Friday, 13 November 2009

LEAKY HOMES: Part 2 tomorrow . . .

Yes, yes, I know I promised you that Part 2 of my series of posts on Leaky Homes would appear here today, but I'm afraid I've had a few delays and it will take a little longer than I thought. You know what I mean: meetings, lawyers' letters, that sort of thing.

I'll aim to have Part 2 for you tomorrow.

Friday morning ramble: It’s ‘Berlin Wall Week’!

Remember, remember the ninth of November, the day twenty years ago that communism fell … openly at least.  All the best links on that happy occasion, and on the murders and aftermath at Fort Hood. But first:

  • GOOD: Russian Prime Minister Medvedev has given a reformist speech. BAD: Remember, Rule #7 to a happy life, which is "never trust a Russian" [hat tip Willy S.]
  • "Bill English says it’s time to withdraw stimulus" Time for real budget cuts? Time to can some bureaucrats? Time, perhaps, for those tax cuts? Remember them ... ?
  • baggerand-excerpt Ayn Rand once said that when her ideas are being promoted in comic books she’ll be on her way to success.  Dim Post's favorite comics author steps up to "defend" Ayn Rand. With friends like these, however...
  • Marketer CJ Lambert has concluded she is “totally confused by the Yellow campaign and it won't sell ads.So there.”  I confess, I quite liked it.
  • Obama has a "trade" plan to present to the APEC conference.  It looks like this: APEC countries should import more FROM the US, and export less TO the US. And he calls this free trade?
  • Obama has also announced a "Job Creation Summit" for December. NZ got there first, & showed how effective it can be politically . . . and how totally ineffective economically. look how well that worked.
  • Good article here about Zimbabwe economic recovery after hyperinflation: An Austrian prescription, perhaps? [hat tip MarkHubbard33 ]
  • Ski resorts self-report 23 percent more snowfall on weekends. [hat tip EricCrampton]
  • Chris Knox & Toy Love!! Thought this was gone for good. Squeeze on Oz TV music programme, Countdown, from back in the day. [hat tip theBatsNZ ]
  • Diana Hsieh has posted Explore Atlas Shrugged, Session 5 -- Podcast & Questions. Check it out:
  • LEAKY HOMES, Part 1: The myth of a deregulated building industry.
  • American Footballers realise it's about time to retire the football helmet. AFL footballers could have told them that years ago.
  • New!! Three new online university courses now available using Reisman & Rand as texts. Scholarships are available for these courses that can be taken from anywhere in world! Information here:
    And here:
  • A man who got 12 women pregnant after meeting them on Facebook has been dubbed "The Sperminator"
  • The European Commission, whose job it is to promote the European Union, has made its YouTube debut with a forty-four second ad showing “selected love scenes” from European films. True story:
  • When does "consultation" become bribery? The hidden costs of Resource Management Act consultation.
  • How innovative entrepreneurs think: "...innovators not only learned early on to think differently, and act differently …"




  • Q: What do Jesus, Frankenstein, Dracula and a Zombie have in common? A: 1:58 PM Nov 10th from TweetDeck
  • The Real Climate blog authors, paid by Al Gore to blog, are exposed as a lying warmist shill. 'Hockey stick' temperatures of its authors are literally upside down.
  • Here’s the truth about unemployment in a recession: “The less sticky wages are, the less unemployment the economy faces." And it turns out wages in NZ are not as sticky as first thought.
  • New Zealand is now literally a nanny state.
  • How to avoid doing what you need to do for another 4 min. 16 sec. Procrastination. It’s a wonderful thing. [hat tip Joe Green]


  • NASA gets a new Moon picture, and this one is, well, it's a *good* one. One Giant Leap seen again. You think this will shut up the lunatics? What do you think.
  • Victoria Postrel explains why you should work less during a recession, (but what about innovation? New services?)
  • The Epic Beer Family get together for a beautiful Family Portrait 2009 Very tasty indeed:



  • One thing the anniversary of Berlin Wall should remind us "unequivocal economic superiority of freedom" - 35 minutes ago from TweetDeck
  • When today’s Russian & East German youngsters favor capitalism more than US youngsters, you know American culture is in trouble
  • Debi Ghate interviews Yaron Brook and Onkar Ghate on the history of the Berlin Wall, and the meaning of its fall.


  • Fort Hood: Reaction, Responses and Rejoinders -- from the inaccurate to the unworthy, and worst.
  • Week's Best Headline: 'Lessons of Ft. Hood: Military Bases Need More Mental Health Professionals.'
  • Iowahawk uncovers truth behind Ft. Hood killer’s murderous rampage: ‘He Had Access to Fox, Talk Radio & Right-Wing Blogs’
  • Why does Obama keep saying the Fort Hood massacre was "hard to comprehend?" Hasan's lecture was plain as day:
  • Muslim soldier Hasan to military MDs: "We love death more then (sic) you love life!” Viva diversity!
  • "U.S. Knew of Suspect’s Ties to Radical Cleric"

More to come shortly . . . or keep track on my Twitter feed . . .



'There Was a Child Went Forth' – Walt Whitman [1855]

I was thinking and conversing today about Montessori and Dewey and capitalism, as you do, and thinking about the importance in all good education of observation – of the senses, where it all starts – and thought of Walt Whitman’s brilliant observational poem posted below.

And searching for an online version to post here, I came across this great description of it on the Walt Whitman Archive website that I knew you’d all enjoy:

     “Called by Whitman ‘the most innocent thing I ever did’ and by Edwin Haviland Miller ‘one of the most sensitive lyrics in the language and one of the most astute diagnoses of the emergent self, this 39-line poem is a retrospective view describing the absorption of everything the poem's child beholds. Each sensation becomes ‘part of’ the child (a phrase repeated six times) and by implication foreshadows his maturation into the Whitman poet-persona.
    “Sandwiched between the poem's opening assertion that each experience ‘became part of’ the child and the closing line's recapitulation of the same idea, a compact catalogue records an astounding four dozen metaphorically-charged images or sounds that the child absorbs (in a phrase deleted in later editions) ‘with wonder or pity or love or dread’ (1855 Leaves). His development is shown objectively by interlinked patterns of space, colors, passing time, and social phenomena; subjectively by his developing cognitive powers.
    “Coincidentally or not, the poem illustrates the phrenological formula for educating the superior child by cultivating its powers of observing all surrounding phenomena. ‘The inductive method of studying nature, namely, by observing facts and ascending through analogous facts up to the laws that govern them is the only way to arrive at correct conclusions.’ (J.G. Spurzheim, Education: Its Elementary Principles Founded on the Nature of Man.)”

And with that by way of introduction, here it is:

There Was A Child Went Forth

mntsol3THERE was a child went forth every day,

And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became,

And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part
         of the day,

Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.

The early lilacs became part of this child,

And grass and white and red morning-glories, and white and red
         clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird,

And the Third-month lambs and the sow's pink-faint litter, and
         the mare's foal and the cow's calf,

And the noisy brood of the barnyard or by the mire of the pond-

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And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there, and
         the beautiful curious liquid,

And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads, all became part
         of him.

The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month became part
         of him,

Winter-grain sprouts and those of the light-yellow corn, and the
         esculent roots of the garden,

And the apple-trees cover'd with blossoms and the fruit afterward,
         and wood-berries, and the commonest weeds by the road,

And the old drunkard staggering home from the outhouse of the
         tavern whence he had lately risen,

And the schoolmistress that pass'd on her way to the school,

And the friendly boys that pass'd, and the quarrelsome boys,

And the tidy and fresh-cheek'd girls, and the barefoot negro boy
         and girl,

And all the changes of city and country wherever he went.

His own parents, he that had father'd him and she that had con-
         ceiv'd him in her womb and birth'd him,

They gave this child more of themselves than that,

They gave him afterward every day, they became part of him.

The mother at home quietly placing the dishes on the supper-

The mother with mild words, clean her cap and gown, a whole-
         some odor falling off her person and clothes as she walks by,

The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, anger'd, unjust,

The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the crafty lure,

The family usages, the language, the company, the furniture, the
         yearning and swelling heart,

Affection that will not be gainsay'd, the sense of what is real, the
         thought if after all it should prove unreal,

The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-time, the curious
         whether and how,

Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all flashes and specks?

Men and women crowding fast in the streets, if they are not flashes
         and specks what are they?

The streets themselves and the façades of houses, and goods in
         the windows,

Vehicles, teams, the heavy-plank'd wharves, the huge crossing at
         the ferries,

20061028113220!Jan_Vermeer_van_Delft_001 The village on the highland seen from afar at sunset, the river

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Shadows, aureola and mist, the light falling on roofs and gables of
         white or brown two miles off,

The schooner near by sleepily dropping down the tide, the little
         boat slack-tow'd astern,

The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests, slapping,

The strata of color'd clouds, the long bar of maroon-tint away
         solitary by itself, the spread of purity it lies motionless in,

The horizon's edge, the flying sea-crow, the fragrance of salt
         marsh and shore mud,

These became part of that child who went forth every day, and
         who now goes, and will always go forth every day.

[Poem from the Walt Whitman archive. Paintings are Lilacs in the Sun by Claude Monet, and View of Delft by Jan Vermeer]

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Thursday, 12 November 2009

LEAKY HOMES, Part 1: The myth of deregulated building

"The building codes of the democracies embody, of course, only what the previous generation knew, or thought they knew, about building...”- Frank Lloyd Wright

If a detailed, factual study were made of all those instances in the history of … industry which have been used by the statists as an indictment of free enterprise and as an argument in favor of a government-controlled economy, it would be found that the actions blamed on businessmen were caused, necessitated, and made possible only by government intervention in business. The evils, popularly ascribed to big industrialists, were not the result of an unregulated industry, but of government power over industry. The villain in the picture was not the businessman, but the legislator, not free enterprise, but government controls.”
- Ayn Rand

THE LEAKY HOMES DEBACLE is costing everyone in the country dearly.  Homes full of mould and misery – builders, designers and contractors fearful of opening their letterbox for fear of a summons -- and “a bill that is likely to top $11.5 billion” to fix it all that is being picked up by ratepayers, by home-owners, and by everyone who’s  got a dollar in their pocket and anyone who ever visited a building site.

It’s a big problem, isn’t it – and a big problem needs a big villain.

The myth persists that the leading villain in the leaky homes debacle was the “light-handed regulation” introduced to the building industry in the early nineties by the National Government, which allowed “alternative solutions” to undermine good professional practice, and cowboy builders and unregistered designers to fly by night and rip off old ladies.

According to this myth, there was once a golden age in which kindly building inspectors and knowledgeable bureaucrats were everywhere, reining in the cowboys, prohibiting shonky practices and banning shoddy building systems – and who are now grasping the nettle to return things to sanity. 

Unfortunately for those who peddle the myth, nothing could be further from the truth. It's a fairy tale.

The fairy tale, however, is everywhere. Its latest appearance was on Leighton Smith’s morning show in the person of John Gray from the Home Owners and Buyers Association, where  he peddled the myth that this “light-handed regulation” is the cause of all the leaky-home misery, along with all the cowboy builders, designers and inspectors it let loose on unsuspecting home-owners.

Unfortunately for the headline writers and Mr Gray, it’s just not true.  In fact it’s almost one-hundred-and-eighty-degrees the opposite of the truth.  It’s a fairy tale erected out of whole cloth

The misery is certainly true,however – and it’s been killing good builders, good designers and unfortunate home-owners.  And let’s not downplay either the misery, or the good intentions of Mr Gray. But the cause of all that misery is not “light-handed regulation,” since that wasn’t the regime under which most of the damage was done then, it’s far from the regime in which the damage is still being done now, and in any case it doesn’t speak to the actual pathology of the problem: what actually allowed water into houses and let them rot.

I’ll talk about the physical causes tomorrow, and on Monday I’ll talk about how the “solutions” set up by government to “fix” the leaky homes problem have conspired instead to make things worse for everyone, including the regulators.  Today I’ll just talk about this myth of light-handed regulation.

110263519_fullFOR A START, JUST think about this: there was a much more light-handed regulatory regime in the early 1910s and 1920s, when most of the villas and bungalows were built for which people now pay huge money – even for “original” examples.  Things couldn’t be more light-handed then, but the disastrous systemic problems now being experienced weren’t in evidence then – not even for the many stucco (solid plaster) buildings like these two on the right still decorating some of our leafiest suburbs.80521246_full

In fact, even in 1982 when I started building, a relatively light-handed regulatory regime was still in existence – even in those Muldoonist times. 

The ‘Bible’ on site was a document called NZ Standard 3604, which back then was about forty pages long; permits took around two weeks at most to process; council inspectors were seen on site around three times maximum – and the thing called a Code Compliance Certificate didn’t even exist. 

The first house I ever worked on, in the leafy suburb of Remuera as it happens, had just  two pages of plans (no details) and each time the inspector arrived it was to discover that my boss had changed something else from the drawings.  Inspector Dumbo eventually just told us to send him a sketch when we’d finished – if we could get around to it.  We never did. The house is still there, still solid.

I tell you that story not because it was unusual, but because it wasn’t. By the time I was building EIFS-clad houses in Mission Bay in 1987, things were no different (and I have to report, these were EIFS-clad houses that had no problems with leaking cladding).  But things were about to change.
Enter the bureaucrats. 

THE BUREAUCRAT WHO BEARS the greatest guilt is a know-nothing called Bill Porteous whose agitation for more building regulation and an “Integrated Building Code” leveraged him into the job as head of the new bureaucracy set up to oversee the building industry, the Building Industry Authority. 

I say “a know-nothing,” and I say that from personal experience, since Porteous was inflicted on me as an alleged construction lecturer in my two years at the Wellington Architecture School in the mid-eighties – where I quickly discovered that what Porteous knew about construction could be written on a very small postcard (a postcard which needed to be folded until it was all sharp corners and stuffed up his arse) and was awfully excited about the idea of an “integrated national building code.”

As you can imagine, we didn’t get on.

That's a sample on the right of just some of the paperwork that accompanied the 'deregulation' of the nineties. The new bureaucracy was of a similar size.

Now if that’s deregulation, then you can call me Norwegian and ship me to Oslo.

Promoted from his job lecturing budding architects how not to build a house, Porteous’s new bureaucracy quickly set about regulating, ahem, “integrating” the building industry, giving increased powers of oversight to councils, giving increasing authority to the bunch of bureaucrats in Porirua known as the Building Research Association of NZ (BRANZ), and putting his new integrated “performance-based” building code into action.

I say “performance-based” building code since that’s what it said right there on the label, but in reality the new code was about as “performance-based” as its near-identical twin, the Resource Management Act – and just as heavy-handed.

Want to build a balustrade?  The new Building Code told you (and still does) how you’re allowed to do it, right down to the size of bolts and the spacing of balusters. Want to specify the timber you’re going to build your house with? The standards specified under the new Building Code told you (and still do) what timber you’re allowed to use where.  Want to install a cladding system? The new Building Code told you (and still does) what hoops you have to jump through before you’re allowed to. 

One of those hoops was (and still is) that the system, item or building material had to have obtained approval from those bureaucrats out at Porirua.  Those bureaucrats at BRANZ.  The next hoop to jump was (and still is) obtaining a building consent from your council -- which now routinely take months rather than weeks to process, and can even take months just to be allowed to submit a consent. And the next hoop was (and still is) to endure an increased number of building inspections from the council -- which these days can easily run into double figures, and that’s before enduring the Sisyphusian and expensive task of trying to be awarded the Holy Grail of the Code Compliance Certificate (a task that now involves lawyers, inspectors and a pile of paperwork from everybody who’s ever visited the building site while construction is in progress.

Now despite Mr Porteous’s certified and gold-plated regulatory scheme, everything failed.  It failed not despite his new heavy-handed regime, but because of it.

JUST TO CONCRETISE WHAT I mean, let’s look at two leading players in the drama : untreated dry-frame timber produced and marketed by the likes of Fletcher’s Origin Timber and Carter Holt Harvey, and James Hardie‘s Harditex – a low-density autoclaved board made with wood pulp and cement used to back monolithic claddings.  Between them, and for reasons I’ll go into tomorrow, these two products account for more than eighty percent of the problems associated with the 7,571 properties registered with the government’s Weathertight Homes Resolution Service (WHRS). You know which houses I mean, don’t you: they’re usually the Mediterranean looking things around the place now covered with tarpaulins and scaffolding.

Without jumping too far ahead to what I’ll say tomorrow, the primary problem found in houses registered with  the government’s WHRS is that James Hardie’s Harditex “system” let water into the houses, and the untreated dry-frame timber they were built with rotted. 

Use of Carter’s and Fletcher’s dry-frame timber in wall framing was allowed because a committee of the New Zealand Standards Authority decided that it should be (and sitting on that committee were representatives of, you guessed it, Carters and Fletchers) and because the boys from BRANZ issued an “appraisal” declaring it to be fit for that purpose.  (Without ticking those boxes, no building materials can be brought to market here in NZ – and as it was then, so it still is now.)

And use of Harditex was allowed because James Hardie prepared a set of details to be used when installing the Harditex system on the outside of your house, and the boys at BRANZ duly issued an appraisal saying that it was fit for that purpose.

Everybody was happy – or at least was prepared to be happy because the process set up by Mr Porteous was working and all these materials had all the necessary ticks from all the nice bureaucrats who had your best interests at heart.  And so everyone set off in complete confidence to build the slums of tomorrow.
  • Registered architects designed Harditex buildings with dryframe using details supplied by James Hardie and approved by BRANZ. 
  • Master builders built Harditex buildings with dryframe using details supplied by James Hardie and approved by BRANZ.
  • Building suppliers were told by both Carters and Fletchers to substitute dryframe for treated timber – and everybody was happy, because Mr Porteous’s regime had declared it to be safe.
  • Building inspectors inspected Harditex buildings built with dryframe using details supplied by James Hardie, and were happy with the work – and delighted that all the details were approved by BRANZ.
  • And home-owners bought Harditex buildings built with dryframe using details supplied by James Hardie and approved by BRANZ.
And everybody was happy. But they’re not so happy nowadays.

The problem wasn’t cowboys or lack of registered or qualified professionals.  Cowboys built a few of the buildings that failed, but cowboys will always be with use, and they weren’t the cause of the 7,571 failures, or of the systemic problems that caused them. Good builders and good architects relied on the process and in good faith they built and designed buildings that failed.  In fact master builders and registered architects built and designed buildings all over the country that failed – one  I’m trying to fix now was designed by a president of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, drawn up the son of a former architecture school Dean and built in good faith by registered master builders.

It still failed.

What went wrong was that the details weren’t worth a damn.  The Harditex building system wasn’t worth a damn. Untreated dryframe timber isn’t worth a damn when it’s wet.

But when it comes to sheeting home the blame for all this, it’s not those who are responsible for the materials or their approval who are feeling the heat.

Good builders who relied on James Hardie’s details are being ruined, but it looks to me like James Hardie themselves has been made immune from any responsibility.

Good architects who relied on BRANZ’s approvals are being ruined, but BRANZ themselves have been held by the courts to be immune from any responsibility.

Good home-owners who were told by Bill Porteous’s Building Industry Authority that if what they bought had made it through Mr Porteous’s regulations, were soon surprised to see the government dissolve the Building Industry Authority so that it couldn’t be held legally responsible – and to then see it reborn under a new name, in the same offices, with the same staff, as the Department of Building and Housing.  Different name, different department. “Wasn’t us, honest Guv.”

You’ve heard people damn fly-by-night cowboy operators? Crikey, you’ve never seen ‘fly-by-night’ until you’ve seen the speed with which government departments sidestep their responsibilities.  (You’ve seen it again just this week, haven’t you, this all-care-and-no-responsibility attitude that only a regulatory authority can bring to things, with the news that the Overseas Investment Commission ignored warnings that Cedenco’s owners were crooks, and instead gave them their imprimatur. )

All care and no responsibility – and not so heavy on the care. That’s the ticket for the bureaucracy.

So where is Bill Porteous now?  Bill Porteous has disappeared, and his bureaucracy has disappeared with him – and you and I are left to pick up his pieces.

Where are BRANZ?  BRANZ are still issuing appraisals that councils cling to like drowning men cling to a liferaft – and the courts have declared that BRANZ were not at fault for anything.

Everyone did it, but no-one’s to blame. Turns out you can’t sue these entities.  Turns out the government’s bureaucrats really are  above the law. Turns out that so the consequences of their mistakes and misdirections are now being visited upon the licensed and unlicensed, the registered and the unregistered, the home-owners and the would-be investors, all of whom built and designed and bought houses on the basis that the materials and standards were "certified," and all of whom now suffer the consequence of that false sense of security.

Because it turns out Frank Lloyd Wright was wrong.  Turns out that neither Bill nor BRANZ nor the BIA knew even as much as the previous generation – and they forced that ignorance on us by law.  By Bill’s law.

And big companies like James Hardie?  When good builders, designers and home-owners who relied on their materials and details are being nailed to the wall, how have they somehow managed to shirk their responsibility?  That’s an excellent question – a question that some good investigative journalist needs to answer.

The Australian government has just bailed out James Hardie to the tune of A$320 million for its responsibilities over asbestos.  Has some similar deal been cooked up over here?  I really do think we should be told. . .

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NOT PJ: Ronny Hidewira’s Apology

Bernard Darnton has heard so many apologies recently that he’s forgotten who said what.

_BernardDarnton Ronny Hidewira was unrepentant last week when caught scamming the taxpayer for a personal holiday. Lashing out at his opponents he said, “You socialist motherfuckers have been raping our wallets and ripping us off for decades. I just wanted some of the action.”

Hidewira had been caught gilding his expenses after a dirty weekend with his new girlfriend, Lolita Crime. Crime, at one third of Hidewira’s age, is affectionately known to the middle-aged politician as “the perky busty.”

The impromptu holiday took place while the Associate Minister for Local Wine and Cheese was on a trip to Brussels to examine Europe’s “super-country” project. The super-country project will replace all of Europe’s disjointed national governments with a single authority resulting in continent-wide economies of scale. Hidewira began his trip by meeting one-on-one with project head Viggo Rustaks, the Swedish Finance Minister.

However, instead of attending Tuesday’s scheduled meeting on Polish banana-farm subsidies he took a side trip to Hawaii to practice for an upcoming appearance on Surfing with the Stars and to impress his teenage girlfriend with his Gold Elite Airpoints card. “Fuck it,” he said, “I’m only in the northern hemisphere once every couple of months so why not?”

In an interview on National Radio yesterday, Hidewira apologised for his language. “I don’t resile from the sentiment of what I said but I realise that the language was inappropriate. I know that a lot of people are uncomfortable with the ‘mofo’ word but, as someone who’s currently enjoying a bit of intergenerational nookie, I don’t want to give the impression that there’s anything wrong with that. My party’s policy is that whatever goes on in a private individual’s bedroom, spa pool, or Ottoman-themed dungeon is their own business.”

When challenged that his apology wasn’t so much an apology as a cynical self-justifying PR exercise, he responded, “I’m sick to the back teeth – teeth by Dental Artistry, Newmarket; call now for a free quote – of this puritanical bullshit. There are 120 snouts in the Parliamentary trough, why are you hounding me? Is it because I’m heterosexual?”

He continued, “I’m not answerable to you. I’m only answerable to the good people of Te Tamariki o Remuera and they will judge me, years from now when this is all forgotten.”

Hidewira’s fate now lies in the hands of his party’s leadership. Māoreact Party leader Rongo Wright admits that she’s disappointed by Hidewira’s behaviour but says that his weight loss regime is probably responsible, blaming Post-Colonic Traumatic Stress Disorder.

* * Bernard Darnton will be posting irregularly over the next eight weeks while he helps support the European viticulture economy. Look out for a live post and photo from the Vatican – and as many posts as his consumption of wine and cheese allow.  No taxpayers’ money will be harmed in the making of his fact-finding mission.  * *

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Johnson Wax Building – Frank Lloyd Wright (1936)

"Architecture begins to matter when it goes beyond protecting us from the elements, when it begins to say something about the world -- when it begins to take on the qualifications of art."johnson_draw2
- Paul Goldberger

  If there’s any building that fits that description, it’s the “cathedral of business” that is Wright’s Johnson Wax Building – a revolutionary exterior in Racine, Wisconsin containing his sleekest tower, and what’s been called “the greatest room in America” – a place in which to work that would feel like you were in one of Monet’s lily ponds – and somewhere that‘s very difficult to photograph well . . . 



Watch this video presentation to find out more:

For the full impact, start at 3 minutes in when you begin entering the building.

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Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Lest we forget

And on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, in the year 1918 the guns of the Western Front finally went silent and the human carnage of the First World War came to a close – yet results of the war would stay with us, like a bacillus, for decades to come.

Far from being the War to End All Wars, it instead set the world up for decades of pain to come.

Britain and Germany were bankrupted, and the war debts of all combatants would infect western economies for years to come, until their final annihilation in  German hyperinflation, the collapse of the classical gold standard, and the maw of the worldwide Great Depression.

The Bolshevik takeover of Russia was still in place at the Armistice, a wartime piece of German treachery that eventually enslaved around 300 million people – and whose eventual collapse we celebrated just two days ago.

The “state socialism” adopted by all the Great Powers in the war would come back to haunt them.  Every big statist of the next generation, from Keynes to Herbert Hoover to FDR, learned their interventionism in the corridors of power they so loved so far behind the front lines.

And in the men in the German trenches were born the seeds of World War II: the march of the Nietzschean call to arms in defence of the Fatherland and its “blood and soil” began there; what Clemenceau called the “twenty-year ceasefire” that was the Versaille Treaty was bewailed there; and there too was the myth of Der Dolchstoß so exploited by the Nazis – that “good Germans” who were at the front still undefeated were stabbed in back by a surrender forced upon them by a coterie of Jews and other traitors in their rear echelons. It took the utter defeat of Germany twenty-seven years and 100 million lost souls later to finally lay these myths and tragedies to rest.

This last, the myth that the German surrender of November 1918 allowed to take hold, offers a lesson that needs to be learned and relearned: that to be lasting a defeat must be crushing, and must be seen to be crushing, as it finally was in World War II.

Lest we forget indeed. If truth is the first casualty of war, then the the memory of its lessons and of its unintended consequences must surely be the second.

[Image, by the way, is from Charles Sargeant Jagger's Artillery Monument at Hyde Park Corner, London.]

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DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Burton, boat people and breeding-on-the-benefit

Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath takes his regularly irreverent look at some of the past week’s headlines . . .

  1. Herceptin cost not ‘in public interest’ – Tony Ryall has decided to censor from taxpayers the cost of a controversial breast cancer treatment programme he is forcing them to fund. How on earth can knowing the dollar amount that has already been spent on treating patients with this drug (the money having already been pinched from our paypackets) not be in our interest? The involuntary looting of our private wealth continues apace; National have no intention of halting the IRD’s ceaseless raids on our bank deposits. But knowing the fate of this stolen money is simply our due. Ryall claims the cost of Herceptin is commercially sensitive. Sorry, Tony, but your brief does not include protecting the interests of pharmaceutical companies that collaborate with politicians in a bit of price-fixing, and in monopoly arrangements that would attract the attention of the Commerce Commission were they done in the private sector.
  2. ‘Nanny’ plan aims to help families – Once again the state determines that the poor incompetent brainless masses are unable to fund and organize help for themselves. Groups of three kuia – which we have to bankroll - will now visit pregnant Maori women in various parts of the country to discuss ‘welfare issues’. I hope the Nannies in Lower Hutt take welfare campaigner Lindsay Mitchell with them, so that mothers-to-be might learn what a trap the DPB has become, how its perverse incentives encourage the breeding of fatherless families, resulting in generations of dysfunctional households, its members lacking the work ethic and all with their paws out for more entitlements. Alas, I fear these are not the kind of welfare issues that the Nannies will explore. When Pita Sharples visited the Kahui house, where babies Chris and Cru were murdered, he concluded the problem there was one of “need” and that the family had “no help.” I despair that he and his party actually want to free people from welfare dependency and encourage accountability and personal responsibility.
  3. NZ urged to take rescued Sri Lankan refugees – Keith Locke has it partly right – let’s take these refugees into our country, but with a few provisos. Firstly, if they are discovered to be criminals or terrorists they are returned to Sri Lanka. Secondly, if admitted they give an undertaking to abide by the laws of our land. Thirdly, they have no claim on the New Zealand public welfare system, ever. They may access private welfare systems such as charities, trade unions and friendly societies. (That door should also be closed to any New Zealander convicted of a criminal offence). Fourthly, they should demonstrate an understanding of the English language and be able to communicate using English to an acceptable degree within six months of entry. On that understanding, I would be happy to have any number of refugees come to these shores. Who knows - if we get enough Sri Lankans, Indians and Pakistanis coming here, we might end up with a cricket team to truly stretch the Australians!
  4. Court told of violent prison attack – Graeme Burton is one of the most dangerous psychopaths in this country. Why is he not in shackles and handcuffs 24 hours a day, locked in a cell and isolated from humanity for the rest of his life? He is currently on trial, at our expense, for chasing another prisoner around (despite the prosthetic leg) and stabbing the said prisoner through the heart with a metal rod stolen from a medical trolley and sharpened into a killing tool. Burton has already foregone any claim to leniency, compassion and the limited privileges available in prison. For goodness’ sake: keep this criminal in lockdown, by himself, with no time outside his cell, indefinitely. It’s not rocket science. The bastard is a menace to civil society. Isolate him without respite, and neutralize the threat once and for all. What is wrong with our justice and prison systems?

See y’all next week!
Doc McGrath


Mr Key’s dirty little secret

If you’ve wondered why the world’s politicians seem so relaxed about their ability to repay the trillions of pounds, dollars and euros they’ve been throwing around in recent months, then rest assured they have a dirty little secret.

And if you’ve wondered why John Key seems so relaxed about the outstanding bill for NZ’s leaky homes – a “bill that is likely to top $11.5 billion” – then rest assured Mr Key has the same secret.  It’s the same secret on which his finance minister Bill English is relying to repay the decades of govt deficits over which he’s now presiding.

That secret can be stated in one word: “inflation.”

dollar_toilet-from-chuck-penzi Except Mr Key can’t keep a secret, and in that respect he’s different to most of the world’s politicians.  They call it “quantitative easing” and figure that as long as they all inflate at the same rate, then no-one will notice because all their currencies will be going down the toilet together. Yet Mr Key (if not his deputy) is happy to admit that he’s planning to inflate his way out of several messes.

Speaking to Guyon Espiner on the weekend about his new plan to get rid of that $11.5 billion leaky-home liability, Key said his plan was basically to inflate his way out. He’s up front about it.  He told Espiner,

“if we can ensure that a homeowner has guaranteed access to funds, and a guaranteed ability to repay . . . we can allow inflation and we can allow rising house prices to let people fix their home and actually move on and move out of the situation.”

Did you get that? “We can allow inflation and we can allow rising house prices to let people fix their home and actually move on and move out of the situation.” Key’s plan to wipe out the billions of dollars of leaky home liability (and by implication the tens of billions of dollars his government is spending that it hasn’t got) is not to address the real problems, it’s going to be to print money – the age-old remedy of quacks, charlatans and short-sighted so-called statesmen.

“Inflation is like sin,” said Frederick Leith-Ross, “every government denounces it and every government practices it.”  Key at least is ingenuous enough to admit it (and astute enough to realise his policies are already allowing house-price inflation to take off).

Let’s get one thing very clear here: New pieces of printed paper bring no new resources into existence. None at all. But by diluting the purchasing power of every existing dollar, inflation take resources from savers (involuntarily and against their will) and gives them to borrowers, gives them to governments, gives them to those the government has chosen (this week) to favour.

The history of the twentieth century’s money is the history of its dilution by governments’ central banks. Ever pound and every dollar is worth now around one-hundred times less than it was one-hundred years ago because of governments printing money. And every government secretly thinks it can control the process – and every bubble, every hyperinflation, every careful “quantitative easing” tells the same tale: they can’t.  (Read Fiat Money Inflation in France to see just how deluded “statesmen” can be when taking this particular tiger by the tale.)

The danger of inflation is great, but the temptation is always greater. “By a continuing process of inflation, government can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.”  John Maynard Keynes said that in his instruction manual to thieving governments. Key plans to confiscate openly.

And don’t think this just means he intends inflation to help out people paying to fix their homes.  He intends it to help out his government.   As Stephen Horwitz points out,

    “A clear message of [inflationary policies] is that one cannot separate inflationary monetary policies from profligate fiscal policy, As with counterfeiting, the lure of inflation is that the inflator can acquire real resources at virtually zero cost. It does this not only directly, but also by reducing the value of the government’s massive debt. For political actors seeking votes, or governments seeking power, inflation is a far more palatable way than taxation to pay for new programs or military adventures.“

Mr Key’ dirty little secret is that he knows that.   He just hopes that you don’t.


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Van Oostrom House – Organon Architecture


I couldn’t be happier with how this house has turned out – and I sense my clients would say the same.


I posted it here a few years back (here and here), but now the plants have matured – and since it’s been featured in the Waikato Times this month, I figured it was about time I showed it here in all its glory.


Who would have thought this could be found just five minutes from the centre of Hamilton.


The Waikato Times called it “an outstanding Hamilton home, surely one that is among the finest ‘House ‘n’ Lifestyle’ has featured.” Naturally, I agree with them . . .  but I bet they say that about every house. ;^)


The house offers a private front to the street, and opens out from within to four landscaped ‘courtyards’ created to integrate site and house.


I won’t say too much here, since you can read about it in the ‘House n’ Lifestyle’ feature linked below – but seeing a house completed to this standard and the clients enjoying it as they are is the reason I do this job: to bring their dreams into reality by doing what they would do if they were a good architect.

P1000564 [Photos by AvO]




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Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Hone offers NZers the Maori Party salute


From “white man’s bullshit” to “white mofos” to “bastards” to “racist bastards”, you just can’t keep a good racist thug down, can you. [Cartoon by Blunt]

Nothing like a good hater & wrecker to make your week, is there.

But at least there’s no need to guess what Maori Party MPs really think about us. Tariana thinks there was a “Maori holocaust” in Taranaki, and Maori are suffering from “Post-Colonial Traumatic Stress Disorder”;  Hone reckons “white motherf...ers have been raping our lands and ripping  us off for centuries,” and that ““[Phil] Goff and his mates should be lined up against a wall and shot" for their foreshore and seabed legislation.

And the whole Maori Party caucus was silent today when Hone apologised for his language, but not for his sentiments.

Nice people.  For a pack of racists.

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"We were fools to think the fall of the Berlin Wall had killed off the far Left”

Skimming the newspapers to check their Berlin Wall coverage, Sean Gabb from Britain’s Libertarian Alliance discovered an unusually good piece in the Daily Mail.  It’s not just unusually good (especially for the Mail), but it offers a good lesson in activism, as Sean explains in the postscript:

    It's an article by Melanie Phillips and it titled "We were fools to think the fall of the Berlin Wall had killed off the far Left. They're back - and attacking us from within". The key paragraphs are:

"Soviet Communism was a belief system whose goal was to overturn the structures of society through the control of economic and political life. This mutated into a post-communist ideology of the Left, whose no-less ambitious aim was to overturn western society through a subversive transformation of its culture....
    "But as communism slowly crumbled, those on the far-Left who remained hostile towards western civilisation found another way to realise their goal of bringing it down.
    "This was what might be called 'cultural Marxism'. It was based on the understanding that what holds a society together are the pillars of its culture: the structures and institutions of education, family, law, media and religion. Transform the principles that these embody and you can thus destroy the society they have shaped.
    "This key insight was developed in particular by an Italian Marxist philosopher called Antonio Gramsci. His thinking was taken up by Sixties radicals - who are, of course, the generation that holds power in the West today.
    "Gramsci understood that the working class would never rise up to seize the levers of 'production, distribution and exchange' as communism had prophesied. Economics was not the path to revolution.
    "He believed instead that society could be overthrown if the values underpinning it could be turned into their antithesis: if its core principles were replaced by those of groups who were considered to be outsiders or who actively transgressed the moral codes of that society.
    "So he advocated a 'long march through the institutions' to capture the citadels of the culture and turn them into a collective fifth column, undermining from within and turning all the core values of society upside-down and inside-out."
    It's a good article and is worth reading in full. I mention it, however [says Sean], because Mrs Phillips might have been quoting from my book Cultural Revolution, Culture War. Indeed, I know that someone bought 50 copies of this two years ago and set them out to various opinion formers among whom was Mrs Phillips.
    I don't normally boast about influence. However, I had a long conversation yesterday with a friend who was rather depressed about the Libertarian Alliance's lack of impact in British politics. This is my answer. I will not claim that I am the only person putting this argument …  However, I do think it reasonable to claim that I have *helped*, since I began writing about "The Enemy Class" back in 2001, to provide the conservative and libertarian movement in this country with a narrative that explains what has happened in England over the past few generations.

And not just in England!  Here in New Zealand one person putting this argument has, of course, been Lindsay Perigo – who argues that “we lovers of reason and freedom have to do a Gramsci of our own.”

Who’s with us?

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Susan Ryder remembers The Day The Wall Came Down.

susanryder They say it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind and as far as today’s column goes, I’ve changed it twice already. So here we go, third time lucky.

I’d initially decided to elaborate upon a disagreement I had recently with someone for whom I have respect, even if I don’t always see eye to eye. Then along came Hone Harawira who, as if we needed more proof, showed once again what a fat-head he is. My fingers itched to give him the printed smack he’s never going to receive from the self-neutered, mainstream media, so option one went by the wayside.

And then I was reminded of something much more important. Something that shows the Hone Harawiras to be the trivialities, the sideshows, the non-entities they are. I remembered the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

People always say that they remember exactly where they were when they heard the news about President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. In 1997 I was driving across the Auckland Harbour Bridge when I heard that Princess Diana was dead. And in 1989 I was in downtown San Francisco when the first crack appeared in the Berlin Wall.

The Wall was built the year before I was born. For me, nothing symbolised the Cold War greater than that bleak, barbed-wire monstrosity, fortified with soldiers, sirens and searchlights.

I never saw it for myself. I never went to Berlin. But I saw Eastern bloc communism first-hand during a short visit to Bulgaria in 1983, which made for pretty grim viewing.

The whole situation was farcical. Travel visas to the Eastern bloc were always short-term because they had to be. You see, the communists knew their system was crap, but they desperately needed hard currency to help keep the whole shebang going. Infuriatingly, westerners showed little interest in wanting to migrate to Eastern Europe with their dollars and D-marks, so the communists had to begrudgingly permit entry to tourists.

However, the longer the touring westerners were in their countries, the greater the expense of having to monitor them – and yes, we were monitored – and the greater their likelihood of fraternising with the locals, who in turn, might just hear about dangerous things like freedom, prosperity and plenty of food! Joseph Heller had a name for that sort of scenario.

Back to San Francisco. There had been reports of public disquiet behind the Iron Curtain for some time. Standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate two years earlier, US President Reagan had urged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” whilst Gorbachev himself had been busy implementing his radical domestic twin-plan of perestroika (restructuring) and glastnost (openness).

I’d gone into town after work to meet friends. I came out of the parking building and turned into Market Street to find a vast crowd gathered outside a large store selling electronic goods. The crowd took up the whole sidewalk and spilled out into the street where traffic was also stopping. They were all watching the TV’s displayed in the store windows.

“What’s going on?” I asked nobody in particular. Then my blood ran cold. “Oh my God,” I said. “Has someone shot the President?!”

“No!” said a man in front of me. “The Berlin Wall’s coming down!”

I gazed at him blankly. I couldn’t seem to process what he’d just said.

“Here,” he said, “have a look for yourself! Hey you guys, let this lady through!” And the crowd generously made room for me towards the front where a dozen televisions were all tuned to the same channel, transmitting scenes of cheering Germans attacking the wall from both sides, with many more clambering over it, drinking, dancing and celebrating its long-awaited destruction.

We watched in stark disbelief. I turned to face the people behind me.

“Can anybody else believe this?” I asked. Everybody just shook their heads. It was completely unreal.

One man finally broke the spell. “This is amazing!” he yelled. “This is friggin’ FANTASTIC!” And then everybody was jumping up and down and hugging each other and yelling out to slowing traffic to spread the news. People were whooping and cars were tooting.

The bar to which I was heading was just down the road. I flew in and spotted Janna waiting for me.

“I know, I know!!” she yelled before I even opened my mouth. “Where the hell have you been? We’ve been watching in here!! Isn’t it amazing?! I can’t believe it!” The packed bar, in its entirety, was glued to the screen in the corner, while raising glasses to the brave Germans relishing their first moments of freedom that very instant.

That whole evening was like a New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh. It was one big party to which everyone turned up with total strangers expressing disbelief and excitement, but all saying the same thing that needed no further explanation.

“The Wall’s coming down.”

* * Read Susan Ryder’s column every Tuesday here at NOT PC * *

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‘Concrete box with holes’ wins international architectural award

Berry002  If you think the Queens Wharf competition “winners” were uninspiring, then check this out: the sports hall that beat out the Wimbledon Centre Court redevelopment and the Atlantic Jets warm-up stadium to win the “prestigious” World Architecture Festival Awards announced last week in Barcelona.

Berry001 The A$1.3 million Berry Sports Hall, designed by Allen Jack+Cottier (AJ+C) and completed in 2007, beat the world renowned Wimbledon Centre Court Redevelopment and the New York Jets’s Training Facility to take the sports category award.

Berry004I’ve a few times that environmentalists’ ethics and currently fashionable planning laws here and elsewhere suggest that it’s not buildings they’re really wanting, these says, but a camouflage net.

This building by architects Allen, Jack & Cotter – a Recreation Hall for the Berry Sports and Recreation Centre in rural New South Wales – essentially a “low cost” gymnasium for a New South Wales country school -- takes that approach.

Here it is at night, in the view that apparently so impressed judges:

It’s said that the best place to see buildings like the Sky Tower is from the inside, since then at least you don't have to look at them.  Of this one it could be said that the best time to see it is at night . . . when school is closed.


Monday, 9 November 2009

Remember, Remember the Ninth of November! [update 2]

Berlin Wall Freedom

Twenty years ago this week the Berlin Wall collapsed and hundreds of millions of enslaved Eastern Europeans were freed from decades of enslavement.

Freedom!  A word only whispered in Eastern Europe since the Iron Curtain fell across Europe was now, at its collapse, trumpeted across the world!

As Richard Ebeling says, “For 28 years, from 1961 to 1989, it stood as a symbol of the tyranny of the totalitarian state under which the individual was viewed as the property of the state.”  This slideshow comparing the death strip of the wall then with the prosperity that has replaced it now tells a graphic tale that is the most important story of the last half-century – and the most predictable result of both the birth and the failure of socialism.

In 1922 Ludwig Von MIses explained that socialism would eat itself and the people whom it enslaved – that it couldn’t plan, it couldn’t produce, that it couldn’t calculate -- that it was and always would be both morally depraved and economically unsustainable. Sixty-seven years later he was proven emphatically correct when the illusion that was socialist Eastern Europe collapsed, and the symbol of its totalitarian state was torn down.

The collapse when it came was peaceful, but when the Iron Curtain was finally pulled back after the decades of poverty and bloodshed, what was revealed was economic penury, human misery and an environmental basket-case.

One fact alone tells you the story: Hundreds of millions were enslaved behind the Wall; hundreds of thousands attempted to escape from the East; 171 were shot and killed at the Wall’s Death Strip . . . but nobody was ever killed trying to move from the West to the East*.

Today’s socialists like to forget about or dismiss the results of the twentieth-century’s greatest and most disastrous political experiment -- set up like a laboratory experiment by contrasting ideologies on either side of the Berlin Wall -- but in the collapse of the Wall and the reasons behind its inevitable collapse lie every lesson every student of socialism should have engraved on their soul. If they have one.

The simple lesson is this: "Man's mind is his basic tool of survival,” but "man's mind will not function at the point of a gun.”

    “Socialism [identified Ayn Rand] is the doctrine that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that his life and his work do not belong to him, but belong to society, that the only justification of his existence is his service to society, and that society may dispose of him in any way it pleases for the sake of whatever it deems to be its own tribal, collective good…

    “The alleged goals of socialism were: the abolition of poverty, the achievement of general prosperity, progress, peace and human brotherhood. The results have been a terrifying failure—terrifying, that is, if one’s motive is men’s welfare.”

Perhaps the single most astonishing result of the collapse is the reaction of the intellectuals.  Anyone over twenty then who doesn’t yet get the lesson is confessing quite frankly that no fact can ever persuade them. They are self-admittedly intellectually dead.


In the twenty years since the collapse today’s intellectuals have evaded every fact that decades of socialism revealed, and ignored every “prophet” whose predictions about socialism was proven correct**. They’ve wriggled, they’ve evaded, they’ve turned to environmentalism to damn the production that proved impossible for socialism; to ‘multiculturalism’ to damn the west; and they’ve even embraced post-modernism to damn the facts – anything to avoid the reality that the Wall’s Fall should have made obvious. 

And by the way, the post-collapse intellectual embracing of postmodernism is no accident. The old socialists have disappeared, they’ve mostly morphed into something else. The political crisis of socialism made several other revolutions necessary, including a political one – or as philosopher Stephen Hicks sagely observes, the failure of socialism made postmodernism necessary; the collapse of philosophy made it possible

In his book Explaining Postmodernism, Hicks charts the failure and consequent “evolution” of socialism, which helps explain the apparent disappearance of the old “smokestack socialist”:


As my colleague Richard McGrath said this morning, the two decades that have passed since the Berlin Wall was torn down should not let die the lessons of socialism, nor the memory of those who died trying to escape the East European slave pens. They should be remembered, not forgotten.

“’Communism relied on watchtowers, snarling dogs, machine guns, and brick edifices topped with barbed wire,’ he said. ‘The Berlin Wall was the embodiment of this determination to rule by force. Today, twenty years since the wall was torn down, we should remember those East Germans who perished attempting to reach freedom in the West.’
    ‘The first person shot dead at the Berlin Wall was 24 year old Gunter Litfin, as he tried to swim across the Spree River on August 24, 1961. A year later, East German guards shot 17 year old Peter Fechter as he tried to scale the wall, and left him to bleed to death in that barren and desolate area of open land east of the Wall.”
    “The last person known to be killed at the Wall was 20 year old bartender Chris Gueffroy, shot ten times for good measure on February 5, 1989.”   
    “Perhaps those who frequent the Lenin Bar in Auckland or Fidel’s Café in Wellington, or wear a red star cap or a Che Guevara T-shirt, should consider how long the authorities behind the Iron Curtain would have tolerated displays of dissent during the era of the Cold War.”

Oddly enough, it’s the buffoon Boris Johnson who offers the timeliest lesson,

“that it is precisely now, when the public mood is so bitter towards bankers, so hostile to profit, so seemingly brassed off with the very idea of wealth creation that we should remember how ghastly, grim and unworkable was the alternative – state-controlled socialism.” 

Remember, remember, the ninth of November!

Remember these lessons and that warning as you regird your loins for the battle that Richard Ebeling outlined last week:

    “Unfortunately, the Collectivist mentality did not end with either the fall of the Berlin Wall or the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union. It remains alive and well in America and around the world, with its insistence that the individual lives for and is to be sacrificed to ‘interests’ of the state.
    “We still have our work cut out for us, to demolish the numerous political "walls" with which the government continues to enslave us through its police power in the growing interventionist-welfare state and the threatening economic fascist order. “

And too the shaky philosophical foundations on which those walls are built.

* * * * *

** For example: Economist Paul Samuelson for example was still writing in 1989 in his best-selling textbook Economics that “the Soviet economy is proof that, contrary to what many skeptics had earlier believed, a socialist command economy can function and even thrive” (Samuelson and Nordhaus 1989, 837).  Samuelson’s textbook (in revised editions) is still a best-seller, and a prescribed texts at many universities. By contrast Ludwig von MIses, who predicted the economic collapse in 1922 in his classic Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth (and who predicted the Great Depression in his 1912 Theory of Money and Credit and elsewhere) is still largely unknown by today’s intellectuals, and his books are untaught at nearly every major university. Unbelievable.

UPDATE 1: An unusually good piece here from Ed Hudgins: The Berlin Wall Then and Now.  Here’s an excerpt:

    “The wall was a breathtaking moral obscenity, a concrete manifestation in concrete of the philosophy on which it was built. The communists held that the good of society took priority over the interests of selfish individuals. They maintained that individuals must be required to work for society. Of course, the will of “society” was to be divined and carried out by a small ruling elite who would have the exclusive right to force all to serve whether they wanted to or not.
    “And no one could be allowed to opt out and leave, to escape their duty to serve. The reality of this philosophy was most starkly on display in East Berlin. Communist countries were giant prison camps holding the slaves in bondage and shooting them if they tried to escape.
    “Today there are only a few regimes, like North Korea, that are literal prison camps along the lines of the Soviet bloc. But the philosophy, and its manifestation in culture, that gave rise to the Berlin Wall is still very much alive.

UPDATE 2:  Watch this inspiring, thrilling and informative short video around the events of November 9, 1989:

It was posted at the Austrian Economists blog, where they say, “we can still rejoice in this shinning example of the victory of the individual over the collective.  Freedom was celebrated that day by people who were oppressed by their government for far too long.”

    “Let's remember the sheer joy of that day, and the celebration of life evident in the faces of the young (and old) as the tore down the wall figuratively and literally and reclaimed their basic human freedoms.  And let us also remember the intellectual arguments . . .  that so thoroughly demonstrated that tyranny fails to deliver the goods, while freedom actually works.  Even us cool-headed academics can get passionate about the fact that there is only one economic system that simultaneously delivers individual autonomy, generalized prosperity, and peaceful cooperation among diverse groups.  Capitalism is not just ruthlessly efficient, it is civilizing . . . “

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