Tuesday, 2 February 2010

SUMMER SIX PACK: Property & Prosperity [updated]

Six more cold ones from the beer fridge of the NOT PC archives.

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Cue Card Libertarianism -- Property

    Murdering Soviet scumbag Leon Trotsky understood property rights better than most of the so-called ‘centre-right.’ He pointed out, as he was raining down famine and destruction on the peasants he’d decided were expendable, that where there is no private ownership individuals can be easily bent to the will of the state under threat of starvation or worse. Only ghosts can survive without property, he recognised; human beings cannot.
   Leon Trotsky thought that was a good thing—that men can’t survive the way animals do.  He understood the crucial importance of property rights.
   Unlike other animals we humans can’t survive as we come into the world; in order to stay alive and to flourish we each need to produce and to keep the fruits of our production. If our minds are our means of survival – as Julian Simon used to say, our Ultimate Resource – then property is the result of applying the creative potential of our minds to reality in order to enhance our lives.
    The need for a legal framework protecting property has been long ignored or taken for granted by economists and legal theorists of all stripes, but its importance is slowly being re-learned by contemporary thinkers.
    Tom Bethell’ s landmark book The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity Through the Ages is itself a triumphant example. It traces successes and disasters of history consequent upon the respective recognition or denial of property through the ages: Ireland’s potato famine, the desertification of the Sahara, and the near-disastrous US colonies at Jamestown and Plymouth can all be traced to lack of respect for property argues Bethell. He identifies four crucial blessings of property

that cannot easily be recognised in a society that lacks the secure, decentralised, private ownership of goods. These are: liberty, justice, peace and prosperity. The argument of [his] book is that private property is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for these highly desirable social outcomes.

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

'Recognise rights in river' says PC

    Sometimes recycling works. Here's an example in the form of a press release. The Government are about to close a deal to return the Waikato River to Tainui. All the usual suspects are up in arms.  The Whig The Tory however has a good discussion and a link to the 1999 Maori Law Review article discussing an earlier proposal to return the Whanganui River from the perspective of common law property rights. Sample:

    English common law presumed that non-tidal waterways were held by the owners of adjoining land to the centre line, with no general public right of use or access... While the popular view was that rivers are ‘public property’, there is no legal basis for that view, apart from places where the Crown retained ownership of adjoining lands eg., in national parks etc.
      Quite right.  So why is everyone so unhappy that the waterway is being privatised?  As I said in a press release at the time on behalf of the Libz:

‘Give Tribe Full Ownership of River’ says Libertarianz
    Libertarianz supports full ownership of the Whanganui River being transferred to the Atihaunui A Paparangi tribe - not the so-called ‘partnership’ of state and tribe the Waitangi tribunal recommends, but the full and final creation of ownership rights in this river, and in every other river, lake, forest, mountain and waterway in New Zealand.
    “The main issue to me is not to whom property rights in the river are transferred to,” says Libertarianz Environment Deregulation Spokesman Peter Cresswell, “the important thing is that transferrable property rights in the river be created so the river and its surrounds can end up in the hands of those people who valuable it most.”
    Property rights protect the interests of the property owners – as people who have had their land confiscated should understand – and protects the environment in the process. The environment needs to be de-politicised as crucially as does the economy. Creating property rights in rivers – and getting the state out of them - would be a crucial first step.

    The important words were and still are "transferable," and "property rights" -- as long as rights in the river are made both secure and transferrable -- and as long as no other existing property rights are violated -- then those rights will end up in the hands of those who value them the most, as they should be, and out of the hands of Government, where they shouldn't.
Sadly, that doesn't quite appear to be what's proposed here.

LINKS: Government set to return Waikato to Tainui - NZ Herald
Rodney Hide missteps - The Tory

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

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

    I'm going to answer that question in the title above by linking to an earlier piece on neighbourly relations, and I need to answer it because of misunderstandings like this from people who should know better:

    I don't subscribe to the notion that you have an inviolable right to do whatever you want on your property. I'm comfortable with not being able to build a 100 foot high fence as it may block your neighbour's views...
The 'notion' being argued against in that extract is a straw man. It’s a child’s notion of property rights. The reality, however, is quite different.
    But first, an introduction: let me tell you about something called 'freedom.' Freedom in this context means to be free from physical coercion; in other words, having political freedom means that you're free to do whatever you're able and whatever you damn well please as long as you don't initiate force against anyone else. My freedom ends, in other words, where your nose begins. In this respect you might call your neighbour's nose your 'side-constraint,' just as his nose is yours -- which means some of us do get more freedom than others.
    Now, under common law, which is what I would propose to repair to once the RMA is abolished, you have the secure right to peaceful enjoyment of your property. And as both you and your neighbour would enjoy that same right, his right of peaceful enjoyment is your side-constraint. Your freedom ends where your neighbour's peaceful enjoyment begins. The 'side constraints' for land use under common law require you to take account of, among other things, your neighbour's rights to light, to air, to support, and to road access and the like. These are significant side constraints, but they are both objective and reciprocal -- your neighbour is equally constrained to recognise your similar rights.
    So how are neighbourly issues resolved under common law? How for instance might I ensure my view or a neighbour's tree was retained? Voluntarily, as I explained here.
    Voluntary agreements and the use of easements and covenants is the key. If, for example, I want to protect my existing view over your land, then I can negotiate with you to buy an easement over it for that purpose, and that easement would be registered on the title, and legally protected. It might be that my neighbour doesn't want money; it might be that he values very highly the stand of trees on my property. How highly? Highly enough perhaps to ask for a restrictive covenant over those trees to be registered on my title, in his favour. We shake hands. We have agreement.
    We each have want we want, we each have security over what we want, trees and view are both protected, and not a bureaucrat or resource consent was needed to do it--just common sense, the tools of common law, and respect for each other's property rights. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it.

    And no room for the Jackie Wilkinsons of the world -- or, at least, no house room for them.

UPDATE: The ‘Jackie Wilkinson’ link above has been fixed.

LINKS: Ms A. Presley gets community service – NOT PC 
The 'right' to a view - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Cue Card Libertarianism - Freedom - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Cue Card Libertarianism - Common Law - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Common_Law Conservation Environment Property_Rights RMA

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Friday, February 20, 2009

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

    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.
    So much for the National Party’s commitment to property rights.
    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  http://www.iscr.org.nz/n493.html 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 would 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."

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Wealth, and why we don't have it

    Wealth. What is it? Where does it come from? Why are some people in some places wealthier than others? And why does New Zealand have to borrow so damn much in pursuit of it?
    These are the sorts of questions people have been asking for centuries, and at least since Adam Smith it's been something for which we have some pretty good answers.
    We've all heard the commitments to get New Zealand back into the top half of the OECD, and many of us have seen those graphs that Rod Deane pulled out recently showing NZ's rise and decline in those rankings over the last century-and-a-half -- and we've realised that getting back into the top half of the OECD isn't as easy as politicians' promises would have you believe.
    According to my dictionary, wealth is defined as "affluence, plenty and prosperity, a profusion, great plenty (of); prosperity." Clearly, wealth has something to do with productivity, with resources, with capital, and with what Julian Simon called the ultimate resource: the creative human mind applied to productivity. But how to explain and quantify the relationship?
    Two years ago, the World Bank began examining questions such as these, and unusually for such an organisation, they came up with something worth studying. They found something that hadn't been accounted for in all their previous studies on the subject. Ronald Bailey explains:

    Two years ago the World Bank's environmental economics department set out to assess the relative contributions of various kinds of capital to economic development. Its study, "Where is the Wealth of Nations?: Measuring Capital for the 21st Century," began by defining natural capital as the sum of nonrenewable resources (including oil, natural gas, coal and mineral resources), cropland, pasture land, forested areas and protected areas. Produced, or built, capital is what many of us think of when we think of capital: the sum of machinery, equipment, and structures (including infrastructure) and urban land.
    But once the value of all these are added up, the economists found something big was still missing: the vast majority of world's wealth! If one simply adds up the current value of a country's natural resources and produced, or built, capital, there's no way that can account for that country's level of income.
      What's missing in those traditional measures is what links the human mind with productivity: the rule of law—specifically, the legal protection of property. In a sentence, the creative human mind is more productive the more that property rights are legally protected.
    The explanation for that is simple. You see, when the protection of law is weak, then the mind is only able to plan short range. When property rights are weak, for example, people tend to build their furniture before they build their roofs -- and you can see the evidence of this in shanty towns all over the globe. When time horizons are short, this is rational behaviour. But shanty towns aren't the natural human environment, are they. Take a shanty town dweller out of the shanty and set him down in a place where the rule of law is better recognised, and immediately his time horizons become longer, his prospects much brighter, and his house and his wallet much richer.
Extent time horizons by setting in place the rule of law, and immediately you bring the distinctive attribute of the creative human mind -- the ability to think and to plan long range -- to bear on the question of productivity. That's the real link between wealth and law, and it's something politicians actually can do something about.
    You see, this is what the World Bank's researchers realised in their study. What's more important in determining wealth than natural resources or real capital is what they eventually termed this "intangible capital" -- that is, "the wealth product that comes from securing people's rights through the rule of law," so called "intangible factors" such as "the trust among people in a society, an efficient judicial system, clear property rights and effective government."
    All this intangible capital ... boosts the productivity of labor and results in higher total wealth. In fact, the World Bank finds, "Human capital and the value of institutions (as measured by rule of law) constitute the largest share of wealth in virtually all countries."
    Once one takes into account all of the world's natural resources and produced capital, 80% of the wealth of rich countries and 60% of the wealth of poor countries is of this intangible type. The bottom line: "Rich countries are largely rich because of the skills of their populations and the quality of the institutions supporting economic activity."
      This "intangible capital" can be quantified, and what we find when that exercise is done is that "the natural wealth in rich countries like the U.S. is a tiny proportion of their overall wealth—typically 1 percent to 3 percent—yet they derive more value from what they have."
    Cropland, pastures and forests are more valuable in rich countries because they can be combined with other capital like machinery and strong property rights to produce more value. Machinery, buildings, roads and so forth account for 17% of the rich countries' total wealth.
    Overall, the average per capita wealth in the rich Organization for Economic Cooperation Development (OECD) countries is $440,000, consisting of $10,000 in natural capital, $76,000 in produced capital, and a whopping $354,000 in intangible capital. (Switzerland has the highest per capita wealth, at $648,000. The U.S. is fourth at $513,000.)
    By comparison, the World Bank study finds that total wealth for the low income countries averages $7,216 per person. That consists of $2,075 in natural capital, $1,150 in produced capital and $3,991 in intangible capital. The countries with the lowest per capita wealth are Ethiopia ($1,965), Nigeria ($2,748), and Burundi ($2,859).
      So what does this mean for New Zealand, and any hope we have of getting rich, and getting back into the top half of the OECD?
Well, here's the bad news. In the rankings of "intangible capital," New Zealand comes a pitiful twenty-first with just $243,000 of "intangible capital" per head, behind Spain and Singapore at nineteenth and twentieth, and just ahead of Greece, Portugal, South Korea and Argentina.
   That's a measure of how poor we are in the rule of law.
    And just look at our performance as compared to Australia, often known as "the lucky country" because of its resource riches. But Australia's resource wealth only amounts to $25,000 per Australian, compared to our own resource wealth of $43,000 per head; the difference between the lucky country and us is that they're "luckier" in terms of the rule of law: in the "intangible capital" represented by that measure, Australians are half again as wealthy as we are, with $371,000 per head compared to our own $243,000 per head.
    So the message is clear, and when you boil it all down it's not complicated. If wealth is your goal, and if ambitions to be in the top half of the OECD are genuine, then concentrate on the rule of law, and on the "intangible capital" of an efficient judicial system, of clear property rights and of effective government.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Market forces destroying the Amazon?

    "The market forces of globalization are invading the Amazon, hastening the
demise of the forest and thwarting its most committed stewards."

    So begins the latest National Geographic cover story, documenting the Amazon's demise in pictures and stories -- "during the past 40 years, close to 20 percent of the Amazon rain forest has been cut down, more than in all the previous 450 years since European colonization began" -- and sheeting home the blame to the ubiquitous enemy named in that opening line: "market forces and globalization."
    The destruction of the Amazon has been a common theme for journalists and professional busybodies more than a decade. Today's highest profile busybody Al Gore wrote in his 1989 vice-Presidential manifesto Earth in the Balance that the devastation of Brazil's forest was "one of the great tragedies of all history." Gore, too, blamed the desire of "large landowners to earn short-term profits," ignoring "long-term ecological tragedy."
    But there's a problem with this analysis. As Tom Bethell writes in his book The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity Through the Ages,

    Although he visited Brazil and is a professional politician, Gore showed little interest in the political origins of the Brazilian debacle. [Neither does the National Geographic.] ... It's real cause, however, was not greedy landowners, but unwise laws governing land ownership.
      Those familiar with the subsidies and destruction wrought in rural New Zealand by Muldoon's Marginal Lands Board would recognise the debacle in the Amazon, but on a very much larger scale. You might say that (just as with the land clearances promoted under Muldoon's programme) the forest clearances were not so much a sign of market forces and globalization, but instead of government forces and nationalistic sentiment.
    Here's the story that's not told by either Gore or the National Geographic. Notes Jorge Cappato, writing for the UN Environment Programme,
Towards 1970, the Brazilian president Medici decided to build a Transamazonian highway of 5,000 kilometers to offer "a land without men to men without lands". However, neither the land was fertile nor was it empty: there were natives, riverside people, seringueiros, and people who lived from and took care of the forest.
      The project, run by Brazil's military government, was funded by the World Bank over opposition from its own ecological officer. Said Adrian Cowell in his Decade of Destruction documenting the disaster,
   The momentum of the Bank's financial machine, the need to lend money to Brazil as its debt developed, had overidden the practical warnings of its specialists.
      As Tom Bethell notes in his book, the construction of the Federal road
opened up access to the Amazon region, and a competition for the (state-owned) land ensued. Squatters received the right to 100 hectares if they could show effective use of the land for a year. The problem was that only cutting down the trees counted as effective use...
      And here's where the "unwise laws governing land ownership" come in. None of those people displaced by the military government's project -- in Capatto's words, the "natives, riverside people, seringueiros, and people who lived from and took care of the forest" -- none of them had their pre-existing property rights protected, or their rights to the use of the forest protected. Instead, the military government claimed ownership of all land 100 kilometres either side of their highway (as Bethell notes, such a claim made in the US would see "most of the US mainland nationalised") and then parcelled it out to friends, fellow-travellers and squatters who could clear trees fast enough to claim 'their' 100 acres. Bethell again:
    Only the traditional "sustainable use" of harvesting rubber and nuts did not count. For those who had already arrived and staked their claims, the best way to guard against competition from newcomers was to cut down trees as quickly as possible... In effect, if not in law, "the land-claiming process itself has required deforestation," the economist Gary Libecap wrote.
Even the World Bank's own advisers belatedly acknowledged the problem they themselves had helped cause:
    Governments responsible for the Amazon region, for example, have exacerbated the negative environmental externalities. Public subsidies and tax incentives to large cattle producers and loggers were responsible for more than 50 percent of the deforestation in the Amazon region in the 1970s and the 1980s (Binswanger 1991). Moreover, public investments in infrastructure into the frontier areas have magnified the externalities associated with the lack of well-defined property rights in such areas.

    So there you have it. Not for the first time, the story is not quite like the National Geographic tells it.
    And now ask yourself: who's the real villain here then? Market forces and globalization? Greedy landowners? Or, as Bethell and others argue, Big Government, nationalistic sentiment, a lack of real property rights and "unwise laws governing land ownership."
    And why doesn't National Geographic tell this side of the story at all?

LINKS: Last of the Amazon - National Geographic magazine
The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity Through the Ages - Tom Bethell, Amazon.Com
Who was Chico Mendes? - Jorge Cappato, Global 500 Forum, UN Environment Programme
The Decade of Destruction - Adrian Cowell, Bullfrog Films [film review]
Land Reform Policies, the Sources of Violent Conflict and Implications for Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon - Gary Libecap, Social Science Research Network [Abstract]
The Quality of Growth - World Bank, 2000

RELATED: Politics-World, Property Rights, Environment, History-Modern

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Thanks for reading. And now, ‘Something to Live For.’ An historical recording: Ella with Duke Ellington's Orchestra (led here by Mercer Elllington), performing a Billy Strayhorn song.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Power plays at cartel control – the consumer is the loser

ONCE AGAIN SIMON POWER misunderstands the role of government, his lack of ability ending up hurting the very thing his party constitution claims to stand for: freedom.

This Minister-with-No-Understanding-of-Commerce claims to be fighting commercial “cartels,” “monopolies,” etc. with new regulations, and threats of jail time and hefty penalties for “offenders. while ignoring that is not “deregulation” that encourages mergers and cartelisation, but heavier penalties (which in the end are paid by the consumer) and heavier regulation (ditto): The bigger a business is, the more able it is to absorb the cost of all that regulation and all those hefty new penalties; which means the more regulations there are, the greater inducement there is towards bigger and bigger businesses, and the greater the hurdles for any new entrants to that market to o’erleap.

Mr Power has no conception of this dynamic, so he talks instead about introducing more regulation to combat the results of earlier regulation. Compound insanity, we might call it.

Such is Mr Power’s understanding of his job, and of the markets over which he thinks he presides. 

His understanding is clearly less, even, than that of a newborn child. Consider something as simple as transport. Even a newborn understands that the easiest way to get from here to there involves removing the obstacles in between. The same principle is in play both in large and in small. Between Auckland and Welington, for example,  obstacles of many kinds exist. First of all, there is distance, which entails loss of time, and we must either submit to this ourselves, or pay another to submit to it. Then come rivers, marshes, accidents, bad roads, which are so many difficulties to be surmounted. We succeed in building bridges, in forming roads, and making them smoother by pavements, iron rails, major highways, etc. But all this is costly, and if we wish to move goods between Auckland and Wellington the goods themselves must be made to bear the cost.

But while highway engineers and transport companies labour to decrease the obstacles between cities (and the effect thereof on producers and their costs), blood-sucking parvenus like Mr Power wish to increase the obstacles.  While engineers and entrepreneurs attempt to lessen the physical obstacles, regulators are intent on increasing the legal obstacles—which act on costs in precisely the same way as ruts and bad roads. They retard, they trammel commerce, they augment the difference in costs between what things can truly be produced for, and what they can finally be bought for.

Mr Power claims however, against the evidence of history, that his new regulations are different.  That his regulation are necessary to protect against the rise of new cartels.  Let us confess to ourselves, the way all charlatans talk at the introduction of new regulations. “My regulations are different,” they say as they introduce another obstacle between producer and consumer. 

But let us also confess to ourselves that there is no necessity at all for Mr Power’s regulations. It is just not the case. It is not necessary (and nor is it just) to write regulations making it illegal for businessmen to talk to each other.  Instead of writing regulations prohibiting existing market players from collusion, Mr Power should be looking at what he can do to remove the barriers to new entrants to those markets in which he claims collusion is happening. 

There can be no greater spur to the break-up of cartels, whether formal or informal, than to have all the barriers to new entrants broken down.  It is new entrants to existing markets that is needed, not new regulations.

Which means not new regulation, but fewer regulations.  Which is, let’s be honest, yet another plank of the National Party constitution that may be noted more in the breach than the observance.

MY COLLEAGUE RICHARD McGRATH has more to say on this, accusing Mr Power of “criminalising free speech between business operators…”

Libertarianz Party leader Richard McGrath said Mr Power’s comments are an attack on private enterprise, and an excuse to tap phones and bug the offices and homes of businessmen.
Dr McGrath challenged the assumption that specific laws were needed to deal with cartels or monopolies.
    “As long as new players are free to set up in competition with cartels, there will always be downward pressure on prices. Thankfully, New Zealand is considered once of the easiest places in the world to set up a new business, so the public have little to fear from cartels.”
    “In a free market, collusion between companies in attempts to fix prices rarely succeeds for very long, because it creates incentives for competitors to come in and undercut them,” said Dr McGrath.
    “Our Anti-Commerce Minister would do well to improve the workings of the free market by removing government regulation and concentrating law enforcement on issues of fraud, extortion and violent crime – prosecuting those who initiate force against others.
    “A cartel that tries to jack up prices is not initiating force against anyone, as no-one is forced to buy their product."
    “My party is concerned that criminalising cartels would lead to fishing expeditions, where business and private homes were subjected to intrusive and involuntary surveillance in the hope of gathering evidence of communication between industrialists.”
    The Libertarianz Party strongly advocates the deregulation and depoliticisation of industry, including making Mr Power’s cabinet post, and the misnamed Commerce Commission and Ministry of Economic Development, redundant.

Hear, hear!

NB: Some of the remarks in the middle paragraphs above are paraphrased from Frederic Bastiat’s seminal essay ‘An Immense Discovery,’ from his brilliant collection of Economic Sophisms. Why not buy a copy for our Minister-Who-Doesn’t-Understand-Commerce.

GUEST POST: Climate Change and Eugenics [updated]

By Daniel Silva from the Importers Institute.

Eugenics is the study and practice of selective breeding applied to humans, with the aim of improving the species (Wikipedia). At its pre-war height, the movement often pursued pseudoscientific notions of racial supremacy and purity. It was practiced around the world and was promoted by governments, and influential individuals and institutions.

The second largest known eugenics program was created by social democrats in Sweden and continued until 1975. The pseudo-science was considered as 'settled' by progressive bien pensants in Europe and the US in the early decades of the 20th century. Then, the second World War came along. Several million dead bodies somewhat discredited the 'science'. Suddenly, no one believed in it any longer but, even more remarkably, no one had ever believed in it, apparently.

Which is pretty much where we are now with Global Warming. I predict that, not before long, no one will believe in this proto fascist construct - and you will be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to admit that they ever did. But, like eugenics, not before untold damage has been inflicted on millions. The stupidity of converting crops to biofuels has consequences. Eco-entrepreneurs make millions, millions die.

The wheels are falling off the climate change bandwagon. The corruption of science evidenced by Climategate is simply too blatant to ignore. The IPCC turned out to be as corrupt as you would expect a United Nations body to be. Politicians everywhere who went along with this charade are finding out all about the Turnbull effect.

You read it here first. About three years ago, I commented on these matters in an address given to a group then celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. Some extracts from that address:

"The Importers Institute is pleased to be associated with the celebration
of the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. That is because we believe
that international trade is good. It is certainly preferable to war. That, we
must not forget, was the main reason why the founding fathers of the
European project sat down in Rome 50 years ago and decided to free up
trade among European countries.

"Let us celebrate the success of that project, but let us not forget
that it is under constant attack. Many Europeans seem to have forgotten
the lessons of history and are again flirting with a form of fascism.
This time, it is eco-fascism and is dressed up as a wish to "save the

"These people are opposed to free trade. They fret about "food miles"
(but, strangely, not about clothing miles or pharmaceuticals miles) and
say that the only way we can save the planet is by de-industrialising,
reducing food production and restraining the mobility of people.

"In fairness, this disease of the mind is not exclusive to Europe. You
will be familiar with Al Gore's alarmist documentary, the one that seems
to say that we must all panic now, before it is too late. Mr Gore relied
heavily on a graph showing a very close correlation between past
temperature changes and concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere. What he
conveniently omitted to tell us was that the levels of CO2 changed 800
years after the temperature went up. There is a correlation all right,
it is just that it goes the other way. How inconvenient.

"All that happened about 10,000 years ago, long before humans invented
SUVs, hospitals or air-conditioning. The medieval warm period was
another inconvenient truth. So inconvenient, in fact, that the IPCC
relied heavily on a graph showing that it never existed. The now
infamous hockey stick graph showed a flat temperature line stretching
back one thousand years, rising steeply from the beginning of the
industrial revolution. Unfortunately for the alarmists, the graph was
proven to be not just scientifically wrong - it was an outright fraud.

"The more that people begin to realise the actual impact on their daily
lives of the eco-fascist agenda, the more they are likely to question
the pseudo-scientific hype used to justify it. The eco-fascists reply
against this inevitable backlash seems to be to shout that the "science
is settled" with increasing shrillness. Settled science: now there's an
oxymoron if ever there was one.

"But, is such talk really inconsequential? People bent on 'saving the
planet', with their talk of food miles and taxes on air travel, have the
potential to destroy the very basis of our economy. Instead of
countering their fallacious arguments with science, we seem to be saying
that yes, you are right, but please go easy on us because we are quite
green ourselves. What a strategy!

“We want to keep access to Northern hemisphere markets and would like
their tourists to continue to fly twenty four hours to spend their money
here, while agreeing that air travel is bad for the environment. Then,
we spend a few million dollars on a 'buy local' campaign. If madness is
defined as the ability to simultaneously hold contradictory beliefs, the
inescapable conclusion is that we are being governed by the insane.

"Let us celebrate the real success of the Treaty of Rome and that was
the opening of borders and the increase in prosperity that only trade
can deliver. Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman did not set out to create an
isolationist Europe, inimical to trade and wedded to romantic notions of
economic self-sufficiency. We should celebrate their legacy by refuting
those notions."

* * *
To get a free subscription to Daniel Silva’s Importers Institute email news service, please subscribe

A first-day-of-the-month ramble [updated]

Over January I’ve indexed a few stories and websites to talk to you about, but never had the time.  So here they are now.


  • “I was at the mall the other day and overheard a mother tell her 2-3 year old: ‘Stop doing that! You're old enough to know better than that!’”  But isn’t that kind of a stupid thing to say to a kid?
    Old Enough to Know Better – RATIONAL JENN
  • More on the collapsing warmist “consensus.”  “Despite the claims of the Nobel Prize winning UN IPCC AR4 report of 2007, there is no evidence that the warming of the late 20th Century caused an increase in the frequency of natural disasters!” None at all.
    Does Global Warming Cause More Natural Disasters?    - OBJECTIVIST INDIVIDUALIST
  • Yet more evidence that the IPCC cooked the books. . . its 2007 claim that global warming could ‘devastate African agriculture’ is just another one busted by real science.
    The IPCC scandal: the African data was sexed up, tooANDREW BOLT
  • And more. 
    Nicholas Stern’s figures were false, too – ANDREW BOLT
  • Since I link to Andrew Belt so often on some topics, I need to point out that despite his many virtues he’s still insufferably xenophobic.  He wrings his hands about “boat people” (i.e., human beings escaping tragedy) arriving in Australia in “ever-increasing numbers.” Yet those numbers show . . . what, exactly? That last year there were just 589 arrivals of “boat people” in a country that could fit 100 million.  Bolt needs to buckle up his inner bigot, I’d say.
    Two more in two days – ANDREW BOLT
  • January 31st is Mario Lanza’s birthday, and since it’s still January 31st in the US and UK, here’s a birthday tribute: Mario (below) in his greatest role, as The Great Caruso. And Lindsay Perigo re-delivering his own birthday tribute from a few years back.
    Happy Birthday Mario! – LINDSAY PERIGO

  • Is there any reason, any reason at all, that “that one's religious beliefs, should be respected and not subjected to criticism or satire”?  H.L. Mencken didn’t think so.
    Mencken, Islam, and Political Correctness – Edward Cline, CAPITALISM MAGAZINE
  • How to handle all those blog-comments trolls, eh? “Jeffrey Weiss ponders the question of whether the lack of civility evident in the comments section reflects the fact that in the modern age we are becoming psychopaths willing to trade our humanity for a few moments of negative attention. . . Weiss wonders whether or not the comments section isn't an intellectual commons, and thus confronts the same problems that all commons face.”
    Blogology 101: The Important Role of Shaming – COORDINATION PROBLEM (formerly THE AUSTRIAN ECONOMISTS)
  • Should Twitter bear this Victor Hugo quote above its portals?
    "To speak with oneself aloud is to carry on a conversation with the god within."
    New Twitter Motto – NEARBY PEN
  • While the anti-employment zealots talk up a minimum wage rise in a time of economic penury, Eric Crampton has a few minimum-wage facts for the non-zealots to contemplate.
    Minimum wage - empirics  - OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR
  • UPDATE: And Eric has another minimum –wage reality check today.
    Minimum wage - poorly targeted – OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR
  • A panel of 22 libertarian luminaries from Brian Caplan to Leonard Liggio suggest their best ten pro-liberty books of the decade.  Definitely a strong list, but what have they missed?
    Top Ten Pro-Liberty Books of the Decade  - ATLAS ECONOMIC RESEARCH FOUNDATION
  • “Art works best when it celebrates the godlike in us: and this is just what so many contemporary artists fail to do.” Does God really have all the best art?
    The human, above all – THE GUARDIAN
  • landscape-footbridge Landscape painting includes “not only spacious skies, amber waves of grain and purple mountains’ majesties, but seascapes and cityscapes.” So why have “landscapes have often been rated second-class compared to history and narrative paintings, or indeed any paintings with human figures. How did this attitude develop, and what message or meaning can landscapes offer?” [Hat tip Michael Newberry]
    Landscapes: History and Significance by Dianne Durante – FORGOTTEN DELIGHTS
  • National Geographic writer and explorer Dan Buettner shares what the world's longest-lived peoples have in common. Buettner condensed the findings into nine easy-to-remember lifestyle habits.
    Presentation: 9 ways to live better, longer, happier – PRESENTATION ZEN
  • Andrew Bernstein’s brilliant argument that the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and the Inventive Period demonstrate conclusively that conventional morality must be urgently overturned. Read about “the revolutionary identification that has finally, after 2500 years of the history of philosophy, tied values – and by that means, ethics – to facts. Morality is now a science, a field of objective, rational, fact-based analysis; it is no longer a matter of will or whim or desire – whether social or personal.”
    Dr. Andrew Bernstein: 'The Nature of the Good'  - SOLO
  • Chris Trotter’s post justifying soaking the rich is is so disgracefully full of holes it cries out for a good fisking,  Who’s up for it?
    Justifying Progressive Taxation – CHRIS TROTTER
  • And you thought New Zealand was bad.
    UK Employer told not to post advert for 'reliable' workers because it discriminates against 'unreliable' applicants
  • Another reason to despise Avatar. “It isn’t until Jake’s final voice-over that we discover that, what do you know Earth’s dying and this mineral [that the earthmen are ‘raping’ the blue planet for] would have saved it.”  So we’re meant to hate the humans. Hate them just as much as Avatar’s screenwriters hate basic plotting.
    Review: Avatar – CINEMA VERDICT
  • Did Republican Scott Brown really say this the day after his landscape-changing election victory in Massachusetts, in which he surfed the wave of anti-Obamacare sentiment? “We're past campaign mode: I think it's important for everyone to get some form of health care. So to offer a basic plan for everybody I think is important. It's just a question of whether we're going to raise taxes, we're going to cut a half at trillion from Medicare, we're going to affect veterans' care. I think we can do it better."  Uh, yes he did.  Just another politician who thinks “campaign mode” means “time to lie.”
  • God’s Control Panel must be something to see, don’t you think?


  • Ludwig_von_MisesLudwig von MIses (right) would neither recognise nor endorse much of of what appears at the Institute that bears his name.  The Online Literature of Liberty however offers you the chance to recognise von Mises’ genius for yourself with their new Online Guide to his Major Writings.
    A great reference for anybody just getting started on studying his work.
    An Introduction to the Major Writings of Ludwig von Mises – ONLINE LIBRARY OF LIBERTY
  • The murderer of abortionist George Tiller has just been found guilty.  Tibor Machan reflects on the defendant’s ‘argument’ that abortionist’s work, destroying foetuses, justifies their homicide.
    Anti-Abortion Murder or Not – TIBOR MACHAN
  • And finally, I enjoyed discovering that Wild Billy Childish, the Billy Bragg of the Buff Medways, thinks scam artist Damien Hirst and his fellows are all plonkers—as do I. Here was a piece by Childish in the UK’s Latest art magazine:

    My contention is that the contemporary art scene is
    cynical, marketed rebellion. far from being
    innovative, vital and avant-garde, it bears direct
    with the Victorian salon and treats art in very much
    the same way: as rich man’s sausages.

    Encrusting a platinum scull with diamonds to belie the
    artist’s fear of death - and gratify his obsession
    with wealth - lends a certain hollow glamour to a news
    bulletin and prospective sausage buyers, but does
    nothing for the poetic heart.

    To popularize art, as Tate modern endeavours to do, is to
    completely miss the point of art, which is not to
    compete with fashion and pop music but to add depth
    and resonance to the lives of people living in an ever
    flimsy and ephemeral world.

    Popularizing a trip to the gallery by turning the
    gallery into an amusement park is not a victory for art
    but a victory for amusement parks.
    Likewise, popularizing a trip to the gallery by turning
    the gallery into the scene of a car accident is not a
    victory for art but a victory for base and morbid

    The contemporary artist needs to understand that
    although amusement and morbidity are part of our
    experience of life and art, life and art are not are
    not merely amusement and morbidity:
    Art is a personal and transmuted representation of
    experience, not merely the repetition of the experience
    itself, or the lazy artists sausagey finger pointing at

    If you like, it dose not nurture the suffering soul to
    present it with a shit in bowl.

    Art that enriches our lives requires a commitment and
    love and the the touch of the fairies. Art needs to
    bring beauty into life but not glamour. To stay awake
    the artist purposefully sits on the wrong end of the
    Billy Childish. 6.6.07

    ‘Isn’t it a miracle what so much money and so little ability can produce,” says critic Robert Hughes of Hirst’s work, before interviewing one the men who bestows so much moolah on the moron.

Friday, 29 January 2010

BEER O’CLOCK: The very best beers of 2009

Direct from The Wellingtonian and the Real Beer blog (well, as direct as I could make it considering it was written on the eve of New Year’s Eve when I was, um, a bit busy--as I’m sure you were too, dear readers) beer correspondent Neil Miller adjudicates magisterially on the best local beers of 2009.  I can’t say I have any complaints about his judgement. [Photo by Kyle Carter]

The Very Best Beers of 2009
    December is the time that columnists reflect on the preceding year and make the traditional spurious “best of” lists. This column is no exception. Here then are my ten best beers of 2009 with last year’s rankings shown in brackets. The list clearly reflects my taste for big hoppy beers but, while they may be hard to find, every beer is well worth trying.

10. Croucher Pale Ale (7) – This is the flagship beer from Paul Croucher’s craft brewery in Rotorua, the Aromatic Capital of New Zealand. It remains a boisterous, flavoursome pale ale with plenty of character and charm.

9. Tuatara Pilsner (NEW) – From the beer-making superstars in Reikorangi, this Pilsner blends the classic Czech style with top-quality local ingredients. The end result is a crisp, dry, approachable lager which can convert people to craft beer.

8. Invercargill Pitch Black (10) – From the country’s southernmost brewery, Pitch Black proves that beers do not need to be strong to have flavour. It showcases a wonderful balance of chocolate and coffee notes before a clean finish.

7. Yeastie Boys His Majesty (NEW) – Newcomers the Yeastie Boys have stormed onto the brewing scene in 2009. His Majesty is a bold and cleverly-made India Pale Ale with bursts of citrus notes before an insidiously refreshing bitterness.

6. Three Boys Oyster Stout (NEW) – A modern recreation of a Victorian recipe, the use of real Bluff Oysters helps create a silky, sweet, decadent stout. It should not work but it really does.

5. Three Boys Golden Ale (NEW) – This seasonal release had never registered on my beer radar before. This year, a few brewing tweaks have produced a zesty, quenching summer delight.

4. Emerson’s Pilsner (2) – Now the only organic beer from New Zealand’s champion brewery, this New World Pilsner is a balance of fruity hops and cleansing bitterness. It is the standard by which others are measured.

EpicArmageddon3. Epic Pale Ale (1) – A rare combination of full-flavour with drinkability, this is rapidly becoming a Wellington beer fixture. The brewer loves his hops and it is evident in every glass.

2. 8 Wired Hopwired IPA (NEW) – One of the first brews from a new Blenheim brewery, this is my new beer of the year. It has a billowing hop aroma, big passion fruit and citrus flavours, late bitterness and subtle power.

1. Epic Armageddon (3) – Easily one of the most highly hopped beers ever made in New Zealand, this huge beer showcases massive orange and grapefruit notes, a solid malt backbone and lingering bitterness. It should be enjoyed as if it was the last beer on earth.

Avatar is “the highest earning film of all-time”? Really? [updated]

“It's official: Avatar is highest earning film of all-time.” Really? Well, no, it isn’t. Not by a long chalk. Despite all the breathless reporting around the place about what amounts to a lame melodrama with some extra-special special effects, the breathless reporting about box office “victory” is neither “official,” nor correct.  John Drinnan in the Business Herald does the fact-checking other so-called journos should have:

    “Movie box office websites have been charting the box office triumph of James Cameron's Avatar, saying it is closing in on Titanic as the highest-grossing movie of all time.
    “It is tempting to think that movies are becoming more and more popular, but the fact is that the box office figures reflect sales revenue, not the number of people who are attending.
    “And sales revenue does not take account of increases in ticket prices. This is relevant for Avatar, which is in 3D with consequently higher ticket prices.”

Still and all, it did get people to shell out that extra sum to put their bums on theatre-owners’ seats.  Nonetheless . . .

GoneWithTheWind     “A list of United States box office takings showed Avatar with a gross of US$558.2 million. When [price] inflation is taken into account, this makes it only the 26th biggest earner.
    “According to the Box Office Mojo report, adjusted for inflation the biggest movie is [still] 1939's Gone With the Wind. It has taken US$198.7 million - which translates to US$1.51 billion today. In second place is Star Wars, which took US$461 million adjusted to US$1.33 billion.
    “Gone With the Wind is also in the top spot for attendance, with 206.4 million tickets sold, 9.4 million more than for second-place holder Star Wars.
    “That brings Avatar down to earth with 60.3 million ticket sales, putting it 53rd behind the 1955 movie Lady and the Tramp.”


Sussing out the SOTU [update 8]

Sarah Palin told Sean Hannity “the fact checkers … are going to be quite busy” after President Zero’s State of the Union passing-the-buck speech last night.

They were.  Here’s Cato’s fact-checkers now.

And here’s the New Zealand Herald’s cartoonist:


I think even my American readers will appreciate that.

UPDATE 1: And the person who bears a lion’s share of responsible for the waves of economic carnage which the ObaMessiah is failing to turn back, Ben Bernanke, still awaits reappointment to the job of Fed Chairman. Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Institute reckons Bernanke needs to get real.  He is “the last person qualified to address” the carnage he and his former boss did so much to create. “Get Real,” says Epstein at Fox News, “Bernanke Didn’t ‘Save’ the Economy”:

    “Because his economic philosophy hasn’t changed, his celebrated policies are simply a rehash of the folly [in 2001 to 2003] that created the housing bubble. The Fed is printing more money, lending it more cheaply than Greenspan did, and encouraging Americans (and their government) to borrow and spend far more than they can afford. That such a policy has laid the foundation for an enduring “recovery” has all the plausibility of President Bush’s 2003 ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner.”

UPDATE 2: Too late!

Senate Reconfirms; Bernanke Says, "Come to the Bar, Drinks Are On Dollar-Holders"

Still, as C.W. at Krazy Economy suggested before the reconfirmation was announced, maybe we should be grateful for small mercies. “Obama's appointee would be worse."

UPDATE 3: Cato’s Chris Moody has more good post-SOTU links (which I’m sure he won’t mind me pasting here):

  • Time for the SOTU fact check:  Cato experts put some of President Obama’s core State of the Union claims to the test. Here’s what they found.
  • During this year’s SOTU, President Obama criticized the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case. Today’s podcast examines the Court’s ruling.

UPDATE 4: The Republican’s chosen official response to President Zero’s  SOTU speech came from new Virginia governor Bob McDonnell. It was wet, it was wooden, but it shows Republicans what like to at least look like they’re listening to Tea Party types. (Quin Hillyer calls it “by far the most effective SOTU response I have EVER heard in 30 years of listening to these things.” Crikey.)

But no matter how wet and wooden it was, and how little McDonnell really means any of what he says – you suspect much of it is said more to attract back Tea Party Independents than out of any real conviction --wouldn’t you like to hear John Boy Key invoking Thomas Jefferson, talking about freedom and liberty, and the urgency of reducing the size of government.

In A Declaration Of Independents Paul Hsieh said, "Politicians had better start listening to the independent voters who want "the Democrats out of their pockets and the Republicans out of their bedrooms." Maybe some of them are.  A little.

But this time, “can independents finally make it clear that they are for limited government?"

UPDATE 5: The Ayn Rand Center (ARC) summarises the State of the Union speech in one sentence.  That sentence:

“We need to rise above fear, hesitation, and partisan politics--to give the government all the power it needs to solve all our problems.

The President named dozens of problems in America, notes the ARC’s Alex Epstein, and not once suggested that individual rights, liberty, or freedom were the solution. From a quick reading of the speech, some statistics:

“Number of times President Obama said ‘I’: 105--mainly pushing for the government programs he seeks to pass.

“Number of times President Obama said ‘individual rights’: 0.

“Number of times President Obama said ‘liberty’: 0.

“Number of times President Obama said ‘freedom’: 1--but it was freedom for Afghanistan.”

UPDATE 6: That wasn’t a SOTU address, says Jeff Perren, it a STFU address:

    “Last night, Barack Obama decided to skip the SOTU Address and give instead the STFU Address. He told the American people in essence to STFU, that everything he's been doing the past year is the right thing, and then some, and that anybody who disagrees is an obstructionist, opposed to what's best for Americans.”

Task Force to clear the way for more affordable homes [updated]

I’m almost speechless. Here’s why:

    “Environment Minister Nick Smith has announced two new taskforces to look at Resource Management Act (RMA) reform, issues surrounding urban design, metropolitan urban limits and housing affordability. . .
    “ ‘I don’t think we have the incentives right for developers to do the best urban design in our largest cities. There are also questions about the policy of metropolitan urban limits, the effect they have on section prices and the negative flow-on effects to the broader economy. . . ,” he said.

See what I mean?  I’m astonished.

After seventeen years of having to endure the Resource Management Act, after a decade of evidence showing that restricting the supply of urban land is sending house prices through the roof, there’s finally a “taskforce” to “look at” it.

Slow progress.  But progress.

    “The Urban [Task Force] will be chaired by barrister Alan Dormer and includes planning consultant Adrienne Young Cooper, research economist and consultant Arthur Grimes, architect and urban designer Graeme McIndoe, Chief Executive of the Property Council of New Zealand Connal Townsend and Ernst Zollner of the New Zealand Transport Agency. It has a report date of 31 March 2010.”

I don’t know much about the others on that group (anyone able to shed any light?), but Alan Dormer and Arthur Grimes have both been upfront about their opposition to the RMA and to metropolitan urban limits respectively—Dormer’s submission on the original RMA Bill back in 1991, for example, was a cracker, and Grimes’ Centre for Housing Research has said very cogent things on housing unaffordability and the reasons for it.

That’s astonishing.  So something might even come of this.  Not RMA repeal, it’s still too early for that, but this could be a very good baby step.

So I’m excited. Excited in a guarded fashion, because this is being announced by the same chap who calls the RMA “far-sighted environmental legislation, and who said just before the election that he intends to “review” the Resource Management Act to, quote, “look at how companies win the right to take private land.” 

So while I’m still getting my composure and my breath back, and wondering whether to be excited or concerned, read a little about the issues from previous posts to see what’s at stake:

All posts on Urban Design here and here.

    “The [advisory]  groups are stacked to give Gary Taylor’s Environmental Defence Society (EDS)what they want.
    “Townsend and Grimes will be outvoted.
    “Alan Dormer Chaired the [advisory] group for the first round but everything was hugely diluted in the Select Committee by submissions from EDS etc.
    “So I am not so optimistic - much as I would like to be.
    “If he was serious why put Adrienne Cooper on BOTH groups.
    “Subject: The Cooper History
    “It is worth noting that when I wrote my report for the Reserve Bank in which I predicted all these negative outcomes; the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) appointed Hill Young Cooper ‘to prove it wrong.’
    “They accepted the commission and Adrienne Cooper and David Hill wrote a truly disgraceful report.*
    “She has been a strong supporter of Smart Growth ever since.
    “From the Business Roundtable document ‘Turning Gain into Pain’:

The Growth Strategy recognises that with intensification house prices would
be higher than otherwise. This acknowledgment seems to be an about-face by
the ARC and other councils that previously dismissed Owen McShane's view
that restrictions on the supply of land for urban development were putting
upward pressure on house prices.**
Policy-induced increases in house prices lead to higher interest rates and distort consumption and investment patterns.
The policy would adversely affect housing options available to people,
particularly those on low incomes and with few resources, and is inequitable.
It could be expected to accentuate overcrowding and reliance on
accommodation provided by caravans and garages.
3.6 For these reasons, the Growth Strategy provides an unsound basis for the Transport Strategy. In particular, the emphasis placed on urban intensification and reliance on passenger transport services is mistaken and should be reconsidered by the Forum.

**Cooper, Adrienne Young and Hill, David (1996), A Local Authority Response to the McShane Report, a report commissioned by the Auckland Regional Council, Auckland City Council, Franklin
District Council, Manukau City Council, North Shore City Council, Rodney District Council
and Waitakere City Council, Hill Young Cooper Ltd, Newmarket.

** McShane, Owen (1996), The Impact of the Resource Management Act on the 'Housing and Construction' Components of the Consumer Price Index: A 'Think Piece', a report prepared for the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, Reserve Bank of New Zealand, Wellington.

    “Papakura (with their ACT Mayor David Hawkins) refused to contribute to the Hill Young Cooper report, the saying surely the ARC should ask for a review, not instruct the consultants to prove me wrong.
    “The report does not turn up on the web - on the wrong side of the Digital Time line.
But Arthur Grimes should be able to get it from the ARC library.”