Friday, 20 February 2009

Best NOT PC for the week

A week of recrimination, politicisation and exasperation -- dominated at this blog at least by a post where I shut up and let you talk, which was an order of magnitude more widely read than any other post here.

Maybe I should shut up more often?

Here’s the posts NOT PC readers  liked reading most over these last seven days or so.  If you missed out, here’s your chance to catch up:

  • General debate
    In which I say nothing, and you lot celebrate.  You think we should try this again sometime, huh?
  • As CO2 rises, temperatures … don’t
    Our carbon emissions are rising, say warmists!  Maybe, but our temperatures aren’t.  You think there’s maybe a problem with warmist theory?
  • Good news from ignoring bad law
    A Victorian family fined for “illegally” clearing the bush around their home to make a firebreak survived the savage bushfires.  Would that some of their neighbours had.
  • NOT PJ: Carisbroke
    What is it with politicians and stadiums? Even those rare politicians who are only slightly profligate, when presented with an artist’s impression of a stadium they develop all the self control of a half-Irish half-Frenchman with six hours to live who’s discovered a liquor cabinet in a brothel.
  • Law versus a lynch mob
    Contrast the words “The retaliatory use of force requires objective rules of evidence to establish that a crime has been committed” with what you read as you thumb through s92A of the Copyright Act…
  • ARI outreach hits London
    NOT PC readers who, like me, follow the progress of Objectivism with great interest will be very pleased to hear of the Ayn Rand Institute's new "outreach" programme.
  • NOT PJ: Free Bank (to a Good Home)
    Our correspondent Bernard Darnton serves up a history lesson this week – with the promise that obscene ranting will resume as usual next week.

And the favourite art post of the last seven days was … by Mr Matisse.  Enjoy, and thanks for reading and contributing.
Cheers, Peter Cresswell

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Beer O’Clock: Inspiration!

At the end of every working week, I like to post an inspirational piece.

Here is the most inspirational piece of advice I can give this week:


Have a great weekend!


“Oops,” go the warmists

In yet another “oversight” in warmist data collection, the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has been at the forefront of predicting doom in the arctic as ice melts due to global warming – predicting in May, 2008 for example that the North Pole would be “ice-free during the 2008 'melt season.”

Today, however, [says Slashdot]they say that they have been the victims of 'sensor drift' that led to an underestimation of Arctic ice extent by as much as 500,000 square km… Thus far, sea ice extent in 2009 is tracking ahead of 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008, so the predictions of an ice-free north pole might be premature…

Don’t expect to read this news in your newspaper.  Like previous similar warmist admissions of mislocation, overestimation or misunderestimation – or just plain cheating -- the catastrophism always hits the front pages and goes around the world, but these “oops!’ moments only ever make page 16 on the paper you use to line the cat’s litter tray.  So do read and pass around the news that Arctic Ice Extent Understated Because of "Sensor Drift."


From Washington to Bush

My favourite online historian is just starting out to rank all the past US Presidents.  I look forward to his results, particularly with how he deals with Lincoln.

For myself, I’m pretty clear on which entity was the very worst US President – although another very strong contender has just appeared on the horizon…

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Property rights are human rights: let’s protect them say NZ academics! [updated]

I’m astonished.  The last two decades have seen attack after attack on New Zealanders’ property rights.

  • the imposition of the Resource Management Act, which gave planners full power over your land;
  • the confiscation of crown pastoral leases;
  • ‘right to roam’ laws attacking the sanctity of farmers’ land;
  • the destruction of Maori land value by Crown pre-emption rights;
  • the nationalisation of petroleum;
  • the partial nationalisation of Telecom;
  • the confiscation of the legal right to claim the foreshore and seabed under common law;
  • the destruction of value of pre-1990 forests under the Emissions Trading Scheme;
  • unwanted power pylons being imposed on Waikato farmers;
  • the attack on the value of shares in Auckland International Airport Ltd.

And in the last Parliament, when offered the opportunity to place the protection of property rights in NZ’s Bill of Rights Act, MPs peremptorily voted it down –- with John Key’s National Party being prominent in the ‘Noes’ lobby when it finally came to the vote.

Despite abundant historical evidence of the many blessings of property rights, and cogent arguments defending these life-sustaining rights, both academics and politicians of all stripes have been on the front foot against property rights for years.

So how astonishing then to see National Party hack Matthew Hooton promoting the work of two academics from the state-worshipping climes of Victoria University, who argue in advance of next week’s Jobs Summit that “if the new Government moves to protect property rights, there will be more jobs in our economy than otherwise.” 

Professor Lewis Evans and Professor Neil Quigley of the Institute for the Study of Competition and Regulation at Victoria University of Wellington, along with NERA Economic Consulting, entitled ‘Protection of Private Property Rights and Just Compensation: An Economic Analysis of the Most Fundamental Human Right Not Provided in New Zealand.’

The paper compares New Zealand’s record on property rights with the rest of the OECD; finds our record to be among the worst in the developed world; details the economic harm being done to all New Zealanders as a result; and proposes a legislative solution involving an amendment to the Bill of Rights Act to ensure a canary in the mine exists to alert the public if and when future parliaments seek to confiscate property rights without compensation.  [The full paper can be found at and it was also previewed on page six of today’s National Business Review.]

There is much to be disappointed with in an argument made on practical grounds alone, without any statement of the moral grounds on which property rights must be protected –- and much to object to in the notion that property rights equates only to ‘compensation for takings’ instead of outright protection against theft of what you own –- but in these times seeing support for property rights from any local quarter is welcoming.

And they’re right, you know. If the new Government does move to protect property rights, then there will be more jobs in our economy than otherwise. 

An understanding of the vital role of property rights and lawfulness in creating wealth should be basic knowledge for every thinking person, shouldn’t it?  Even a politician.

Tibor Machans' authoritative piece on the Right to Private Property would be a good place for honest thinking persons to start their education: "The institution of the right to private property," says Tibor, "is perhaps the single most important condition for a society in which freedom, including free trade, is to flourish."

UPDATE: Quote corrected.

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Is this the moment, Messiah?

Remember that moment when the Obamessiah won the Democratic presidential nomination and he stood up in St Paul, Minnesota, and declared "This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal"?  Remember that?

Barack does.

And after “fixing” the economy yesterday, Barack Obama is now going to “solve” global warming before he heads off for the weekend.

What a guy.

He’s going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by eighty percent by the year 2050.  Eighty percent!

How’s he going to do it?  Simple.  He’s going to strangle an already strangled economy.  What could be simpler.

As the Cato Institute’s Jonathan Slemrod points out, even the US government’s EPA admits that Barack Obama’s cap-and-trade programme to fight the non-existent problem of global warming would hurt the US economy. Hurt it a lot. It will hurt producers, and it will hurt consumers. It will hurt savers and it will hurt borrowers. It will hurt everyone who buys electricity, or produces energy.  It will hurt everyone.

Everyone except politicians.  And rent-seekers.  They will do well.

You won’t.

This is called “saving the planet.”

It’s not insanity.  It’s not common sense.  It’s just politics.

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Gabb: “Smash the Establishment!”

Sean Gabb was invited to explain to the youngsters in David Cameron’s British Conservative Party why their party has been out of power for the last twelve years.  Gabb’s answer: You didn’t deserve it – and you still don’t.  And if you do come to power next year –- as polls presently suggest you might -- it won’t be because the electorate likes you, but because they now hate you less than they do Gordon Brown’s Labour Party.

It’s not the only parallel with NZ politics.

There is much in Gabb’s observation that NZ’s National Party supporters would do well to digest, particularly those who still hanker for something much more radical than the tepid agenda on which their heroes campaigned, and has been signalled so far.  To paraphrase Dr Gabb, John Key’s Nats did nothing at all in their campaign to acquire a mandate for radical change, without which any sort of radical change would lack legitimacy.

To put that same point negatively, to make radical changes without that mandate would look like dishonesty, and would dishonour for decades any radical changes that might be made. (For evidence of this, see Douglas, Roger: policies, reaction to.)

The question is probably moot in any case, since there’s no evidence of any backbone anyway, either in the UK Tories or the local breed, which means the guts of Gabb’s advice would have have fallen on deaf ears.

And the guts of his advice is this: You can’t co-exist with The Establishment, you have to fight it.

The meaning of this is that you should not try to work with the Establishment. You should not try to jolly it along. You should not try fighting it on narrow fronts. You must regard it as the enemy, and you must smash it.

There are several simple reasons why this is so necessary, not least because

Over the past few generations, a new Establishment or ruling class has emerged… These are people who derive income and status from an enlarged and activist state… They are not always friendly to a Labour Government. But their natural political home is the Labour Party. They will accept a Conservative Government on sufferance - but only so long as it works within a system that robs ordinary people of their wealth and their freedom. They will never consent to what should be the Conservative strategy of bringing about an irreversible transfer of power from the State back into the hands or ordinary people.

Thatcher understood that  in her day. Labour understands that still. And the Marxians and their Gramsci-ite followers have understood it for years – hell, it was them who made it happen.  But today’s Tories don’t, and never will.

There are two ways of doing politics. One is to listen to focus groups and opinion polls, and offer the people what they claim to want. The other is to stand up and tell them what they ought to want, and to keep arguing until the people agree that they want it, or until it is shown not to be worth wanting. I think I know what sort of politicians will run the next Conservative Government. What sort of politicians do you want to be?

What sort of politicians do you want?

You can read the full transcript of the speech, and a link to the Tories’s reaction to it, at the UK Libertarian Alliance blog.

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Study for the Libyan Sibyl – Michelangelo


The completed figure, from the Sistine Chapel, is one of my favourite Michelangelo figures – and this sketch is absolutely masterful.  Click to enlarge (I hope), and just look at his linework.

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Thursday, 19 February 2009

Spending your way to penury

The governments’ economists are reciting the Keynesian mantra of the “paradox of thrift.”  Saving, they say, causes money to “leak out of the system.”  They’re reciting the mantra that consumption drives the economy.  Consumption, they say, drives more than two-thirds of the overall economy. What the politicians need to do to “rescue” the economy, they say, is to limit private saving and spend, spend, spend!

That’s a command that every politician likes to hear.

So governments are spending. Governments and their economists are exhorting you to spend.  Australian Kevin Rudd is giving Australians shopping subsidies, and he’s insisting that you spend it. The Obamessiah doesn’t trust you to buy up large, so he’s spending nearly a trillion on your behalf

The governments’ economists keep insisting that spending is good, and saving is bad. They’ll tell you that it’s consumption that drives the economy.  But what they’re doing is reversing cause and effect, and even a US$787 billion dollar bar tab can’t change that.  As Amit Ghate points out,

production must ultimately be understood as being for the sake of consumption...  But this of course does not mean that consumption makes production possible, manifestly it’s the other way around

The fact is that consumption spending directs productive expenditure to particular areas of the economy, but it's productive expenditure that drives it.

Here’s a model of the economy*.  See for yourself what drives it:


It sure as hell ain’t consumption.

And to answer the obvious objection: Yes, government spending is always consumption spending.

As Murray Rothbard used to say [hat tip Anti Dismal],

"It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a "dismal science." But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance."

* Figure produced by Paul Ekins & Manfred Max-Neef, and pinched from Mark Skousen’s book Structure of Production.)

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Greens’s boot camp ‘racist’ jibe: could do better [updated]

The Green Party’s hippies have their sandals in a twist over the idea of 'boot camps' for youth offenders -- not because they don’t work or because there are more important lessons for youngsters to learn -- but because the idea, says the Greens’s Kevin Hague, “unfairly discriminates against Maori.”

Oh please. If you could just put your macrame down and listen for a moment, Kevin: the boot camps won’t be taking people because of their race, but because they’ve committed crimes. Understand? If a disproportionate number of young Maoris are locked up, or placed in boot camps, then that’s because a disproportionate number of young Maoris choose to habitually commit crimes.

There are many reasons to object to boot camps, but this is not one of them. 

And there are probably many ways to fix the problem of the disproportionate number of Maori committing crimes, but wringing your hands and throwing around bogus claims in the media would not be one of them.

It appears even Hone Harawira is beginning to understand that much, since his own knee-jerk “racism” button hasn’t yet gone off.  If Hone and the Maori Party can see through the bogus notion that boot camps are racist, then maybe the hippies should try a little harder to understand why.

Now, having said all that, if the Greens really do want to get worked up about something that really is discriminatory on the basis of race, then they should object to the minimum wage law. Now that really does discriminate against Maori.

UPDATE: To be fair to the Greens, Green MP Catherine Delahunty (who plumbed new parliamentary depths with her maiden speech) replies to the charge above in a private email to a reader, saying there are other reasons as well for their opposition:

    Hi Xxxxxx, the Green party is opposed to boot camps because the experienced
youth justice judge Justice Andrew Becroft and many other leaders in the
field of youth justice are categorical that boot camps do not work! The
Maori Party may support National's proposal but the Maori Party do not speak
for all Maori on this issue…
If you google "Finland and youth crime strategies" you will find some very
interesting articles on more constructive intervention strategies. We agree
that intervention is needed but also a need to get tough on the causes of
I did not hear the speech about the camps being discriminatory against young
Maori but statistically Maori youth are targeted far more often by police
and have higher convictions rates than any other culture for crimes also
committed by other young people. If you accept the prejudices in the system
work against Maori youth it is easy to see the connection…

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‘Stimulus’ = tooth fairy economics [update 3]

The problem with Obama’s so-called stimulus bill “isn't that it's full of ‘pork,’ bad as that is,” says Meltdown author Thomas E. Woods Jr.  “The problem is the tooth-fairy economics on which it is based.”  Read Tooth Fairy Economics.  It’s the best thing you’ll read today.

UPDATE 1: With so much ‘consensus’ around the stimulunacy, and only half-baked criticisms even from so-called free-market economists, you could be forgiven for thinking that stimulunacy is the only economic game in town.  It’s not.  Using Austrian Business Cycle Theory, for which Friedrich Hayek received the Nobel Prize, Austrian school economists were predicting the housing bubble and its likely consequences back in 2003/4, and back in the twenties Hayek and his teacher Ludwig von Mises were almost alone in predicting the coming depression.

Mark Nugent explains how they did it, and why big-government apologetics isn’t the only economic game in town in Bailout Blues.  As Nugent concludes, “With the tenets of true [Austrian] free-market economics, the causes of the economic crisis are brought into focus, as is the path to recovery.”

UPDATE 2: The always erudite Onkhar Ghate recommends:

If you want to understand the fundamental economic forces responsible for our present crisis, tune out the New York Times’s coverage, turn off Fox News, and instead read Human Action, particularly Chapter XXXI.

And if you’re too impatient to buy it, you can always read it online.

Of course average citizens can’t be expected to be economic experts. The principal failure of understanding here rests with our intellectuals and commentators. But what is disturbing is how readily Americans seem to accept that the form of a solution, whatever its details, will look like this: concentrate even more unchecked power into the hands of government Czars. Give Bernanke or Paulson or Geithner even wider authoritarian powers to dream up new schemes, and they’ll tell us what to do. People seem unfazed by the palpable look of uncertainty in the faces of these “financial czars”–i.e., by the fact that the Czars don’t have a clue what to do.

UPDATE 3:  “Barack Obama tells us to embrace his ‘stimulus package’ and other planned interventions in the economy–because ’We can’t posture and bicker and resort to the same failed ideas that got us into this mess in the first place’.”

“True,” says Alex Epstein. “Here are four top failed ideas that we should not resort to.”  Oops.  Too late.

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Irony alert

Headline from today’s NZ Herald: Rugby: Race rule could prevent NZ Maori playing Boks.

You just can’t make this stuff up, you know.

NOT PJ: Free Bank (to a Good Home)

Our correspondent Bernard Darnton serves up a history lesson this week – with the promise that obscene ranting will resume as usual next week.

The Bank of England achieved a stunning success last week, reveling in an historic victory atop the rubble of the global banking crisis. HBOS – Halifax / Bank of Scotland – revealed vast losses that threaten to push its recent adoptive parent, Lloyds Banking Group, into public hands. A 280-year battle has ended. The Glorious Revolution is complete.

The Bank of England first attempted to smash the Bank of Scotland (“the old bank”) in 1727. The Britich Crown suspected the Bank of Scotland of helping to fund the Jacobite Rebellion (called the Jacobite “Rising” by people who don’t believe in constitutional limits on government, such as the previous Minister of Justice).

As well as taking the traditional approach to this type of disagreement, that of sending a whole lot of guys to go and stick knives into a whole lot of other guys, the British Government decided that some economic warfare was also in order. The Royal Bank of Scotland (“the new bank”) was founded by Royal Charter with the mission of destroying the old bank.

The Royal Bank began to stockpile Bank of Scotland banknotes and then presented them all for redemption at once. In those days, money meant something – your notes were backed something heavy and shiny. If you tried the same thing at the Reserve Bank today your banknotes would just be pointlessly swapped for different banknotes. The old bank had to call in loans, and while it suspended payments for a few months it didn’t buckle.

The new bank remained hostile for years but with the Jacobites defeated (using the old-fashioned knifing method at the Battle of Culloden) the banks eventually came to a truce and started accepting each other’s notes.

The British government had failed to crush the Bank of Scotland with brutal competition in Scotland’s free banking system. The stability of the system sparked Karl Marx’s observation that “capitalism causes banking crises, except in Scotland.” In other words, freedom causes banking crises -- except where banking is free. An even simpler translation might be “capitalism doesn’t cause banking crises.”

As is now clearly apparent, a bastardised semi-free system cobbled together by politicians for their own ill-thought-out ends is quite capable of causing banking crises and inflicting far more damage than competition in a free market.

Unfortunately, Karl Marx’s spectre still haunts the banking system. Having flooded the world with easy money, governments are now looking to take advantage of the crisis they’ve caused by taking ownership of many major banks. At a British inquiry last week, HBOS’s would-be new owners delighted in discovering that the bank’s previous bosses had no formal banking qualifications. No one’s yet asked whether being an MP, which mainly requires knocking on doors and giving away bundles of other people’s money, is a suitable qualification for someone wanting to run a bank.

* * Bernard Darton’s NOT PJ column appears here every Thursday at NOT PC * *

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Quote of the Day: Thomas Jefferson

"The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale."
--Thomas Jefferson

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‘Atlas’ and today: The parallels are striking! [updated]

* * In the wake of the passing of the Obamessiah’s US$787 billion ‘Throw-Money-at-Everything-You-Can-Think-Of’ Bill, Glenn Beck talks to Yaron Brook from the Ayn Rand Institute about the parallels between Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged and what’s happening right now in the world’s economies and the corridors of political power.

The parallels are striking! 

“The economic catastrophe we’re witnessing now parallels very much the catastrophe in the book” … with one key difference.

Key point: the prevalent political ethic today is that “failure is the standard.”  And until that changes…

* * And here’s Beck on his own on the same theme: Is America on the road to socialism?  Or fascism?  Hell, we’re moving towards state ownership or state control of everything!

* * And just for completeness’ sake, here’s Rand herself interviewed by Mike Wallace all of fifty years ago, predicting just what we’re seeing today:

(NB: No, I just couldn’t resist that pun in this post’s title.  Could you?)

UPDATE: Who “owns” the economy “owns” you, says Edward Cline.

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Hakone – Ando Hiroshige


Plate 11 from Ando Hiroshige’s set of wood block prints of The 53 Stations of the Tokaido.

Basil Stewart’s guide to Hiroshige describes it (somewhat anachronistically) thus: “A high peak, round the base of which, through a gorge, a daimyo's cortege is wending its way ; on the left the Hakone Lake, with Fuji in the distance. The peak is drawn in a peculiar angular manner, almost cubist in effect, which detracts somewhat from this view.”

Mr Stewart and I disagree somewhat in our evaluation of its merits.  It’s like a much more exuberant Mt Fuji!

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Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Kids having kids

The phenomenon of children having children has the chatterati all aflutter.  And The Press is reporting that more boys under 15 are becoming dads.

What should “we” be doing about kids who mature these days earlier than kids once did, but who exhibit less maturity now than kids ever used to do?

To identify the problem’s cause is to solve it. Paraphrasing Andrew Galambos, the problem is a collision between capitalism and socialism.  Capitalism is improving kids’ nutrition faster than socialism is educating children to be adults.

Liberty Scott has more.


As CO2 rises, temperatures … don’t [update]

You’ll no doubt have heard the latest warmist all over the media recently wringing his hands over the increasing amounts of CO2 “we” are all emitting, and how this will inevitably lead to disaster. “Our” emissions are “now outside the entire envelope of possibilities" considered in the 2007 report of the International Panel on Climate Change, said the Associated Press’s near-hysterical “science” writer Randolph Schmid, and will, he says, lead to all the usual catastrophes that warmists always hope for.

Problem is, as Chip Knappenberger reports at the great new Master Resource blog, “Schmid failed to mention that during the same time, global warming proceeded at a rate much slower than anyone expected.”



while Schmid was busy [all over the media], Patrick J. Michaels testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment that global warming was proceeding at a rate that was at the lowest values projected by a large suite of climate models. Dr. Michaels further told the Subcommittee members in the nation’s capital that another year or so of little warming would put global temperature trends outside the accepted range model prognostications.
    So, clearly, the picture is a lot more complicated than CO2 in/catastrophic climate change out. It is just that most environmental alarmists (reporters included) don’t like to think of it as such.

That seems a very polite way to report Schmid’s catastrophising.

UPDATE:  Meanwhile, on a planet far from the solar system of sanity, NASA warmist James Hansen continues his increasingly hysterical trajectory:

Coal [says the OberGruppenWarmist] is the single greatest threat to civilisation and all life on our planet. The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death.

Tim Blair quips in response: “On the other hand, it does stop people dying in winter.”

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Team Obama’s shock doctrine [update 2]

Pinched in toto from today’s Cato blog:

Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, says free-market advocates spend their careers stockpiling free-market ideas waiting for a crisis that could be used as a springboard for implementing those ideas. But, as David Boaz asks, what about Obama’s policy proposals amid recession and financial crisis?

In today’s Cato Daily Podcast, Boaz exposes Obama’s Shock Doctrine:

    We know from history that, while there are a few examples of free-market or somehow right-wing programs coming about after a crisis, usually what happens in a crisis is government seizes more money and power. And you can see that in the New Deal; the Great Depression led to the New Deal. You can see it after Kennedy’s assassination led to Lyndon Johnson and his 100 days of legislation. You can see it in practically every communist government that ever came to power, was in the devastation of war….

    We had a financial crisis and what happened? Did the incumbent Republican administration say, now’s our chance to implement Milton Friedman’s program and privatize and deregulate? No, they did what governments always do: they expanded their own powers at the expense of civil society, and so in that sense, Obama’s just doing the same thing that Bush did. We could call this the Bush-Obama era.

It was, after all, Rahm Emmanuel who said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before.”

UPDATE 1: How’s this for chutzpah from the Obamessiah.  Reports Jeff Perren, “After pushing for the largest theft of future taxpayer wealth in history, only a little more than a third of which conceivably has anything to do with the economic crisis,” the Messiah is now scheduling a "fiscal-responsibility summit" for Feb. 23, at which, says the WSJ, he “will unveil a budget blueprint … crafted to put pressure on politicians to address the country's surging long-term debt crisis…”


I’m speechless. Jeff’s not:

I'm beginning to wonder if Obama's Progressive pragmatism has led him to an actual psychotic break. Now, now he's worried about the Federal debt and the deficit?

UPDATE 2: Commenting on the Messiah’s stimulunacy, Thomas Sowell says,

Nothing in the amateurish way the current administration has begun suggests that they have mastered even the mechanics of governing, much less the complexities of the huge national problems looming ahead, at home and abroad.

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Parenting advice from Sun Tzu

Now that one iniquity created by the Clark Government has been removed, it’s time to address some others.  How about the Anti-Smacking Bill, in which the present PM is still implicated.

One of the worst errors forced on parents by those who were unable to distinguish between smacking and beating (yes, I’m talking to you Sue Bradford) was the legally enforced confusion between assault and reasonable parental force.

There is a difference.  A distinct difference.

Rational Jenn has a great post that explains the difference perfectly, and concretises why reasonable parental force is sometimes so crucially necessary: The Art Of War For Parents.

Think of it as the necessary update to Sun Tzu.

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DOWN AT THE DOCTOR’S: Dissecting the news

Libertarianz Party leader Dr Richard McGrath gives a libertarian take on some of this week’s news . . .
  1. ‘Farmer Walks Free After Shooting Intruder’ – A jury acquitted David Allen, a Bay of Plenty man, after he shot a gang associate who had been threatening to kill him over a debt. Two weeks earlier, Mr Allen had been beaten to a pulp by two men who arrived on horseback demanding money. Bravo to Mr Allen for ridding the country of the two-legged rodent, and to the jury that acquitted him on all charges. People have a right to act in defence of themselves, their loved ones and their property, using sufficient and reasonable force. A Libertarianz government would enshrine in a formal constitution the right to act in self-defence. 
Click here to read more ... >>

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EFA - gone

It started with the Labour Party changing the law to stop Bernard Darnton suing them over their 2005 pledge card, continued with their Electoral Finance Act by which they attempted to squelch free speech and hog-tie their opponents, and now after many months of shouting in the end it (eventually) took take less than a day to excise that incursion into Mugabeism from our law books.

And even Labour voted for its removal, and new Labour leader Phil Goff had the grace to concede it was a mistake.

Unfortunately, reports do not record what Helen Clark’s face looked like when she was required to file into the lobbies to vote against the mechanism by which she hoped to achieve a permanent Premiership.

Honourable mentions in the battle to exterminate this affront to democracy:

  • Bernard Darnton *
  • David Farrar, Cameron Slater and their Free Speech Coalition. *
  • John Boscawen, who organised protests around the country that attracted thousands of affronted New Zealanders.
  • The NZ Herald, who front footed the theme of Democracy Under Attack, and showed there is a backbone thereafter all.
  • The National Party (yes, the National Party), who with the exception of one clause have kept their election promise to remove this travesty from the law books. Since this will probably be their only move in the direction of freedom this term (notice that it’s only a temporary restitution of previous law before the reinstitution of something else before the next election, let's take the opportunity to celebrate.

* That these two protest websites are now covered in cobwebs is proof enough of the measure of their success.

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Aquarius – Stella Shawzin




Another one of sculptor Stella Shawzin’s great bronzes of figures in motion.  More details here from the gallery, including the price …

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Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Wrong rhyming slang [updated]

A few weeks ago Deborah Hill-Cone mused over “whom leftists would throw their shoes at now Dubya has yahooed back to Texas.” Now she knows: it’s bankers.

Although I bet [Gordon Brown, Barack Obama], Polly Toynbee and all the rest were quite happy to take advantage of the boomtimes when their houses were increasing in value, one can't help but wonder if they are feeling some self-loathing now. When the party stops it is much easier to blame the bankers for getting us drunk than admit we are lushes.

And much easier for big-government worshippers like Polly, Brown and Barack to blame those private bankers who were simply doling out the punch, when the primary cause of the problem was the punch bowl being spiked by big-governments’ central bankers .

UPDATE: To get some idea of the role of central banks in the boom -- which has turned to bust in a big way -- and just how seriously they spiked the punch bowl, consider these three quotes from William Fleckenstein's book Greenspan's Bubbles,

Central bankers like Greenspan [and Bollard] aren't like bankers at all... Central bankers are actually central planners [with all the failures of that breed]. Like bureaucratic leaders of central-planned or command economies, they pick an interest rate to wthin two decimal places that they guess will be the correct one, and then they proceed to cram it down the throat of the banking system.

And there are people who call the failure of The Fed a failure of free markets!

So with what was the punchbowl spiked? What were the central bankers cramming down our throats?

Greenspan erred by continually picking an interest rate that was too low, then he solved the turmoil that resulted from that decision with another period of interest rates that were again too low.

Repeat process until finished, which is what Greenspan did -- and what we're now paying for. The last tranche of easy money that left the Fed was to 'fix' the bursting of the bubble in 2001, and we know where it all ended up ...

We will quote once more an amazing nugget of research from Asha Bangalore, economist at Northern Trust Co.: No less than 40 percent of new jobs since 2001 owe their existence, directly or indirectly, to the real-estate levitation.

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Submissions for sale

Have people learned nothing about the Resource Management Act after fifteen years of its imposition?

I've heard outrage everywhere about the news that the Department of Conservation took money to shut down its opposition to the Project Hayes wind farm in the South Island’s Lammermoor Range.

Words like “bribe” and “hush money” have been used.  People are outraged.  “It's venal, cowardly, and corrupt," Dunedin conservationist Dave Witherow said. "What we are encouraging is a culture of bribery," the Project Hayes objector said.  "To be blunt, [it] was about buying silence to avoid political embarrassment," says Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Morgan Williams.

Where have these people been?

The Resource Management Act actively encourages corruption.  It encourages a culture of bribery. It incites it.  It makes it normal.  If people are given a “right” to object to what you do on your property, then ipso facto they have a right they’re able to sell.  And they have been.

  • That neighbour who “objects” to your extensions, but can be bought off with a bottle (or three) of wine.
  • The iwi who discover taniwhas at the bottom of your garden, which disappear after judicious application of JP Morgan’s salve.
  • The environmental group who suddenly discovers after an ex gratia payment (offered “without prejudice”) that the native snails/mangroves/sand dunes they’d been bound to protect will be fine after.
  • The historic places trust, who agree to drop their objections in return for a range of mitigation measures … and a cheque for $179,000.
  • The government department who are “legally obliged to protect the environment” whose concerns about access, visual impact, and falcons who might be hit by turbine blades, are assuaged by the payment of $125,000.

The RMA positively encourages groups like these to use the process as a meal ticket – where anywhere else this would be called blackmail.  It positively encourages planners to play both sides of the fence – where anywhere else it would be called corruption.

Have people learned nothing about the Resource Management Act after fifteen years?

It’s a case study of what happens when you expand “rights” beyond those that are legitimate.

Which is to say, it’s another classic case study of non-objective law.

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Law versus the lynch mob [update 3]

New Zealand's new Copyright Law presumes 'Guilt Upon Accusation' and will Cut Off Internet Connections without a trial. is against this unjust law - help us

Let me contrast objective law with a new law about to be foisted upon us.

First, here’s what objective law looks like:

All laws must be objective (and objectively justifiable): men must know clearly, and in advance of taking an action, what the law forbids them to do (and why), what constitutes a crime and what penalty they will incur if they commit it…


[Objective law] requires objective rules of evidence to establish that a crime has been committed and to prove who committed it, as well as objective rules to define punishments and enforcement procedures.

Contemplate those words “The retaliatory use of force requires objective rules of evidence to establish that a crime has been committed” while you read s92A of the Copyright Act, which on its present timetable will be passed into law in 11 days, 17 hours and fifty-four fifty-three minutes.

Internet service provider [sic] must have policy for terminating
accounts of repeat infringers
(1) An Internet service provider must adopt and reasonably implement
a policy that provides for termination, in appropriate circumstances,
of the account with that Internet service provider of a repeat infringer.
(2) In subsection (1), repeat infringer means a person who repeatedly
infringes the copyright in a work by using 1 or more of the Internet services of the Internet service provider to do a restricted act without the consent of the copyright owner.

What that means, says Matthew Holloway of the Creative Freedom Foundation, is Guilt by Association.

The … law reverses New Zealander's fundamental right to being presumed innocent until proven guilty, punishing internet users with disconnection based on accusations of copyright infringement without a trial and without evidence held up to court scrutiny.

The proposed law fails to adequately define “internet service provider.” (I’m a blogger; apparently that makes me an “internet service provider.”) It fails to protect people against false, frivolous or flawed accusations. (Matthew Holloway gives some examples here.) It ignores entirely the basic rules of evidence developed, with good reason, over many centuries. It confuses an accusation with a conviction.

It’s bad law.

My opposition to the Copyright Act is not due to its intent (which is to protect copyright) but because it confuses an accusation -- “He done it!” – with its opposite, i.e., : “evidence to establish that a crime has been committed.”

It is the difference between law and a lynch mob – with the lynch mob’s rope provided by poorly drafted, non-objective law.

I’m agin’ it.

NB: Contemplate this, from the Ayn Rand Lexicon, which describes the future under this law:

When men are caught in the trap of non-objective law, when their work, future and livelihood are at the mercy of a bureaucrat’s whim, when they have no way of knowing what unknown “influence” will crack down on them for which unspecified offense, fear becomes their basic motive, if they remain in the industry at all-and compromise, conformity, staleness, dullness, the dismal grayness of the middle-of-the-road are all that can be expected of them. Independent thinking does not submit to bureaucratic edicts, originality does not follow “public policies,” integrity does not petition for a license, heroism is not fostered by fear, creative genius is not summoned forth at the point of a gun.

Non-objective law is the most effective weapon of human enslavement: its victims become its enforcers and enslave themselves.

UPDATE 1: David Farrar has a guest column on the issue of S92A at Muriel Newman’s Centre for Political Research.

UPDATE 2: Russell Brown explains why your friends’ pictures are turning black all over Facebook, MySpace, Twitter. “You're seeing The Blackout, a netroots protest against Section 92(A) of the Copyright Act, which comes into force on February 28.”

And he identifies another ill of this law, if it were to come into effect: “It is not only that this law denies the accused any due process, it is that it stipulates a penalty that no court would impose in adjudicating a copyright complaint even if infringement were proven…”

UPDATE 3: Stephen Fry takes the protest international on his Twitter page. (For Americans: Stephen Fry was Hugh Laurie’s comedy partner back when Hugh still spoke English.)

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LIBERTARIAN SUS: A Tale of Two Sentences

Susan Ryder does something the media forgot to do: comparing the sentences handed down to two high-profile criminals.

The local news was full of reports last Friday on the sentencing of two New Zealand men for the respective deaths of two New Zealand children.

Both were high-profile cases on which much has been written and said.  Both occurred in the North Island. Both caused shock and outrage within the population at large. And both men have received almost identical sentences.

The first case concerns 51 year-old Bruce Emery, found guilty of the manslaughter of Pihema Cameron, aged 15. Thirteen months ago, Cameron and a friend decided to deface Emery’s garage in Manurewa. Armed with a knife, Emery attempted to disrupt their activities and in the ensuing fracas, Cameron was killed.

The second case concerns 49 year-old William Curtis, found guilty for his role in the death of Nia Glassie in Rotorua, aged 3. Little more than a baby when she died, Nia had the fatal misfortune to be born into the wrong family, six of whom are now in prison for her death.

So there we have the essence of each case. Let’s now look at them a little more closely.

Bruce Emery personifies the Kiwi who’s just had enough.

  1. Had enough of tolerating teens who don’t give a damn for anyone else or anyone else’s property.
  2. Had enough of paying for people who think they have the right to live off others for nothing in return.
  3. Had enough of the endless excuses trotted out by apologists for the actions of those same people.
  4. Had enough of police who never come when you call them and seldom treat this sort of property crime seriously when they do.
  5. Had enough of politicians who bleat about how they are going to “get tough” on crime prior to every election – and then do sweet bugger all afterward.

So a family man, a complete stranger to law-breaking, spots a couple of teenage vandals, grabs a knife in self-defence (so he said) and, at the end of his tether, his actions result in the fatal stabbing of one of the perpetrators.

Convicted last December, he, via his lawyer, reportedly asked the Cameron family for forgiveness. Based on the very public reaction by the Camerons to his sentencing last Friday, he will be waiting some time. Described by Herald columnist Tapu Misa as “bitter and intemperate”, the family, all sporting t-shirts bearing the deceased’s image, were visibly angry and disgusted with the sentence of four years and three months.

That the Cameron family has lost a loved member cannot be denied. That a teenager has lost his life as a result of tagging somebody’s garage is undeniably harsh. But nowhere have the Camerons acknowledged that Pihema died as a result of committing a crime, as a result of his actions. Had he been at home, or anywhere else that evening, supervised and minding his own business, he might still be alive. Had he been by Bruce Emery’s garage and not defaced it, he would not have died in the manner he did. Wailing about his loss while wearing t-shirts bearing his picture is all very well and good for ratings-mindful media and head-shaking do-gooders, but sadly, it’s a bit like shutting the door after the horse has bolted.

On to the second case where six people have been convicted and sentenced for the death of Nia Glassie, William Curtis being the sixth. Let’s re-cap what he did to his tiny de facto step-granddaughter:

  1. Tied a scarf around her neck and lifted her by it until she went purple in the face.
  2. Slapped her with such force that her face would bleed.
  3. Shouted and swore at her to shut up or he would stomp on her head.

The terror to which that child was subjected is beyond comprehension. She lived with that monster – that subhuman – for four months. And he was one of six – six – adults responsible for the terror, two of whom (his sons) are serving sentences for her murder. It has been noted that Curtis remains unremorseful for his actions.

Unlike Pihema Cameron, Nia’s mother was not outside court last Friday morning wailing and wearing a t-shirt bearing her daughter’s image. Lisa Kuka is already in prison, being found guilty on two charges of the manslaughter of her own daughter. Unlike Pihema Cameron, wee Nia Glassie never had a chance.

Tapu Misa has the temerity to say that Pihema Cameron was killed “over a bit of paint.”  Fellow columnist Brian Rudman – another stranger to the concept of personal responsibility – calls the overwhelming pro-Emery public reaction “lacking in common decency and civility.” And Maori party co-leader Tariana Turia describes taggers as a “misunderstood sub-culture of artists.” The race card has turned up with yawning predictability, as have comparisons with the longer sentence handed down to (then 12 year old) Bailey Junior Kurariki for his part in the murder of Michael Choy seven years ago, whilst ignoring the premeditated nature of the latter crime. Welcome to glaring examples of point three, as above.

And so to last Friday’s sentencing. Bruce Emery received four years and three months for the manslaughter of Pihema Cameron. William Curtis received four years for his role in the death of Nia Glassie.

Perhaps those expressing shock and outrage over “unjust” or “pathetic” sentencing might like to ponder that.

* * Read Libertarian Sus every Tuesday here at NOT PC * *

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Athlete II - Stella Shawzin

You can see more of Stella’s astonishingly exuberant work at her website, including a beautiful short video of her sculpture in “motion.”  Magnificent.

Pssst: More vids here too, especially more stunning bronzes at the Fordham University exhibition.

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Monday, 16 February 2009

Wimpianson outlines a dimmer future for builders

Good old Maurice Williamson.  Spurned by his leader, unwanted in the Key Cabinet, sacked from the transport portfolio for "telling it like it is," Wimpianson has been left to till the unfertile fields of the Building portfolio, where  he's clearly been putting his "imagination" and "free market credentials" to work in striking out for a brighter future for the building industry.

This, by the way, is irony.  When Williamson and Nick Smith were appointed to the portfolios of Building and the RMA respectively, I pointed out that neither of these two either understands or is even interested in the real and serious problems with the two Acts over which they now preside, and consequently far from expecting to see any genuine building reform, all that could be expected from these two was disappointment.  

I hate it when I’m right.

Wimpianson says today he wants to "shake up" the Building Act.  He's promising a "review" of the Act that would be "a multi-pronged piece of work" – a piece of work that that would “examine possible legislative changes” that include “licensing of builders” – most of whom are already out of work -- and “the accreditation of specific building materials.”

"We don't know the answers," says Wimpianson in unwittingly re-releasing the Clark Government’s building policy.  Admitting he doesn’t know the the answers is in fact the only thing here he's got right.

Consider: the vast majority of leaking homes, particularly the large scale examples, were build by Master Builders and drawn up by Registered Architects.  Did that save the home owners?

Consider: the largest proportion of building materials that have been implicated in leaking homes were accredited by the government's two building bureaucracies, BRANZ and the BIA, and installed in most cases by builders who followed the details mandated by the manufacturers and by those two august bodies (the latter of which has now disappeared like the fly-by-night outfit Wimpianson suggests builders must be).  But have those building materials manufacturers felt any legal heat?  Have those two government bodies fronted up?  Did accreditation of these materials by BRANZ and the BIA save home owners?

Which means that Wimpianson's "multi-pronged approach" shows all the imagination of a concrete block, and the same grasp of his portfolio that Sitiveni Sivivatu showed with the ball on Saturday night.

Wimpianson complains about an industry where all one needs is "a ute, a dog and a cellphone" to become a builder.  Fine words from a man who can’t even make it in a “profession” where all it takes is a cheap suit, a shit-eating smile and an ability to hold up a sign the right way up.


And people say I shouldn't use words like "moron" to describe the members of this National-led government ...

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Monday morning ramble [update 2 + links fixed]

There’s a few things I’ve been lining up to talk about, but just haven’t had the time or space in the last week or so.  Here’s a few of the things you ought to know about, in no particular order:

  •    Despite the fact that falling costs is the way to economic recovery, economists are worried about falling prices.  Go figure. But as George Selgin argues, prices do need to fall, but it depends crucially why prices are falling .  Read Deflation: The Good & the Bad.
        (Such a shame he calls falling prices by the term “deflation,” which as George Reisman explains should be more accurately reserved for a contraction of the money supply. Read Falling Prices are Not Deflation but the Antidote to Inflation.)
  • Want to know why Epic Beer is so flavourful?  Find out here: How Many Hops In My Beer? - Epic Pale Ale.
  • If you haven’t yet caught up with young Tim Geithner's Plan to Ruin Save the Economy, let Jeff Perren summarise it for you.
  • And just to remind you again why governments around the world are rushing headlong down paths that responsible economists are telling them is destructive (shopping subsidies, yet!), then let Peter Boettke remind you of the reason: “Ultimately the stimulus bill[s] will not be determined on the basis of economics, but instead on ordinary politics.  And that ladies and gentlemen is the problem.” [Hat tip Anti Dismal]
  • The British government has banned Dutch MP Geert Wilders from entering Britain. The reason for the ban is Wilders’s tell-all film about Islam, Fitna.  If you haven’t seen it already, see what all the fuss is about here: Fitna - see it here.
  • How to Solve Economic Crisis in 5 minutes.  How’s that for a public service! [Hat tip Titanic Deck Chairs]
  • Brian Phillips presents "Practical" Arguments for Property Rights posted at Houston Property Rights, saying, "During my twenty years defending property rights, I have regularly encountered individuals who rely on economic and similar "practical" arguments in the defense of property rights. But these arguments are seldom effective, because people are ultimately moved by morality.” [Hat tip Titanic Deck Chairs]
  • On the basis of disagreements between economists like Robert Barro and so called economists like Paul Krugman, Clive Crook worries that “those of no decided allegiance conclude that economics is bunk.”  No, no, says Arnold Kling, it’s only macroeconomics that’s bunk. (I paraphrase just a little.)  “Macroeconomics is only one area of economics,” he says. “In my view, it is the area with the highest ratio of unresolved issues to settled questions.”  [Hat tip TVHE) In other words – this time the words of Ayn Rand, “Macroeconomics is a science starting in midstream: it observed that men were producing and trading, it took for granted that they had always done so and always would—it accepted this fact as the given, requiring no further consideration—and it addressed itself to the problem of how to devise the best way for the "community" to dispose of human effort….
        The goods, they believe, are here and will always be here. Therefore, they conclude, the consumer—not the producer—is the motor of an economy. Let us extend credit, i.e., our savings, to the consumers—they advise—in order to expand the market for our goods.
        But, in fact, consumers qua consumers are not part of anyone's market; qua consumers, they are irrelevant to economics. Nature does not grant anyone an innate title of "consumer"; it is a title that has to be earned—by production. Only producers constitute a market—only men who trade products or services for products or services. In the role of producers, they represent a market's "supply"; in the role of consumers, they represent a market's "demand." The law of supply and demand has an implicit subclause: that it involves the same people in both capacities.  
        When this subclause is forgotten, ignored or evaded—you get the economic situation of today.”

  • If you haven’t already seen it, Cactus Kate has an unusual take on Wellington’s coffee, and a bright idea on how to get rid of most of Wellington’s useless public so-called ‘servants.’ 
  • Stephen Franks points out that Roger Douglas is a “centrist” when it comes to compulsion – and so is he!  Read Stimulus packages and a curious omission from Sir Roger’s plan
  • The NZ Save the Humans blog takes the opportunity of the end of the silly “rubbish-free year” stunt from a couple of loony Christchurch environmentalists to point out just how little waste we each generate, and how many more important things there are on which to focus.  Read One Cubic Metre of Waste Each - Get Over It!.
  • Thomas Sowell’s website has a list of books you need to read.  When someone like Sowell recommends a book, it’s worth serious consideration.
  • If you still think Franklin Roosevelt’s profligacy and meddling rescued America from the Great Depression, if you haven’t already seen enough evidence, then here’s another nail in that particular coffin: FDR's policies prolonged Depression by 7 years, UCLA economists calculate.
  • Thrutch points to “a nice post over at the New Clarion examining the vital role of property rights and lawfulness in creating wealth.”  Read it: Cargo Cult Capitalism.
  • Mr Dennis points to the The big Biblical Bailout of Egypt.  The more things change …
  • Meanwhile, as Mark Hubbard says, “If you want to know why we are doomed, economically and philosophically, just read the comments to this Bernard Hickey post - many of them are downright chilling.
  • Go Roger Kerr: “Listening to some commentators, one would think the recession has given Governments the ability to produce wealth and jobs out of thin air.
        The Government is being urged to increase its spending to "stimulate" economic activity.
       What seems to be overlooked is that the huge rises in core Crown spending in recent years - some $25 billion since 2000 - saw New Zealand "lead the world" into recession. The Treasury has said "the overall fiscal stimulus is at the upper end of international reaction to the current situation."
        More spending now would be like throwing petrol on a fire.
    ”  Bravo!  Read on in this morning’s HeraldRoger Kerr: Like throwing petrol on fire.
  •     “Let's go back to the gold standard.”  Says who?  Says the Wall Street Journal, that’s who!        Says the WSJ, “If the very idea seems at odds with what is currently happening in our country -- with Congress preparing to pass a massive economic stimulus bill that will push the fiscal deficit to triple the size of last year's record budget gap -- it's because a gold standard stands in the way of runaway government spending.”
        You see why the politicians won’t like the idea? 
        Read Capitalism Needs a Sound-Money Foundation: Let's give the Fed some competition. Abolish legal tender laws and see whose money people trust. 
        Hat tip Thrutch, who picks a couple of small nits …

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General debate

Go ahead, knock yourselves out.  :-)