Since many of you were asking Peter Schiff’s presentation, here it is: Why the Meltdown Should Have Surprised No One .

And yes, you can still follow the conference on Twitter.

Not bad NOT PC for the last seven days . . .

It’s been a somewhat quiet seven days in news terms, but that didn’t stop thousands of you thundering through here – and here’s what you stopped and looked at so often you must have figured it wasn’t too bad:

  • There must be 50 ways to be a creationist?
    Religion meets evolution meets humour  . . . at least, that was the original intent of the link supplied, a list that “pretty well covers all the real reasons people are creationists” -- opinions over which are still clearly divided, if not always clearly explained.
  • Nimbys 3, Ellis 20.
    NOT PC uncovers some correspondence to Sandra Coney, on the occasion of Marc Ellis & Co’s cafe at Piha finally gaining the permission of the grey ones to go ahead.  “This Environment Court decision is just so typical of the new mood sweeping across our country,” begins the letter, “one of optimism, hope and a culture where hard work and success are celebrated. It is deplorable. . .”
  • Garrett continues to remove all doubt
    In ACT’s David Garrett, Mark Twain would rarely have found a clearer example of his famous dictum. Garrett’s push for degrading imprisonment, regardless of what people are in prison for, continues to demonstrate that the “liberal” party MP means it when he says “we've got too hung up on people's rights.”
  • Are you Going John Galt?
    Are you Going John Galt?  I ask, because as The Reign of The Obamessiah kicks in, more and more Americans are going on strike, and – the words of the commentariat – they’re “Going John Galt.” Ayn Rand would surely have approved.
  • NOT PJ: The None-Day Fortnight
    Bernard Darnton finds a government scheme so good he demands it be made ten times bigger.
  • Who’s not watching the Watchmen?
    New film The Watchmen has got lots of people excited.  Galt knows why.  It doesn’t sound like 163 minutes I’d care to sit through.
  • The aristocracy of prison management
    Private prisons?  I’m agin’ ‘em – and so too are other like-minded enthusiasts of privatisation Paul Walker and Liberty Scott.  You see, there’s something fundamentally different about it when you’re privatising force . . .

Cheers, and thanks for reading NOT PC---and don’t forget to check out the latest Objectivist bloggers’ roundup over the weekend.  There’s some great commentary there too on the Going John Galt phenomenon.
Peter Cresswell

Beer O'Clock: Beer Bits

Here's a few beer stories from around the traps.
    At the Dictionary Centre we are interested in the historical aspect of New Zealand words and usages in every domain, and alcohol is no exception . . .
    Shepherds, station hands and shearers would rush to town to "lamb down" their pay cheques, ie spend them at the nearest public house. As prohibition took hold, a unique use of the term "dry area" developed in New Zealand English. Soon words were generated for the products of illicit stilling and brewing, ranging from "bush beer", "bush whisky", "cabbage tree rum", "chain lightning", "colonial brew", "hokonui", "matai beer", "paikaka" ("it had a kick like a mule") and "tutu beer", to "sheep wash" and "Waitohi dew". Sly groggers were known in New Zealand by a variety of names, including "dropper" and "blind tiger."    Waipiro (rotten water) was an early name borrowed from te reo as a general term for alcohol, while titoki was a common borrowing for beer or shandy. Even dogs contributed to the lexis of alcohol. A "dog collar" is froth on beer, while to have "a dog tied up" was to owe money for drink. The word fence was compounded with others when alcohol was mixed with ginger beer, hence rum fence, sherry fence and "stone fence" (brandy and ginger beer).
    Beer brewing and drinking has its own vocabulary. To "chew hops" was to drink beer, or in other words, to have a "brown bomber." Too much of a good thing could produce a "beer goitre" or pot belly. Among the shearing fraternity and sorority, "beer o'clock" was the time to "knock off" work for the day. In fact, beer was often known as "shearers' joy" or "Tommy Dodd."
    Cockney rhyming slang was adopted to codify beer as "pig's ear", while too much gave one the "Joe Blakes" (the shakes). One then recovered with a "nurse" (an alcoholic pick-up drink) and the empties, or "dead marines", were collected in "bottle drives."
    Alcohol produced by amateurs usually resulted in unpalatable or potent drinks known as "green liquor", "purple death" (cheap red wine), "purge" or "panther purge." No doubt even more unpalatable was methylated spirits, known as "steam" by those in the know. Steam drinkers were likely to be "Jimmy Woodsers", to drink Jimmy Woodsers, or to "drink with the flies", all the equivalent of drinking alone.  
    An "Anzac Day dinner" was the term for a liquid lunch, perhaps with "Anzac shandy", a beer and champagne mix.
    The more New Zealanders drank, the more "mullocked", "munted", "shickered", "wasted" or "steamed" they would become.
    We left the "six o'clock swill" in the 1960s, in the attempt to make our drinking culture more "civilised". Perhaps you can sense the "Tui moments", hear the apposite response, and visualise the headshakes.|    Nevertheless, we cannot claim that alcohol has been a dry area in terms of word generation in New Zealand English.
Delightfully described, Ms Bardsley.  And now I'm off to chew some hops myself -- and in honour of Neil Miller's  Porter Story at his other blog, I'll do it with a Grafton Porter from Galbraith's, as I have so often before.

Quote(s) of the Day: Unregulated Unkeynesianisms

Okay, neither of these two gets marks for pithiness, but which of them do you think nails the case better?  First, from Luigi Zingales in a debate at The Economist with the egregious Brad De Long [hat tip Paul Walker, who continues the ‘hangover’ theme]:

    Keynesianism has conquered the hearts and minds of politicians and ordinary people alike because it provides a theoretical justification for irresponsible behaviour. Medical science has established that one or two glasses of wine per day are good for your long-term health, but no doctor would recommend a recovering alcoholic to follow this prescription. Unfortunately, Keynesian economists do exactly this. They tell politicians, who are addicted to spending our money, that government expenditures are good. And they tell consumers, who are affected by severe spending problems, that consuming is good, while saving is bad. In medicine, such behaviour would get you expelled from the medical profession; in economics, it gives you a job in Washington.

And this, from Lawrence White, quoted in George Will’s latest Town Hall column [hat tip Jeff Perren]:

    Lawrence H. White, economics professor at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, denies that financial institutions ever were "unregulated." Hitherto, such institutions were "regulated by profit and loss":
    "The failure of Lehman Brothers and the near-failure of Merrill Lynch raised the interest rate at which profit-seeking lenders were willing to lend to highly leveraged investment banks. The market thereby forced Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to change their business models drastically and to convert to commercial banks. If that isn't effective regulation, what is? Protecting firms from failure (Bear Stearns, AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Goldman Sachs, Citibank) and mitigating their losses with bailouts renders this most appropriate form of regulation much less effective."

“Ignoring the Austrians Got Us in This Mess" – Barron’s magazine

The British and United States governments may be happy to promote their ‘new’ printing money programmes –- the Fed for example, in attempting to ‘save’ the world by inflationism by increasing base money supply at a rate of 150% since last September–- diluting the purchasing of every existing dollar and pound with every new banknote they print –- but at least Alan Bollard is unprepared to go completely down that path.  Yet.

Anyway, while the denizens of government are inflating the hell out of their media of exchange, at the behest of Keynesians and Friedmanites, the influential Barron’s magazine, for one, is writing about the perils of ignoring Austrian economists.  “Ignoring the Austrians Got Us in This Mess" says the headline:

   The standard construct of the economy used by virtually all forecasters, from the Federal Reserve on down, is basically Keynesian, with varying opinions about how the model works. That none of them predicted the current crisis is telling, and indeed damning of the approach.
    What definitely is ignored in academe is the Austrian school of economics, especially for baby boomers brought up on Samuelson's economics text, which was pure Keynesian orthodoxy. I did not learn the names von Mises and Hayek or their ideas until a decade or more after graduation (with a degree in economics, by the way.)
    The Austrian view is a mirror image on the right to Minsky's from the left. The economy, if left alone, is self-correcting, say the Austrians. But central banks' inflationary expansion of credit produces booms and
malinvestments, which inevitably lead to a crashes and depressions.
    The only prevention for boom and busts are sound money, which is impossible with government-controlled central banks. Once the bust comes, the only cure is to let it run its course; allow the malinvestments go bankrupt and let the market reallocate the capital to productive uses....
    The Austrian prescription, of course, was rejected first by the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and now by massive response by both the purportedly conservative Bush administration and now the Obama administration. First came the $700 billion TARP last year to stabilize the financial system, followed by the $787 billion fiscal stimulus enacted last month. Across party lines, it's accepted that government's role is to prevent the economic pain that would come of "liquidate, liquidate, liquidate."
    But the Austrians were the ones who could see the seeds of collapse in the successive credit booms, aided and abetted by Fed policies, especially under former chairman Alan Greenspan. While he disavows (again) the responsibility for the boom and bust, most recently on Wednesday's Wall Street Journal Op-Ed page ("Fed Policy Didn't Cause the Housing Bubble," March 11), monetary policy played a key role in creating successive bubbles and busts during his tenure from 1987 to 2006...
    Austrian economists assert the current crisis is the inevitable result of the Fed's successive efforts to counter each previous bust. As the credit expansion pumped up asset values to unsustainable levels, the eventual collapse would result in a contraction of credit as losses decimate banks' balance sheets and render them unable to lend. That sounds like an accurate diagnosis of the current problems.
    In the meantime, both Western democracies and autocratic governments such as China are actively utilizing the ideas of both Keynes and Friedman alike in enacting massively expansionary fiscal and monetary policies to counter the crisis resulting from the severe contraction in credit.
    If these policies are successful, perhaps governments will adhere to Austrian principles to prevent a new boom and bust. That is for the next cycle, however. To paraphrase St. Augustine, governments may be saying, "Make us non-interventionist, but not yet."

As you can see, it’s so good I had to quote most of it.

If Austrian economics is still a stranger to you, then perhaps the best place to start in the present context is the Mises Institute’s Bailout Reader – which includes many of those predictions of collapse Barron’s mentions above.

Cramer vs Obama

madmoney Yesterday I posted a few hilarious links to the spat between the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart and CNBC’s Jim Cramer, just one of CNBC’s talking economists whose crystal ball has been failing him, and his viewers.

But it looks at least that Cramer, like his colleague Rick Santelli, has the balls to speak his mind, and to stand up against the onslaught of wealth destruction and redistribution from the new Obama Administration, and the opprobrium of the Obamessiah himself, who’s taken to personally attacking the increasing number of  media figures who criticise him.  Says Cramer in a recent column [HT2 Bob Tracinski]:

    Obama has undeniably made things worse by creating an atmosphere of fear and panic rather than an atmosphere of calm and hope….
I believe his agenda is crushing nest eggs around the nation in loud ways, like the decline in the averages, and in soft but dangerous ways, like in the annuities that can't be paid and the insurance benefits that will be challenging to deliver on.
So I will fight the fight against that agenda. I will stand up for what I believe and for what I have always believed: Every person has a right to be rich in this country and I want to help them get there. And when they get there, if times are good, we can have them give back or pay higher taxes. Until they get there, I don't want them shackled or scared or paralyzed. That's what I see now.
If that makes me an enemy of the White House, then call me a general of an army that Obama may not even know exists -- tens of millions of people who live in fear of having no money saved when they need it and who get poorer by the day.

Good on him for that.

(Illustration from) Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ – Gustav Doré (1832-1883)


Doré’s woodcut illustrations for Milton’s Paradise Lost were completed in 1866.

In an era in which no man had ever flown, except in a balloon, this would have been a startling and dramatic image. 

Still is.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Garrett continues to remove all doubt [updated]

ACT’s brave new MP David Garrett continues to defend the indefensible.  Still proudly defending his insistence that the already fairly toothless Bill of Rights Act be further emasculated to suit his view of the importance of individual rights -- “we've got too hung up on people's rights," maintains the “liberal” party’s most unlikely representative -– he’s now got his back even further to the wall, at Lindsay Mitchell’s blog, on the subject of the safety of prisoners

In defending his implicit assumption that there’s no one in our jails who are there only for victimless crimes, he makes this explicit challenge to Mike Earley,

if you can draw my attention to anyone who is in jail for "smoking pot" and nothing else, $100 is yours...

Looks like he is as foolish as he is ill-informed. Quick as a flash, Mike obliges.

One begins to realise the beauty of Keith Holyoake’s advice to new MPs to breath through their nose for their first three years.  And also, perhaps, of Mark Twain’s valuable advice to fools.

UPDATE: Liberty Scott clarifies the problem with Mr Garrett’s position:

    It is one thing to say prison shouldn't be comfortable - which is right, it shouldn't have TV, videos and the like. Similarly the smuggling of drugs and cellphones should be stamped upon.
    It is another to be nonchalant about prisoners being raped.
   So now [from the ACT Party and its supporters] we have that it's okay for people to be in prison for growing cannabis for personal use, okay to be in prison for sedition, presumably also for inciting racial disharmony (three months sentence), tax evaders of course, blasphemy can have a prison term (though been a long time since used), as can consensual adults-only incest, as can possession of an erotic story involving consenting adults. . .
    How fucking hard would it be for ACT to, in principle, oppose victimless crimes, while at the same time recognising that some victimless crimes need to be addressed comprehensively. . .  ?

Obviously, no government will be conveniently keeping figures on how many they have incarcerated for victimless crimes, but when I last looked at this question NORML were pointing out that "New Zealand has the highest recorded cannabis arrest rate in the world, at 606 people arrested per 100,000 population per year. The United States is second with 247 arrests per 100,000 population per year."
Not a great statistic in which to come first. NORML's Cannabis Arrest-o-Meter shows too that there have been 123,303 cannabis offences [from 1000 to 2006] and that cannabis offences number just over 80% of all drug offences. So that's an awful lot of victimless arrests.

    As for the prison population ... if you check the recent NZ Corrections Dept stats ... of 6,250 prisoners (costing taxpayers $56,575 per year) they suggest upwards of nine percent of male offenders are incarcerated for drug offences, and eight percent for traffic offences.
    "The main reasons [given] for male imprisonment are: 39 percent for violence offences; 22 percent for sexual violence offences; 22 for property offences (e.g. burglary), 9 percent for drug offences; 8 percent for traffic offences."  Yes, traffic offences.

Meanwhile, Blair Anderson from the Mild Greens has some more recent figures:

Drug offences rose slightly between 2007 and 2008 from 18,908 in 2007 (year ending 30 June) to 19,259 in 2008. Within this overall rise there was a shift in the composition of these offences with more Cannabis related offences (14,449 to 15,288) and fewer offences for other and most often harder, drugs (4,450 to 3,971). Overall the level of drug related crime is 13% lower in 2008 than in 2004 when there were 22,249 drug offences of which 18,271 were Cannabis related.

And Lindsay Mitchell follows up on the point this morning:

First I reiterate a part of a post from earlier in the week;
    "’ The fact is: if you don't want to be assaulted - or worse - by a cellmate, avoid prison by not     committing a crime,’ Mr Garrett said."
My response; 
    “I wonder if Mr Garrett has forgotten that there are people in our prisons who are not violent; people who are guilty only of victimless crimes; people who should properly be in the care of psychiatrists and nursing staff; people who are on remand awaiting trial who may not even be convicted. . .”

And as always, Lindsay likes to base her own case on the figures, and Chris Fowlie at NORML has supplied Lindsay with some numbers from the 2002 Health Select Committee cannabis inquiry report:

p32: "Of the 9,399 prosecutions for the use of cannabis, 6,761 resulted in convictions, and 52 custodial sentences were imposed."

And from parliamentary questions:

Question 8479 (2004) … Paul Swain (Minister of Corrections):
The total number of inmates imprisoned for possession of drugs but not manufacture or supply of drugs in each of the last five years is as follow:
1999 431 inmates
2000 430 inmates
2001 443 inmates
2002 386 inmates
2003 411 inmates
2004 157 inmates (up to 31 May 2004)

As Lindsay says, “While most sentences would have been for drugs other than cannabis, these substantial numbers represent the victimless crimes alluded to.” 

These are just some of the people Mr Garrett and his ACT Party wish to ignore.

And he still owes Mike $100.

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Trade, troughs and the end of Wife Beater Wednesdays [updated]

In which Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath gives his take on some of this week’s news:

  1. Top cop stood down after drink-drive refusal – The police have done the decent thing (at last) and removed Superintendent Graham Thomas from his job as head of the national prosecutions service. Mr Thomas refused to undergo a breath alcohol screening test after being followed home by a community patrol team who alerted police officers. The police have to be seen as whiter than white, and not have their staff use the same loopholes in the law that villains use to evade justice. Graham Thomas should have been suspended from his job immediately.
  2. Obama puts off trade talks – the Red President postpones discussions aimed at creating a free trade zone involving five countries including the U.S and New Zealand. This sort of backward protectionist trade sabotage, worthy of Jim Anderton and Winston Peters, will not help anyone. And the leftist media labeled Ron Paul an isolationist! Well done John Key, who said in response "If the world wants to come through the recession in the strongest way possible, free trade is one of the levers we can use to advance that.”
  3. Profit plunge sparks talk of city’s port sale – Port of Auckland chairman Gary Judd floats the idea of privatizing this country’s largest port, in light of a sharp drop in profits. Unfortunately, the decision is up to state-worshipper Mike Lee and his Auckland Regional Council, and profits for the port are a cash cow that allows the ARC to subsidise loss-making absurdities such as public transport. A Libertarianz government would divest local bodies of all business investments. Mike Lee would be free to try and turn a profit out of public transport, but by risking his own money, not that of Auckland ratepayers.
  4. University buys the ‘Bowler’ – Otago University buys the Bowling Green Tavern, for many years a student bar. I was sad to read this. The Bowling Green had been an occasional watering hole for me in the 1980s, being across the road from Dunedin hospital. At one time it rebranded itself Zouga Ballentyne’s after a character in a Wilbur Smith novel, complete with a reception desk fashioned out of the front half of a Land Rover. Two years ago, the owner had faced a sedition charge related to a promotion that offered a petrol soaked couch and a box of matches as a prize, and on another occasion was criticized for offering Wife Beater Wednesday special deals. Ah well, I guess you can’t stand in the way of progress, but it’s still sad to see an icon (of 131 years standing) disappear. What I do object to is the university using taxpayer money to purchase this strategically located piece of real estate.
  5. Fabulous Fagan’s Sixteenth Title – Shearing legend David Fagan, aged 47 - the same vintage as Obama, John Key and yours truly - wins yet another Golden Shears open championship title in Masterton (the centre of the shearing universe) last weekend. A well-run event, relatively peaceful, and all managed without government interference and the need to hold a gun to people’s heads (i.e. tax them) to cover costs.

See y’all next week!   
Doc McGrath

Cramer vs not-Cramer; Holt vs Chiropractors [updated]

There are a couple of good TV feuds going at the moment you might enjoy.

The first is The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart bagging the talking heads at CNBC for doing what economic commentators do: which is, getting their predictions wrong.

  • Bob Murphy hosts Stewart’s first salvo, which as he says is more than a little harsh on Rick Santelli -- but beautifully skewers the madman that is Cramer: Jon Stewart Goes Off on CNBC.
  • Cramer responds, and as Murphy says, “the lesson here is, if Jon Stewart rips you on his show, just enjoy the attention and let it go.”  Stewart rips Cramer another one: Jon Stewart vs. CNBC (Cramer), Round 2.

(And just to ensure you don’t go away thinking it’s just CNBC’s talking economists who get things so badly wrong, let me remind you how good our local economists are at predicting things.)

So that’s the first feud; here’s the second.  Tauranga doctor Shaun Holt appears occasionally on the Breakfast show offering rational advice on natural remedies.  He looks at research, not rhetoric – which really annoys the quacks.  He looked at homeopathy, which he calls “the opposite of science.” He looked at chiropractic, found it wasn’t worth the research it was printed on, and he said so.  And naturally enough, a chiropractor took umbrage, to which Sean responded again.

Not as funny as Jon Stewart, but infinitely more thorough.

Any other good TV feuds we should know about?

UPDATE:  Mexaguil has spotted a Time magazine run-down of the top ten US TV feuds.  Fun!

NOT PJ: The None-Day Fortnight

Bernard Darnton finds a government scheme so good it should be made ten times bigger.

BernardDarnton Along with the credit crisis, we’re suffering a bright-ideas crisis. Liquidity in the inter-brain idea market has dried up entirely if the recent Jobs Summit was anything to go by.

To dispose of the obviously sacrificial comedy proposal first: let’s not build a country-length cycleway. Bicycles are children’s toys and children shouldn’t be allowed out to roam the backblocks of the South Island when they should be doing their homework. Regardless, anyone who has done their homework on this proposal will know, as many commentators have already pointed out, that we already have a perfectly good cycleway running the length of the country. We just need to lift the rails and sleepers.

The cycleway proposal only existed to deflect attention from the second proposal. That worked because I can’t remember what the second proposal was.

The dubious honour of being the “best” idea to come out of the Jobs Summit goes to the nine-day fortnight. The idea being that if we all do ten percent less work the country will get richer again. Presumably this idea is based on the observation that a lot of millionaires just swan around on superyachts and otherwise do bugger-all all day.

If doing ten percent less work will make us just rich enough to ride out the recession perhaps we could all do fifty percent less work and then we’d have scads of time for margaritas with Miss September in the Bahamas.

When Caribbean frolics with centrefolds are one of the possible options it’s no surprise that EPMU National Secretary Andrew Little described John Key’s five-hours-at-minimum-wage suggestion as “underwhelming.”

Just tangentially, Little is also president of the Labour Party, so he must be working a twenty-day fortnight at the moment. Selfish bastard hogging two jobs at a time like this. What about the workers?

Mocking the idea that working nine days is better than working ten assumes that said work involves producing something that someone else wants. That means creating goods and services. Not sitting in meeting rooms gazing without focus past PowerPoint slides on A Vision for Empowering Stakeholder Awareness Strategies. Or anything about Key Process Initiative Frameworks. Or Implementing Sustainable Commitments. Or Maximising Outcome Enhancements. Or … Christ, before it gets worse, please, just boil me in skunk urine.

There are thousands of people in the Molesworth Quarter who would become instantly more productive if their working weeks were cut short – by virtue of their current negative productivity. There are hectares of offices full of people who consume the wealth generated by taxpayers in every wrinkle of this country and do nothing but get in the way of those who feed them.

So perhaps the idea of the nine-day fortnight isn’t such a bad one after all. If it could be switched from the private sector to the public the advantages could be huge. Even if there were no corresponding pay cuts the country would be better off because those that do produce wealth would be freer to just get on with it.

Having proved the worth of the nine-day fortnight for public servants we could experiment with an eight-day fortnight. And then a seven. By then it would be clear that the recipe for New Zealand’s economic success is the scheme’s ultimate conclusion: the public sector none-day fortnight.

* * Read Bernard Darnton’s NOT PJ column every Thursday here at NOT PC * *

In Thoughts of You – Jack Vettriano


By Britain’s biggest selling print artist, Scotland’s Jack Vettriano.  “My paintings,” he says, “are about things I have done and things I wish I could do. They are about a bunch of sad, unhappy people who are driven by lust.”

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Czech President says ‘no’ to global warming sacrifices

Vaclav Klaus Speaking in New York at the Heartland Institute’s Second International Conference on Climate Change, at Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who currently holds the EuroPresidency, says,

    “The questions which need to be answered [about the science and the politics of global warming] are serious and non-trivial. Should we make radical decisions now? Should we tax today's generations to benefit future generations? Should we be generously altruistic? Should we give preference to future generations and not to the people living in undeveloped countries today? My answer is no." 

Read his whole speech here [pdf], and Professor Bob Carter’s account of the conference so far here.

No Fault, No Care, No Responsibility

Government welfare is almost an oxymoron, yet it’s the basis on which the whole edifice of big government is based: the ability of big government to extract payment from one group to give to another.

We’ve all seen the many well-documented problems with the welfare state created.

New Zealand’s welfare system is further corrupted by the disaster that is the Accident Compensation Corporation, a sinecure for a special breed of bureaucrat for whom a billion dollar blowout is nothing to worry about, the organisation at whose birth government in their wisdom removed the legal power to obtain payment from those who might be responsible for your injury.

As Liberty Scott points out, the ACC is a monopoly without accountability.  Injured in a burglary? No problem: here’s a cheque.  Injured while escaping from prison? No problem, here’s a cheque. But what happens if you get poor service from ACC? Well if you are a claimant you can appeal to the District Court…  And good luck with that.  What happens if your levies go up?  Tough luck.  What happens if, say, you’re maimed by medical misadventure, and ACC declines to recognise your claim?  Tough luck.

The ethos of ACC is no fault, no care, no responsibility.  And in Liberty Scott’s calculations, that means Public Health Care + ACC = No Accountability

Which means if you lose an eye through incompetence, have cancer spread fatally because of delays or oversights, or have an incapacitating stroke because of delays in treating your first minor stroke (to quote some examples of government health blunders) then that’s just your tough luck – and if ACC decides to throw out your claim as well, then you’re on your own.

1989001Like I said the other day, there’s now’t so cold as government charity, despite charity being the justification for the whole edifice of the welfare state.

Take the case of John Whittaker, pictured right with his 19-year-old daughter Alix; incapacitated by a bungled treatment of his diabetes, and now utterly incapable of looking after himself.  He’s recently been told by ACC that the home help he now needs will be pulled on April 3rd. (Short stories here at Stuff, and at Close Up.) 

Both ACC and WINZ have done assessments since those stories were run that conclude John is in desperate need of the care he has been receiving . . . but neither of them will take responsibility.  ACC won’t take responsibility any more because he has other health problems outside the ACC claim – and presumably ACC’s cost blowouts are starting to make them withdraw their payments. And WINZ won’t take responsibility because he doesn’t fit their criteria: bizarrely, their own payments to him put him over the income threshold for receiving home help.

Lots of finger-pointing, but no accountability.  No fault, no care, no responsibility. So much for the welfare state we’re in.

Luckily he has daughter Alix to fight and care for him—a daughter who will be abandoning her studies and leaving her work at the campus of design school NatColl on April 3rd to look after him if nothing else can be done.  Alix reckons they could manage with just $8824.23 to keep paying the home help themselves, and keep her in work and fighting bureaucracy. 

Fortunately too, Westpac bank have set up a Donation Appeal Account to help raise that sum. The account will be closed down within a month, says Alix, if the target of $8824.23 is reached, and any excess money will go to Diabetes New Zealand.

Feel free to help.

It’s more than the system you pay for is able to do.

NB: I’m told the account so far has just over $1700, and there is also a Facebook group which is doing nicely:

Account details are : John Whittaker - Home Care Account 

Dancer, I – Jean Miro


(Jean Miro, Dancer, 1925. Oil on canvas. 115.5cm x 88.5cm)

So what do you think of that, then? 

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

LIBERTARIAN SUS: I’ve Got Your Number

Susan has got your number . . . but how did you get hers?

susanryder “Um, is this Kapiti Cheeses? I want some of that chewy cheese you guys make … you know, the one with the herbs in it? Can I just order 200g? Can you ring me back on 06 (unintelligible)”.

“Hi, Ezibuy. I want the top on p6 of your catalogue .. the recent one you sent out last week. Not last year’s one. I want it in a size 10 in the blue. Not the top the blonde girl’s wearing, the other one. I think I want the 10 .. are they big-fitting? If not, I better take the 12 and my mum wants the same in a size 16 in the red. That’s the red, not the fuschsia. Do I just order here? Can someone ring me? My number is 09 (unintelligible). Ta!”

“Aw, ah, hullo? Hullo? Is someone there? Aw shit, I hate f***ing machines. Shit. You fullas send me a list of the people for Maungakiekie, eh? Ring me back.”

“Telecom Mobile Faults? Look, I’m really pissed off! I just got a cellphone and I can’t get it to text properly and I really need to text my boyfriend! Ring me back on this number – as soon as you can, alright?!”

Just a few of the voicemail messages to have greeted me upon arrival at work over the years, none of which – I’m sure you’ve guessed - have anything to do with our company. Welcome to the wonderful world of the misdialled freecall!

People dial wrong numbers all the time, no problem. But these geniuses took the cake, completely ignoring the clearly recorded messages – plural - from:

1. Telecom advising that “You have called XYZ on 0800 *** ***. If you have dialled the wrong number, please hang up now”, followed by

2. Yours truly stating: “Thank you for calling XYZ. Please leave your name and number and we’ll return your call as soon as possible.”

Then there were the Einsteins who rang during office hours, also ignoring the automated Telecom message that kicked in prior to my phone ringing.

Me: XYZ, good morning.

Einstein: Is this Telecom mobile faults/Kapiti Cheeses/the Electoral Roll/Ezibuy?

Me: No, it’s XYZ. I’m sorry, you have the wrong number.

Einstein: “What?!

Me: I said you’ve got the wrong number.

Einstein: Well, who are you? What number’s this?

Me: (Deep breath) We’re XYZ and the number is 0800 *** ***.

Einstein: That’s the number I want!

Me: (Biting tongue) No, it’s not. That’s my number. I’m afraid you’ve either been given or dialled the wrong one.

Einstein: Well, what’s the number for Telecom mobile faults/Kapiti Cheeses/the Electoral Roll/Ezibuy then?

Me: (Counting to 10 – and getting there rapidly) Oddly enough, I don’t know. Look, I’m hanging up now, because this is costing me money.

Einstein: No, it’s not, you liar! 0800 calls are free!!

True stories, people, and there’s lots more where they came from! I dispensed with politeness if the morons were silly enough to argue with me and had a lot of fun doing so. (Especially regarding the Electoral Roll, but that’s for another time … )

Because by far and away the worst culprits for constantly dialling the wrong number are Housing New Zealand tenants. They out-call the others collectively by ten to one, rendering the possible permutations on a national scale downright alarming. Further, they are also the most stupid, which, as the previous examples show, is saying something.

I dread the calls because not only do they invariably argue with me for not being Housing New Zealand, I have great difficulty in understanding their speech in the first place. And before you wonder why I don’t dispense with the niceties and put the phone down, forget it. They simply hit redial and pick up where they left off, but even more abusive.

Take the bloke who rang last Thursday. Evidently his toilet was blocked and he wanted someone to come and fix it. I felt like a bit of sport:

Me: Just call a plumber.

Buggered Toilet Bloke: But I’ll have to pay for it!

Me: Well, you blocked it.

BTB: But I don’t want to pay for it!

Me: Well, neither do I!

BTB: But Housing NZ should pay!

Me: Why should they pay for your problem? You blocked it – you pay to fix it!

BTB: But I don’t want to! I don’t have to! It’s not up to me!

At that point, I felt the overwhelming need to enlighten him. It was too good to let go, bearing in mind that he still insisted I was Housing NZ …

Me: “Well, that’s just the problem, matey-boy. Lazy arses like you who expect something for nothing at other people’s expense. Know what a parasite is? Someone who feeds off someone else! Where do you get off in expecting a free lunch? Why the hell should some poor sod go to work for sweet FA and pay market rent so you can get your bills paid and live in a cheap house? Pay your own bloody bills – and that includes getting your loo fixed! Got it!!”

I can’t speak for Buggered Toilet Bloke, but I certainly felt a lot better. Look, it’s not going off the deep end. On the contrary, it helps to regain some much-needed equilibrium when hearing about the likes of the disgraceful Salt family time and time again … and knowing who really pays for it all.

* * Susan Ryder enlightens you every Tuesday here at NOT PC.  Twice, some weeks. * *

The aristocracy of prison management [updated]

To say I’m in favour of privatisation would be somewhat of an understatement.  As far as I’m concerned, if the Beehive was sold off tomorrow and the whole government run out of a prefab in Pigeon Park, then I’d be a happy man.

But I’m not convinced about privatising prisons, or more accurately “contracting out” of prison management, any more than I would be about privatising (or “contracting out”) policemen.

To say it again in case you thought you misread that: I’m not in favour of private prisons.

As always, there’s both a moral and a practical point to make.

The first point to make comes from the very reason we have governments, a point remembered these days more in the breach than the observance: that, for very good reasons, governments have a monopoly on the use of force.

    If physical force is to be barred from social relationships, men need an institution charged with the task of protecting their rights under an objective code of rules.
    This is the task of government–of a proper government—it’s basic task, its only moral justification and the reason why mean do need a government.
    A government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective control—ie., under objectively defined laws. [Ayn Rand]

This is the difference between private business and the government: it’s the difference between the dollar and the gun.

So what’s morally wrong with private prisons then?  Because, to my mind, it puts the gun in the service of the dollar.  Privatise as much of the existing government as you can, but when you start privatising force, then I’m agin’ you.

That’s the moral argument against private prisons, that it puts the gun in the service of the dollar.  The practical argument is related: that it puts profits at the whim of bureaucratic management.

As Ludwig von Mises points out, profit management is a very different animal to bureaucratic management –- with public-private partnerships we get the worst of both.  As he explains, “the only appropriate method for handling governmental affairs, for which market processes, economic calculation and the profit motive are unable to provide sufficient guidelines … is the employment of bureaucrats and bureaucratic management.”  And it’s true.  When there’s no market, there’s no genuine way to use the profit motive appropriately – and when you do try to use it, by whatever system of contracting out you devise, you still inevitably invite corruption.

We've all heard the stories of the American defence department’s $400 hammers and $640 toilet seats; and we’re all aware that private contractors know how to milk these systems that govt procurement agencies put in place.

No one knows this better than the crony-phony capitalists who survive by leeching off the public purse, those who Rand called the “aristocracy of pull.”

Who knew this better than the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, created and nurtured by the politicians, who then received back some of the profits - “sometimes directly, as campaign funds; sometimes as ‘contributions’ to favored constituents.”

Who knows this better than lawyers, some of the country’s most highly-paid parasites, whose true speciality is in milking the taxpayers' pockets for their own lucrative ends.

And who would know this better than contractors for the management of prisons, whose speciality is to use the power of the gun to their own dollar advantage.

Yes, I agree with competition, and it's true that private prisons can operate more efficiently, and have done.   But if government is inefficient at managing prisons themselves –- and no one knows this better than Barry Matthews himself -– then why should we expect it to be any more efficient at producing the contracts to run private prisons?  As Cato’s Bruce Benson points out, “In anarchy (and indeed, any private market) the good or service is being supplied in response to the demands of private individuals,” whereas when the demand comes wholly from monopsonistic bureaucratic management financed out of the taxpayers’ pocket, the services provided are quite different.

But even when they do mange to efficiently write and supervise a prison contract without a private contractor running rings around them, and let’s concede that some have done, it’s not right. Efficiency is not the primary aim of government, and in any case, it crucially depends on accurately answering the question ‘efficient at what?’.  If Hitler had “contracted out” the management of the Holocaust, undoubtedly the killing would have been more efficient, but it wouldn’t have made it any less horrific.

Too say it again, efficiency is not the primary aim of government; protection of individual rights is. That’s too important to be bought and sold at the whim of a bureaucrat and the behest of an aristocrat of pull.

[And let me leave you with this last question: given all the problems I’ve identified with ‘privatising’ prisons, why is this the only privatisation that’s even on the horizon of this new government -- when there’s so many other parts of government just crying out to be sold off or canned?  Answer that one for me, and I’ll be an even happier man.]

UPDATEAnti Dismal links to most of the blogs who’ve handled this topic, and reckons “much heat” has been shed on the topic, but “very little light.”  That includes the contribution of yours truly.  Oh well. Anti Dismal offers a substantial contribution to the debate, concluding,

there is a case to be made for private prisons, but it may not be as strong as for other services currently provided by the government, and it is at its weakest for the case of maximum security prisons.

Atlas interviewed [updated]

atlasshruggedbk     Everyone from Michelle Malkin to Rush Limbaugh to the Wall Street Journal to The Economist to Instapundit to Forbes to Steven Levitt at the New York Times has been talking about how the world is turning into an Ayn Rand novel – and that novel, as I’ve been reporting, is Atlas Shrugged, whose sales now are skyrocketing.  A U.S. Congressman even declared that “We’re living in Atlas Shrugged”—and gives copies of the novel to his interns.

Just this week, at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, rising Republican star Paul Ryan outlined what he says are the causes of the current crisis and denounced the Democrats' "audacious scheme”:

Set off a series of regulatory blunders and congressional meddling, blame the free market for the financial crisis that follows--then use this excuse to impose a more intrusive state.

“Sounds like something right out of an Ayn Rand novel," he said (not to mention a little conspiratorial*).

CLICK HERE FOR INTERVIEW    For some perspective on all the talk, check out this superb interview in the latest issue of The Objective Standard with Ayn Rand Institute head Yaron Brook, in which Dr. Brook explains why, more than fifty years ago, Rand was able to project the kinds of crises we are seeing today.

Read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and the World Today: An Interview with Yaron Brook.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
*     Sure, the statists will always take every opportunity to advance the power of the state.  "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste," says the Obamessiah’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. "This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before."
        But to ascribe intention to the regulatory blunders and the congressional meddling … is to suggest more ability than the statists really have.
        They’re certainly capable of taking advantage of a cock-up created by the culture of statism, but they’re utterly incapable of setting off a successful conspiracy to that end.

UPDATEJanet Daley comments at The Daily Telegraph [hat tip Marcus] on the same point made my Rahm Emanuel, but with a very different evaluation:

    I grew up with the Left and what this looks like to me is a power grab: a seizing of the moment by the forces which always believed in state domination. The Left sees an opening here, first for telling a critical lie about the historical origins of this crisis, which was propelled as much by the Left-liberal determination to spread prosperity through easy credit to the poor, as by the greed of bankers. And then, out of the wreckage, to restructure the economy along the lines that it always wanted, complete with central controls over the pay levels in private financial institutions.
    We are being led to believe that public debate should be all about economic mechanics when it should really be about political principle: just how many freedoms do we want to lose while governments pretend that they are the solution?

LIBERTARIAN SUS explains the financial crisis . . .

.. in simple terms, with the help of a barman, a paper mill, and an itinerant email): 

susanryder Heidi is the proprietor of a Manhattan bar. In order to increase sales, she decides to allow her loyal customers - most of whom are unemployed alcoholics - to drink now but pay later. She keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans).

Word gets around and as a result increasing numbers of customers flood into Heidi's bar. Taking advantage of her customers' freedom from immediate payment constraints, Heidi increases her prices for wine and beer, the most-consumed beverages. Her sales volume increases massively.

A young and dynamic customer service consultant at the local bank recognises these customer debts as valuable future assets and increases Heidi's borrowing limit.  He sees no reason for undue concern because he has the promissory notes of Heidi's customers as security.  And the local paper mill (in a public-private partnership) recognises a new use for their printing presses, and collateralises the debts into new drinking vouchers, which –- backed by the govt’s say so -- Heidi uses to pay her suppliers.

The drinking vouchers circulate and they pay for more drinking, and even more drinkers take out even more loans. The bar is booming.

Meanwhile, at the bank's corporate headquarters, expert bankers transform these rampant customer assets into DRINKBONDS, ALKBONDS and PUKEBONDS, which they then sell and trade on markets worldwide. No one really understands what these abbreviations mean and how the securities are
guaranteed. Nevertheless, as their prices continuously climb, the securities become top-selling items, and become further reserves against which the paper mill prints more drinking vouchers.

One day, although the prices are still climbing, a risk manager of the bank, (subsequently fired due to his negativity), decided that the time has come to start demanding payment in real money from Heidi for the debts incurred by the drinkers at Heidi's bar.

Unfortunately Heidi's customers cannot pay back any of their debts to Heidi. Heidi cannot fulfill her loan obligations to the bank or suppliers, and claims bankruptcy. DRINKBOND and ALKBOND securities drop in price by 95%. PUKEBOND performs better, stabilising in price after dropping by only 80%.

The suppliers of Heidi's bar, having granted her generous payment terms and having invested heavily themselves in the securities are faced with a new and desperate situation. Her wine supplier claims bankruptcy and her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor.

The bank is saved by the Government following dramatic round-the-clock consultations by leaders from the governing political parties, and a poignant confession from the head of the paper mill that he had dangerously overestimated the social conscience of drinkers. Between them they came up with a miraculous rescue plan that saves the bank. The funds required for this massive rescue are obtained by depositing several truckloads of drinking vouchers at the bank and calling them money, while levying a new tax on all the non-drinkers.

And then the same thing happened all over again . . . only bigger.

* * Read Susan Ryder every Tuesday here at NOT PC * *

There must be 50 ways to be a creationist?

Here’s 50 reasons you shouldn't believe in evolutionPZ Myers at Pharyngula (who gets the world’s classiest hate mail) reckons “the list pretty well covers all the real reasons people are creationists.”

If you can laugh at the list, then you’re gonna love Vincent Gray’s round-up of how the idea of evolution changed the world -- it’s coming in the next Free Radical magazine, out soon, and it’s bound to infuriate everyone: even evolutionists!

In which I score 92% on Biblical morality. Hot damn!

Hey look, according to this quiz [hat tip Noodle Food] I’m almost entirely in harmony with Biblical morality.  “You are a good and moral Christian,” say my results. “Now go sacrifice an ox for the sweet savour of the lord!”

That is to say, in twelve out of thirteen questions on what the Bible says we should do, I answered correctly.  Unfortunately, while I did know that when an angry mob appears outside my door I should turn my preteen daughters over to the crowd to be raped (for which I provide the eager moralist with links here), I didn’t know that when I sell my daughter as a servant she need only serve for as long as her new master feeds and clothes her.


See how you do: Do You Have Biblical Morals?

And if you’d rather get your morality from somewhere more sane, you might enjoy this old post: If God is dead ... rejoice.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Who’s not watching the Watchmen? [updated]

New film The Watchmen has got lots of people excited.  Galt knows why.  Judging by  Amy Peikoff’s and  Jameson’s competing reviews at SOLO, it sounds as nasty as the original comic book.  (Don’t worry about the plot spoilers in their reviews, it doesn’t sound like 163 minutes you’d care to sit through anyway.)

Frankly, I had a much better time at the movies on the weekend watching Renee Fleming in Massenet’s opera Thais on the big screen at the Rialto.  Just magic.  Here’s the opera’s finale:

UPDATE: Crikey, everybody’s watching the goddamn Watchmen.  Sheesh.  Joe Maurone reviews it at his Superhero Babylon blog, and explains both the Ayn Rand and the Steve Ditko connections.  You might be surprised.

Lizard of Oz on the IMF and Geithner

Bob Murphy, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism, posts on former Australian PM Paul Keating blaming Obama’s Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner for Directly Messing Up Indonesia, and Indirectly for Contributing to the US Housing Boom.

Snappy title, Bob. 

Lucky his analysis of Keating’s speech, and of the IMF, is right on the money. So to speak.

Recycling is dying

Recycling is dying, and not before time.  Save the Humans has the welcome news.

Collective bargaining coercion [updated]

“I don’t buy the argument that providing workers with collective-bargaining rights somehow weakens the economy or worsens the business environment,” says the Obamessiah in the New York Times. “If you’ve got workers who have decent pay and benefits, they’re also customers for business.”

The President’s statement reveals a great deal about his understanding or, more correctly, lack of understanding of economics, says George Reisman. 

In saying, “I don’t buy the argument that providing workers with collective-bargaining rights somehow weakens the economy or worsens the business environment,” President Obama confesses to not knowing that collective bargaining raises prices and causes unemployment.

Reisman explain why in his latest blog post: “Change” Under Obama: From Dumb to Dumber and From Bad to Worse.

Take-home messages?  They include:

  • The imposition and maintenance of collective bargaining necessarily depends on compulsion and coercion…
  • “Success” is measured in terms of the rise in wage rates that it achieves… Precisely this “success,” however, is the cause of major problems. The first is that higher wage rates reduce the quantity of labour that any given amount of capital funds can employ…
  • Higher wage rates also serve to raise costs of production and thus the selling prices of the products that the higher-paid workers are producing. These higher selling prices reduce the quantities of the products that buyers are able and willing to buy…
  • The unemployment that collective bargaining causes is what explains why it is necessary to resort to coercion against wage earners in order to maintain the system. The self-interest of the unemployed is to find work, and to accept lower wage rates as the means of doing so. And taking advantage of that fact is to the self-interest of employers. Thus there are two parties, unemployed workers and employers, whose self-interest lies with a reduction in the higher wage rates achieved by collective bargaining…

“Unfortunately,” Reisman concludes, “it does not seem very likely that Mr. Obama will ever learn any of this. He appears to be so charmed by the use of compulsion and coercion that he and his supporters in Congress are ready to unleash a reign of outright mass intimidation...”

UPDATE: Watch the Dow collapse as American investors realise “it’s a War on Prosperity, and that it seem deliberate.”  Sure, correlation is not causality … but it all looks pretty compelling: The President's Radicalism is killing the Dow. [Hat tip Tim Blair]

DEBATE: Environmentalism

“Environmentalism will cease to be persuasive to people,” says Keith Lockitch, “only when they see that they have a moral right to leave a ‘footprint’ on nature.”


“You Can't Spend Your Way Out of the Crisis,” but look who’s talking! [update]

The Wall Street Journal has been one of the few to consistently point out that you can’t spend your way out of crisis.  Unfortunately, in a major profile, they’ve bought the notion that John Key agrees with them.  See  You Can't Spend Your Way Out of the Crisis: New Zealand's prime minister wants to give his country a competitive advantage instead.

Fortunately, Paul Walker at Anti Dismal doesn’t buy the hype.  "There is actually a limit to what governments can do," Key is quoted as saying.  “Fine words,” responds Paul, “I just wish his actions backed them up.”

UPDATE: Dinther reckons you should check out the comments to that interview too.  See how others, rightly or (mostly) wrongly, perceive us down here.

The authoritarians are taking over ACT’s asylum [updated]

Many people, from Geoffrey Miller to Bryce Edwards to less learned types, have noted over the years the tension in the ACT party between the conservatives and the “liberals” – between the lock’-em-all-up wing and the more principled libertarians who think it matters who gets locked up, and for what.

ACT’s/David Garrett’s 3-strikes legislation and the deal done by ACT leader Rodney Hide to support the Nats’ ridiculously authoritarian legislation banning gang patches and tattoos has delighted ACT’s authoritarians, for whom Garrett’s pathetic statement “We've got too hung up on people's rights" is a banner behind which to rally, not a reason for outrage.  You can see the intra-party battle lines forming right here: on this comments thread at Lindsay Mitchell’s blog.

Says Lindsay on behalf of the party’s former principles, “I understand that being in government comes at a price. But it's just getting too expensive for this supporter.”  Bravo for Lindsay.  Looks however like ACT’s authoritarian wing is winning, and they’re happy with power at any price. 

UPDATE:  Geoffrey Miller comments on all these latest ructions at his Douglas to Dancing’ ACT-watch blog, offering five reasons it most unlikely ACT will implode over this like the Alliance did over Afghanistan.  Reasons include the “gut feeling” that the “social conservative” wing in ACT -– with the blessing of party leaders -– now has the upper hand over “social liberals” like Lindsay and (oddly) myself (who, for the record, has never been an ACT supporter).

No one has yet commented on these conclusions, including his most provocative: “If you're a genuinely social liberal and you don't like ACT's position on these issues, you should and you would have left the party a long time ago, as many have done.”

A bird needs two wings to fly, but how about a political party?  And for how long?