Saturday, 6 March 2010

JEFF PERREN: Friends of Liberty, Real and Apparent

by Jeff Perren

I've said in the past that columnist Charles Krauthammer is a mixed bag, and here's more evidence.
    “Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco is now a disciple of Edmund Burke of Bristol, England who famously spoke about whether the job of a representative is to represent or to be a delegate — to reflect the views of the constituents or to act in what he perceives as the common the good or what we call today the national interest. I'm glad that her view is the Burkean view that it should be the national interest.
    “I think Republicans ought to be careful about just attacking the [health-care] bills on the basis of its low standing in the public opinion polls. That ought to be an element. Even Burke had said that the opinion of the constituents ought to inform your view, but it shouldn't dictate it.
    “I think the argument ought to be on the merits, and they ought to cite Warren Buffett who said the bill is not a good one because it doesn't contain costs.
    “He does add — which I believe — that we have an obligation to insure the uninsured. However, if the system is insolvent and you don't fix it, you are not going to help the uninsured. In fact, you're going to end uninsuring the insured because those who depend on Medicare and Medicaid are going to be left with a system that is broke.”

Where to begin?

The health care bill(s) are not bad chiefly because they're too costly. That's true, but far from fundamental. They're bad because they restrict liberty, they violate rights — to freedom, property, and voluntary trade.

They do so on the ever-useful excuse that it's morally mandatory to "help the poor obtain medical care," which is not merely false, but pernicious. We are no more obligated to "insure the uninsured" than we are to provide food, housing, sex, or anything else to those who can't afford them.
Apart from all the other arguments that might be made, one has to wonder why altruists refuse to make any distinction between those who deserve assistance — even privately — and those who do not. All 'poor people' are somehow presumed to be that solely through no failure of their own.
But that, too, is not essential. Even those who find themselves in need of medical care they can't afford after trying their utmost have no moral or legal claim on the public coffers.

    “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”
     — Thomas Jefferson

    “With respect to the two words ‘general welfare,’ I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”
    — James Madison in a letter to James Robertson

and, to repeat one of my favourites,

    “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”
     — James Madison, 4 Annals of Congress 179, 1794

However, even attending to the current costs alone should give Mr. Krauthammer pause before advising we accept a moral obligation to "insure the uninsured."

In sharp contrast to the pragmatic and altruistic Mr. Krauthammer, we have the mighty Veronique de Rugy, who understands at least that Federal altruism is exactly what's driving America toward the cliff.

“Our problem, obviously, is mandatory spending, which makes up about two-thirds of the nation’s federal expenditures each year. There is no question that reforming it is necessary to making sure this country’s fiscal health is sustainable over the long-term.”

According to the CBO,
    “Under current law, CBO projects that the budget deficit this year, will be about $1.3 trillion, or more than 9 percent of the country’s total output. Looking beyond this year, the budget outlook is daunting: Under current law, CBO projects that the deficit will drop to about 3 percent of GDP by 2013 but remain in that neighborhood through 2020. By that point, interest payments alone would cost more than $700 billion per year.”
The situation is scheduled to get worse.

So, when it comes time to listen to advice, I recommend tuning into Ms. de Rugy, and tuning out Mr. Krauthammer.

Friday, 5 March 2010

FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: The ‘loose cannon’ edition

Another ramble round the internet—the best of the net that caught this liberty-lover’s eye.
  • Young Labour MP Jacinda Ardern had an uncharacteristic moment of honesty on Labour’s inaccurately named ‘Axe the Tax’ campaign.  Keeping Stock has the unusual news:
    Jacinda tells the truth
  • Lew at KiwiPolitico reckons there are good reasons not to “hate on Sensing Murder so much.”
    Resisting the decline
  • 4327124010_33737c608b Dating advice from the OK Cupid site: younger men should give the cougars a second look.
    Dating Trends
  • And marriage advice from Swiss researchers:
    Why your wife should be 27% smarter than you
  • Here are two propositions:
    1. Tort reform is essential for American health reform.
    2. The litigation lobby controls Washington.
    Sadly, both propositions are true. You can draw the conclusion yourself.
    Yaron Brook and others comment at PJTV:
    Rule Of Lawyers: How The Litigation Lobby Controls Washington (13 Min.)
  • Crusader Rabbit reckons Rodney Hide has discovered how to steal an entire waterfront.
    How to steal an entire waterfront
  • ACT’s Minister of Loose Cannons has yet to learn that there is no such thing as a throwaway remark in NZ’s body politic—not at least on a slow news week, while there is a partisan political commentariat to make hay while the sun shines out of your body parts.
    Wednesday on Kiwiblog Garrett weighed into discussions about Michael Laws and sterilisation, not, sadly, to make the obvious point about the two, but to suggest encouraging child-killers like the Chris Kahui and Maxyna King to do the right thing. He then went on to talk up “the Indians [who] did it 30 years ago (the reward was a transistor radio for every man who had a vasectomy) for population control reasons. I don’t recall why the programme was eventually abandoned.”
    Naturally, every bull-frog and legrope was out in force to lampoon the man.  His four off-the-cuff paragraphs spawned many more, but sadly in most cases their reading comprehension is on a par with his grasp of human affairs, none moreso than the contributors at the Sub-Standard and No Right Turn, who somehow equate “child killer” with “poor brown people” and “the poor” respectively.  Make of that what you will.
    Anyway, here’s a small sample of the feeding frenzy, which somewhat overshadowed the spotlight ACT’s luminaries would surely have hoped would fall on their party conference last weekend.  Instead, this, below. ACT hasn’t had this much attention since Rodney Hide got taxpayers to pay for his last world trip:
  • Phew! Mind you, despite his reading comprehension problems, Idiot/Savant is still right to point out that “ideas like this are one of the reasons the Bill of Rights Act includes a concrete right to refuse to undergo medical treatment.” If only the Bill of Rights had some power.
  • The Devil Made Me Do It… “That, apparently, was the defense that was put forward by the killer of Navtej Singh, the man shot by thugs in his liquor store and left to bleed to death.”
  • This cabinet’s Helen Clark is Steven Joyce. He’s everybody’s nanny.  This week’s Joyceian slug to freedom’s jaw was his announcement on new shackles on road users – or in the case of fifteen-year-olds, would-be road users.
    Both Eric Crampton and the MacDoctor have taken aim at the reasoning, or lack thereof, in Joyce’s latest encomia to authoritarianism, making the point, as just one example, that drunk drivers responsible for dangerous driving causing death are (wait for it) already well over today’s blood-alcohol limit of 0.08mg/l of blood. Which means they’ll hardly be listening to the pieties of Mr Joyce, will they, no matter what level he elects to set his puritanical blood test-meters at.
    Further, the total number of drivers who died on the roads last year with blood alcohol between today’s level of 0.08, and the Salvation Army’s Mr Joyce’s preferred level of 0.05 were exactly two.  And as Eric says, “we can’t even prove that alcohol there was causal.”
    In other words, (and these words now are mine) Steven Joyce’s announcement is based not on research, but simply on prissiness and puritanism.
  • Meanwhile, Lindsay Mitchell spots statistics from New South Wales on young drivers that show, once again, that the “research” behind shackling young drivers is about as thorough as that performed by East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit.
    What role the driving age? – LINDSAY MITCHELL
  • Now, let’s play spot the difference.
    When your parents made you eat broccoli when you were a kid:
    "Because I say so!"
    "How do we know that you "created or saved x million jobs, Mr President?"
    "Because I say so!"
    Read: How to Create 3 Million Jobs With Pencil, Ruler – Kevin Hassett, BLOOMBERG [hat tip G-Man]
  • CLICK FOR SIX REASONSChris Edwards at Cato has
    Six Reasons to Downsize the Federal Government
  • Mainstream economists bewail their inability to  “mesh” the two fields of “microeconomics” and “macroeconomics,” yet the feat was performed nearly one-hundred years ago by Ludwig Von Mises. “The essence of the new Austrian paradigm [of which Mises was a student] is analyzing the individual and his actions and choices as the fundamental building block of the economy…  Mises's great achievement in The Theory of Money and Credit (published in 1912) was to take the Austrian method and apply it to the one glaring and vital lacuna in Austrian theory: the broad "macro" area of money and general prices,” linking “micro” and “macro” nearly one-hundred years before mainstream economisgts even realised they needed to.
    Read Murray Rothbard’s expert explanation of Mises’ unjustifiably overlooked achievement:
    Money and the Individual
  • The last time a Kiwi debater appeared at the Oxford Union debates it was David Lange.  Until lat week, when Catherine Healey appeared to debate legalising prostitution. She swept the floor.
    Kiwi debater convinces Oxford Union on prostitution
  • Clint Heine answers almost every myth you’ve ever heard about Voluntary Student Membership (VSM) – and now that Roger Douglas’s VSM bill has been drawn from the ballot, you’re sure as hell going to be hearing a lot of them.
    The TRUTH behind the Compulsory Student Union Movement  - CLINT HEINE
  • Joannie_Rochette_Spiral_-_2006_Skate_Canada "An Olympic figure skater said that her recently-deceased mother taught her to think of herself first. She did just that and won a bronze medal."
    The Selfish Figure Skater – JOSEPH KELLARD
  • "Is it selfish to lose?"
    "Selfishness" in Sports – SANDI TRIXX
  • Take a look at this superb pair of posts on common law and property rights – two posts that puncture the ridiculous notion taught in law schools that “the passage of Acts such as the Crown Minerals Act and the Resource Management Act have not significantly altered the  common law concept of property rights.”
    Property Rights: Blackstone, Locke & the Legislative Scheme. Part I – MADELEINE FLANNAGAN
    Property Rights: Blackstone, Locke & the Legislative Scheme. Part II  - MADELEINE FLANNAGAN
  • Fact is, “there is no better time to remember why property rights are inalienable."
    Life, Liberty and the Right to Property – ATLANTIC SENTINEL
  • Jeff Perren’s new pin-up girl Anne McElhinney is “the most fabulous mess of a speaker.”  But a fabulous mess of a speaker who was once a European liberal (“with everything that implies”) who now thinks capitalism is great. Watch her tell an American audience what woke her up. And take her message: that capitalism’s supporters need to tell their stories better.  (Here’s Part One; click through to watch all four parts. It’s good.  Hat tip Sally O’B.)

  • Richard Ebeling explains why supply-side economics is not, in the end, an economics of free markets.”Just as the old Keynesian macroeconomics has been a mechanism for distorting the economy through ‘aggregate demand’ tools,” Ebeling said back in 1980, "‘supply-side’ macroeconomics will almost certainly result in economic distortions through the use of ‘aggregate supply’ tools.” How right he was.
    Some Thoughts on Supply-side Economics
  • “If there had been no bailout and no stimulus, it would have been a depression for sure.” Well, no it wouldn’t, says Doug French.  But don’t financial failures and falling prices mean a depression and a stagnant economy?  Well, no they don’t.  Story, with historical evidence, here:
    Failure and Prosperity
  • Reason magazine has some common misconceptions about libertarians . . . with pictures!
    Common Misconceptions About the Other "L" Word
  • "The next time someone tells you that they trust the way government handles finances or they are A-OK with tax hikes because they benefit the common good, tell them about a little country called Greece.”
    Bankruptcy, thy name is Greece – VULCAN’S HAMMER
  • Richard Dawkins attracted so many fans to his website forum that it has collapsed in disarray, with accusations of mismanagement and more. “Amidst a tsunami of vulgar and vitriolic comments, the 85,000-strong forum on his official website had to be shut down this week.”  The Times has the (slightly embroidered) story. Open Parachute has the apology.
    Richard Dawkins unleashes tirade against fansTHE TIMES Richard Dawkins – wrong again! – OPEN PARACHUTE
  • And Open Parachute author Ken Perrott has attracted the ire of religionist Ian Wishart. Wishart objects to him being “openly atheist” at the SciBlogs site. Well, where else would be more appropriate, one wonders?
    Who's been a naughty Perrott - SMC told to watch posts – BRIEFING ROOM
    Perrott explains to Wishart how the world works in his comments:
    This is a bit pathetic, isn't it Ian?
  • Disgraced Climate Research Unit boss Phil Jones was in the hot seat before a parliamentary inquiry in the UK this week over what was found in the ‘ClimateGate’ emails. It didn’t go well for him.
    He argued that it was standard scientific practice to not share data
    Even so, he was treated remarkably gently.
    Climate balmy for Jones – ANDREW BOLT
    ”What the record shows is that Jones had no standard scientific practice of sharing or not sharing data. He had no consistent practice of abiding by or violating confidentiality agreements. He had his chance to sit before Parliament and come clean about the record. He had an opportunity to explain exactly why he took these various contradictory actions over the course of years.  Instead he played with the truth again.  Enough.”
    The Final Straw – Stephen Mosher, WATTS UP WITH THAT
    Video: Dr. Phil Jones Climategate testimony at the British House of Commons
    Phil Jones: Not Quite Ready For His Close-Up  - FORBES
    Peer review? What it this mythical thing you talk about? – GOTCHA!
    Steve McIntyre, whose requests for Jones’s figures kicked off most of Jones tirades, has posted his submission to the inquiry.  It’s a great read.
    McIntyre Submission with Figures – CLIMATE AUDIT
  • Scientist Roy Spencer tries to reproduce Phil Jones results for the American temperature record, which is front and centre in the claim that modern temperatures are rising.  What he found  from comparing the raw daw with Jones adjustments is that every time Jones made adjustments, they were always in the wrong direction. Conclusion: “It is increasingly apparent that we do not even know how much the world has warmed in recent decades, let alone the reason(s) why. It seems to me we are back to square one.”
    Spencer: Spurious warming demonstrated in CRU surface data – ROY SPENCER
    And more confirmation here that Jones’s adjustments, ostensibly to adjust for the Urban Heat Island Effect, were consistently misapplied. Edward Long checks the raw temp record for rural USA against urban USA and finds “that rural data has been adjusted warmer to meet urban trends.” No wonder Jones refused to release his working.
    Dr Edward R Long’s disturbing study of 48 urban rural pairs USA – ERRORS IN IPCC CLIMATE SCIENCE
  • So “the science, it appears, is settled: raw climate station data should be available for all comers.”
    Settled Science
  • And just a reminder while we’re here:
    Global Warming is Responsible for … Everything Bad!
  • And yet more on Al Gore’s  latest global warming whopper. You could call it a “snow job.”
  • The Onion has caught Obama lip-synching his speeches. Bob Murphy says it made him chuckle three separate times, “and that's good enough for government-bashing work.”

  • Remember how the ObaMessiah promised “change”?  Bankrupting America has a good look at
    The Odd Couple: 5 unfortunate similarities between Bush and Obama
  • blanket "The recent health care ‘summit’ shows why Republicans need to argue that ObamaCare is immoral, not just impractical."
    Ryan At The Summit – PAUL HSIEH
  • "As the Democratic Party melts down, the Republicans, as usual, demonstrate why a contradictory philosophy can not form the foundation of an effective political movement."
    Does the Decline of the Democrats mean the Decline of the Republicans? – RATIONAL CAPITALIST
  • Have you heard that Democrats have reacted to the outrageous success of the Tea Party movement by starting so-called Coffee Parties. They’re insisting on “cooperation” instead of dissent. How ironic, says the NEW CLARION, “Remember during the Bush presidency when dissent was the highest form of patriotism? We didn’t hear much from the left about “cooperation” when it came to the Patriot Act or the war in Iraq. And when Congress stopped Bush’s Social Security reform cold, there were no complaints about ‘obstructionism.’  The idea of forming a movement around ‘cooperation’ is a gimmick to help the Democrats succeed with their socialist agenda.”
    Coffee Party II
  • Ari Armstrong reminds readers about the political threat of the religious right.
    Conservative Deceit About Christian Liberty  - FREE COLORADO
  • Callum McPetrie, a recent guest poster here (thanks Callum), tells his teachers (and other people who need to know) about
    Liberalism and the American Revolution
  • Sculpture Bronze - Tuby Jean Baptiste - 1668 - Fountain of ApolloIf you were just about to start an economics reading group, you could do a lot worse than lean on the recommendations and pre-prepared questions of this successful group. [Hat tip Noodle Food]
    Liberty in the Books
  • Here’s an exciting new art website run by architect John Gillis.  It’s called ArtGrok, which as any reader of Robert Heinlein will understand, “to ‘grok’ something is to understand it completely.  This site is dedicated to the full understanding of the various arts.”  Great stuff! (Click the pic at right to see the sort of analysis John will be offering.)
  • For years I’ve argued that the primary reason for political activism is not to get elected, it’s to shift the debate – to raise a set of goal posts that the other teams didn’t even know existed, and encourage them to start playing towards them. 
    It’s all about shifting the debate.
    What I didn’t know was that this argument has a name.  It’s called “shifting the Overton Window.”  Putting your ideas into the “window of political possibility.” It’s a concept that every political activist should understand.
    Glenn Beck Highlights Mackinac Center’s “Overton Window” – MACKINAC CENTER
    Overton Window - WIKIPEDIA
  • “This is a strangely fascinating film from a streetcar in San Francisco 1905, before the earthquake, that illustrates what it means for an order to emerge out of seeming chaos. There are a thousand accidents waiting to happen that do not happen, namely because of rational individual planning and self interest. In some ways, it is a beautiful image of freedom,” says Jeffrey Tucker. “Just imagine what the do gooders and central planners would do with such a scene today.”

  • Here’s a burning question: What’s the etiquette of sex while staying in another person's home? Ms Manners answers.
    Sex in Guest Bedrooms – NOODLE FOOD
  • Some things you didn’t know about Louis Pasteur, beer and Germans – and how Louis Pasteur’s beer caused a Great War!
    The Beer of Revenge – MALTHOUSE BLOG
  • A simple scientific experiment could help determine whether ‘dark matter’ is real, or just science’s biggest fudge factor.
     Dark matter could meet its nemesis on Earth – NEW SCIENTIST
  • And finally, we’re off soon to see the magnificent Simon O’Neill show Wellington why he’s now ranked amongst the top ten Wagner heldentenors in the world.  You can can see why for yourself here, singing with Waltraud Meier under Daniel Barenboim.

        Enjoy your weekend.


        “Art can never exist without naked beauty displayed.”
        - William Blake


        Thursday, 4 March 2010

        One Foot in the grave

        FootOnTheLeft Michael Foot, that shambolic Marxist footnote in history, is dead.

        He took over as Britain’s Labour leader after his predecessor James Callaghan helped reduce Britain to Europe’s bankrupt nation, and then advanced policies to make sure this condition would be permanent.

        His greatest achievement, one he shared with Neil Kinnock, and for which Britons still have much to thank him for, is being so unelectable that he helped keep Margaret Thatcher in power for twelve years.

        Farewell you failed old loon. Thank Galt you never got your hands on the levers of power. 

        Liberty Scott gives him a better send-off than he deserves.

        [Hat tip to Adolf for the headline. That’s Foot in the photograph, by the way, trying out for the Gypsy Kings.  Naturally, he’s the one on the far left.]

        The rumness of Captain Morgan [updated]

        The resignation today of Peter Huljich for what looks like spruiking the trading results of his Huljich Wealth Management KiwiSaver fund might lead to a little more focus on what some of these government-sponsored Kiwisaver funds have been doing.

        070507143232_0 And maybe one in particular: the Gareth Morgan funds, which trade on the basis of Morgan’s name—trading on "his “'Kiwiness' and self-proclaimed high-performance abilities” -- yet while Morgan himself leaves the grunt work of managing the fund to others he spends the major part of his time travelling the world talking up his bike-riding, and travelling round NZ boardrooms bad-mouthing other Kiwisaver providers—for both of which he now has something of a reputation.

        This would be perfectly fine if the results of his managers matched his mouth.  But they don’t. As David Chaplin noted in the Herald not so long ago,

            “According to the Gareth Morgan Kiwisaver website, in the 12 months to January 31, 2010: its growth fund lost 6.61 per cent; the balanced fund dropped 2.51 per cent, and; the conservative fund returned 1.75 per cent.
            While it's not an exact overlap in time, the recent Mercer KiwiSaver survey 2009 annual performance data serves as a proxy benchmark to measure Gareth Morgan Kiwisaver against. In the Mercer survey the average conservative KiwiSaver fund returned 8.1 per cent in 2009; the average balanced fund returned 12.1 per cent, and the average growth fund grew by 16.5 per cent.

        Not so good.

        And a recent Morningstar survey of Kiwisaver providers confirmed the less than stellar performance of Mr Morgan’s managers over the last year.

        • With $28.5 million under their putative control in their “Conservative Fund,” Gareth’s managers’ ranked just 15th out of 16 in this class.
        • Handling $102.7 million of other people’s money in their “Growth Fund,” they ranked only 19th out of 20.
        • And with $130.9 million of people’s would-be savings invested with them in their “Balanced Fund,” they could only manage 22 out of 23.

        How does that make you feel about him? That’s over $250 million of other people’s money, a lion’s share of the Kiwisaver treasure trove dropped into his lap through government policy, that Gareth is just not looking after.

        Not good at all for a company that’s used his name to attract it all. In a market, that, we should remind ourselves, only exists because of government action (i.e., explicit tax benefits for savers and a legislative requirement for employers to plonk 2 per cent of employees' wages or salaries in their funds). With a company that’s helped get Morgan into positions where he now thinks he can tell you how much you should be taxed, and how.

        Time to reconsider the sundry ponderous pontifications of this “people’s friend.”

        Time for him –- if he’s to be taken seriously -- to stop talking his book and writing others, and instead to get his arse behind his desk instead of out on the world’s roads on the back of a Harley.

        And time for editors to stop reprinting Gareth’s rants as if they’re the revealed wisdom of a secular saint.  They’re not.  They’re mostly just the rum old whingings of an underperforming seal.

        As “Steve of Wellington” said in response to one of Morgan's recent whinges in the Herald:

            "I've got my Kiwisaver with you Gareth and all I seem to do is lose money - thousands at the moment. How about less spin and more time trying to recover some of my money you have lost?"

        Looks like a good call.

        Disclosure: Peter does not have any money invested with Gareth Morgan.  Nor would he.

        UPDATE: Cartoonist ‘Blunt’ wonders if Gareth's asked for his own money back yet from “the top scientists” who so easily convinced him that anthropogenic warming was going to destroy the planet.  And further:


        Inflation Silently Works to Destroy Your Wealth

        While John Boy wants to use inflation to get an $11.5 billion off his government’s books, Australian money market writer Kris Sayce explains (once again) how inflation silently works to destroy your wealth.

        _Kris_Sayce_headshot One of the worst aspects to inflation is that it silently works to destroy your wealth.

        The creation of new money from thin air by banks and central banks ensures that the most you earn and the money you save is constantly being devalued.

        What that means to you is that you have to work harder and longer, plus you have to take more risks with your investments in order to just maintain your standard of living.

        Most of the time, mainstream economists won’t admit to that. They’ll tell you that inflation is vital because it keeps the economy growing and because it prevents the economy from falling into the death trap of deflation.

        As we’ve pointed out before on many occasions, deflation is not bad for an economy. It helps to counter periods of inflation. And furthermore it is beneficial to savers and also means you don’t have to work as hard as the cost of living falls.

        In other words, you can work just as hard tomorrow as you did today and your cost of living is actually less. Or, you could work less tomorrow but still maintain the same standard of living.

        The mainstream lies about deflation are nothing short of criminal.

        But as we read the online version of The Age last night, we noticed that one of the mainstream economists has let the cat out of the bag on inflation.

        I’m referring to former ANZ Bank chief economist, Saul Eslake’s article in The Age.

        It was this quote from Eslake that blows the lid on what every mainstream economist thinks about inflation, and how they are quite happy to sacrifice the individual at the alter of inflation if it means letting the banks get away with fraud:

        “These inflation targets were chosen because, when inflation is about ”2-point something”, people tend not to notice it. And when they don’t notice it, they tend not to do things to protect themselves against it that are likely to lead eventually to prices rising at a faster rate.”

        I can barely believe anyone with a brain would write such a thing. It’s a clear admission that inflation is a tool used to impoverish the population.

        Because as long as the banks don’t conspire to make the inflation rate too high, they can get away with creating more and more money from thin air, lending it out to sucker home buyers and therefore increasing bank profits, because, “people tend not to notice it.”

        But worse, he’s happy they don’t notice it because if they did, people would do something to “protect themselves.”

        Has there ever been a more vile comment from a mainstream economist? We don’t think so. Eslake and the rest of the mainstream economists should hang their heads in shame.

        In effect what Eslake is saying is that it’s better for the banks and central banks to be petty thieves than it is for them to be armed robbers.

        In our books, a crook is a crook, and Eslake has shown his cards as a supporter of thievery.

        Even more than that, it’s an extraordinary admission from a man who is on the board of the National Housing Supply Council, and who helped to write the report – the one that we scoffed at – on housing that suggested the housing shortage was evidenced by homelessness.

        On the one hand he’s putting himself forward as some sort of economic social campaigner, working for an organisation that claims to help form public policy, while at the same time he privately – and now publicly – advocates an inflationary policy which he knows destroys wealth.

        But perhaps the saddest aspect of Eslake’s comments is that it’s exactly the same thought process that 100% of mainstream economists go through. It’s the same thought process that drives all the economists at every bank. And it’s most certainly the same thought process driving the inflationary policies of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

        And that is to keep inflation just low enough so that the masses don’t realise they’re being robbed blind.

        What a disgraceful advertisement that is for economics, or his brand of economics anyway. We’ve got no idea what school of economic thought Eslake follows, we won’t even try and pin this one on Keynes.

        Our guess is that Eslake is perhaps a follower of the Artful Dodger School of Economics – encouraging the pick-pocketing of your wallet.

        My suggestion is that Eslake needs to go back to school and re-educate himself on economics. A good place for him to start would be with the more enlightened thinking of the Austrian School.

        Of course, for someone like Eslake who believes that inflation is good and that central banks know what they’re doing, he could find the Austrian School to be something of a shock – it could only do him good…

        It certainly wouldn’t do him any harm.


        Pukeko Bridge – Jeff Wells, Jasmax


        If you’ve travelled north of Auckland over summer, you can’t have missed this delightfully engaging bridge over the new toll road, a bridge that acts as a gateway to “the winterless north”—a sign for Aucklanders that now you’re really on holiday.

        40082563_Pukeko And what’s almost as delightful as the bridge itself has been the positive reaction to it, so much so that the bureaucratically named ‘Hillcrest Road Bridge’ soon earned itself the more evocative handle ‘The Pukeko Bridge’—for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who’s ever enjoyed the local ‘swamp-hen.’

        Pukeko002 Designed by architect Jeff Wells of Jasmax, who developed a love of bridges over the course of his career which he’s now being allowed to blossom forth, the bridge reflects (to some extent) the property rights of the land-owner whose land was cut in two for the toll road to be built is designed – it links the two halves of his property so his cattle can make the journey from one paddock to another.

        That’s quirky enough for some, but combine that with the apparent droop of the road -– which simply follows the original contours of the ground before the road cutting was made, allowing the bridge deck to be formed as the cut  was being made -– and the spindly bright “red legs,” and you’ve got a quiet achievement here that’s worth celebrating: a bridge on NZ’s highway system with character.

        Up to now, that’s been a very rare thing

        But it looks like, as long as Jeff Well’s career lasts, it might be happening more frequently.

        Read about him and his bridges here.  And see more photos of the bridge here at Flickr.

        Wednesday, 3 March 2010

        A few questions for Maurice Wimpianson

        3178361 While you’re sitting on your fence holding your head in your hands, Maurice, over the huge leaky homes bill for which ratepayers are potentially liable, why not contemplate this.  You propose changes to the Building Act “that include a guarantee regime” [something you’ve announced several times already without looking like getting any closer to doing it].

            “The guarantee or warranty would have a surety holder behind it [you say], so if something goes wrong a claim can be made against the relevant party [i.e., the insurer].

        So you’re proposing an insurance regime, Maurice, said to cost each potential home-builder another $5000 on top of all the thousands of dollars they’re already charged before they can get started, while still maintaining the failed council inspectorate that levies all those charges

        Does that make any sense? 

        1. At a time when everyone is trying to get the cost of new homes down, why on earth would you add a new cost to home-builders for what is (at least in theory) just a duplication of what is already being done?
        2. And if the insurance regime isn’t just a duplication of what councils are already doing, does that mean the existing council inspection regime is inadequate—as the evidence would strongly suggest? An insurance regime that is all but an admission that the current building regime doesn’t work.
        3. But why on earth would any case would insurers want to get involved in the system as you propose, unless they can charge like a wounded bull for all the unknown liabilities the duplication of effort is likely to load onto them? 
        4. Doesn’t this duplication just make the chain of responsibility even more muddy than it is now?  Who will know who is responsible for what – council or insurers?  Who will know who pays when stuff goes wrong  – ratepayers or insurers? Who will know who exactly has final responsibility – council or insurers?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to make the chain of responsibility completely transparent by removing one of these two from your regime altogether?
        5. And since ratepayers are already potentially liable for those $11.5 billion or more (by virtue of the Building Act that your government brought in, Maurice), wouldn’t it make more sense to remove the one that’s already demonstrably failed?
        6. In fact, why leave ratepayers in the gun at all?  If you’re going to talk “warranty,” then wouldn’t it make sense to remove the risk from ratepayers altogether by simply sheeting home responsibility to insurers completely?
        7. Wouldn’t this be manifestly simpler all round?
        8. In other words, why keep insisting that councils do a job it’s now abundantly clear they’re not suited for, when if you let the grey ones get out of the way insurance companies can do what they do best: setting and maintaining standards; insuring against risk; and spreading the risk around properly, at no risk at all to ratepayers.

        Take your head out of your hands, Maurice, and have a think about it.  Because if you do, you’ll realise it would remove a lot of your other headaches too.

        Perspective on Radio NZ protests

        As Britain slides into bankruptcy its state broadcaster BBC cuts radio stations and web pages to trim costs.  And in the US media organisations such as ABC have promised massive layoffs in their news operations.

        Meanwhile, here in New Zealand when it’s suggested that it might be nice if state broadcaster Radio New Zealand could make some quite modest savings, thousands hundreds dozens of people show up to protest what is not an attack, not a savaging, not even a cut in what the tax-funded broadcaster get from taxpayers—but just a freeze.

        Don’t these folk have something more important to do?

        And couldn’t we please have a broadcasting minister with more balls?

        DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Bill English’s expensive driving habits & Peter Dunne’s war on rural teens

        Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath ransacks the newspapers for stories on issues affecting our freedom.

        This week: Bill English’s Expensive Driving Habits and Peter Dunne’s War on Rural Teenagers 

        _richardmcgrath 1. Motoring MPs put $40k dent in public purse – Internal Affairs spent tens of thousands of your dollars fixing wear and tear and damage to the cars and limousines it furnishes to government ministers. That’s a little over $2300 each. No surprise to learn that Sir Double Dipton is the most expensive MP to keep on the road.
            I suggest making MPs responsible for their own motoring costs. Let them purchase and insure their own vehicles – the Greens will ride bikes or trains, of course. If they were honest.  If they want to drive around in BMWs, that’s up to them, but we shouldn’t be sent the bill for their lifestyle choices.
            The news item mentioned demanding workloads and long hours on the road for these senior MPs. The Libertarianz Party has a solution to this problem – cut down the scope of government, so that MPs are not overworked. Limit the role of government to upholding individual rights by concentrating on rebuilding our justice system and police force. Make MPs’ job part-time, with expenses and remuneration funded by the political parties they represent.
            On a related subject, I also resent having to contribute to Phil Goff’s ‘Axe The Tax’ bus ride around the countryside. His party introduced the horrible GST and he wants to maintain it at current levels, not to axe it.
            Stop misleading the public, Mr Goff!

        2. Key firm as driver reforms attacked – Peter Dunne’s crusade against rural youth has gained traction, with John Key backing moves to limit the mobility of teenagers living in the country.
            Key’s reasoning includes the statement that “if [the law changes] mean a youngster lives and doesn’t die in a road fatality, that’s a sacrifice worth making.” On those grounds, the PM should ban all motor vehicles and cycles, and cut the road toll down to somewhere near zero.
            Isn’t that a sacrifice worth making, John?
            The Libertarianz Party believes the owners of roads should set the rules for whoever uses them, but believes the business of providing roads for New Zealanders could be farmed out to private industry, who would want to turn a profit from this ownership, and would therefore want their roads to be safe and user-friendly. Along with this, a reformed justice system that held people of all ages legally and financially accountable for the harm they caused others would also provide disincentives to those who currently drive carelessly or incompetently.     

        3. Police call for tough action on disrespect – This sort of thing is the thin end of the wedge. Yes, the police have a tough job to do, but when some of them abuse their position it becomes difficult to maintain public respect. There is freedom of speech in this country, and that includes the right to offer an opinion on the appearance and actions of on-duty police officers. At least as long as that particular brand of free speech is still allowed.
             Assaulting a police officers is a different matter, unless a person is defending themselves against unjustified or excessive violence.
             ‘Insulting behaviour’ is not a crime - police officers must learn to take criticism on the chin. Several times in my work as a contracted police medical officer I have been called a ‘pig doctor’ by injured or intoxicated people I’ve been asked to assess. But I’m not about to go crying to a district court judge that my dignity has been offended. Similarly, Police Association president Greg O’Connor needs to realise that assault and hurt feelings are two different things. What next, Greg - will people be arrested for failing to salute police officers?               

        “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny - when the
        government fear the people, there is liberty.”
        - Thomas Jefferson  

        Socialising [corrected]

        AUCKLAND: Reminding readers that tomorrow night is the first Thursday of the month—which as everybody knows means the monthly B3 (Bloggers Bar Bash) at Galbraith’s !

        What: Auckland Bloggers Drinks
        Thursday 4 March from 6.30pm
        Galbraith’s, 2 Mt Eden Road, Mt Eden, Auckland
        Who for: Bloggers, blog readers, blog trolls.

        Get ye there and help us outnumber the Christians.

        Or just come along and buy Cameron Slater a drink.  After paying for his lawyers, he’ll need one.

        WELLINGTON: And I’ll be making a flying visit to Wellington to see NZ’s Wagner hero Simon O’Neill singing in the Wagner Gala on Friday night at the Michael Fowler Centre—so if any Wellington blog readers would like to meet up for swift drink straight after work on Friday (I’m assured some folk actually do work in Wellington), there’s a very good chance you’ll find us over the road at the West Plaza bar on Wakefield St from about the time their taps start working.  So why not join us for a couple.

        GUEST POST: Peruvian Law Forbids 'Socially Harmful' Children's Names

        [Guest Post by Jeff Perren]

        Just to illustrate how absurd statism can get, consider the following BBC news story.

        Names like Cut-throat and Conflict are now out of bounds in Peru. Peruvians are having to choose names for their children more carefully from this week, after a controversial new law banned the use of names considered ridiculous, offensive, or contrary to religious beliefs.

        Parents also cannot give their child more than two names, because the Peruvian government says it causes problems in their computer records.

        The law also bans parents from giving children names of the opposite sex.

        Civil registry officials will decide which names are prohibited.

        Opposition politicians and church leaders say the legislation deprives parents of freedom of choice. "It is wrong that civil registry officials be allowed to determine what names parents can give their children," said opposition Congressman Henry Gustavo Manuel Serapio Pease.

        But the Peruvian government says the new law will protect children from the psychological damage caused by such recent names as the Spanish words for Cutthroat, Cuckold and Circumcision. "People are giving their children names like H2O (the symbol for water) and Ebullicion ('Boiling' in Spanish) and this is going to hurt the child," said Justice Minister Alfredo Quispe.

        Of course! We must eliminate freedom 'for the sake of the children'. Never mind that it reduces parents to children and puts the State in the role of parent. Statism is evil, to be sure. But that doesn't stop it from being silly, as well.

        Dymaxion House – Buckminster Fuller

        buckminster-200If you wanted to find the very antithesis of the house I posted last night, you’d only have to go across one coast and about two decades.

        Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House, the first of which was produced in 1929, is the very expression of the industrialised house.  It was intended as a prototype, suggesting the industrialised house that modern America could make – complete with prefabricated bathrooms, laundries and kitchens.

        The Dymaxion structure (the name combines the words dynamic, maximum, and tension) was based around a central pole which contained heating, cooling, sewage, and water subsystems. The rooms branched out in a hexagonal shape from that pole, from which they were suspended by airplane wire.

        4052241640_a398edb1c9    “[The house] was heated and cooled by natural means, it made its own power, was earthquake and storm-proof, and made of permanent, engineered materials that required no periodic painting, reroofing, or other maintenance. You could easily change the floor plan as required - squeezing the bedrooms to make the living room bigger for a party, for instance.
             “Downdraft ventilation drew dust to the baseboards and through filters, greatly reducing the need to vacuum and dust. O-Volving Shelves (qt movie, 2.3mb) required no bending; rotating closets brought the clothes to you. The Dymaxion House was to be leased, or priced like an automobile (qt movie, 2.2mb), to be paid off in five years. All this would be possible now if houses were engineered, mass-produced, and sold like cars – and costing about $40,000.00…
        4052241182_cdda26172a     “The Dymaxion's round shape (qt movie, 2.2mb) minimized heat loss and the amount of materials needed, while bestowing the strength to successfully fend off a 1964 tornado that missed [the Wichita, Kansas prototype] by only a few hundred yards. And the Dymaxion only weighs about 3000 pounds versus the 150 tons of an average home!”

        When Fuller offered the prototype to the American Institute of Architects, they rejected it, saying that they opposed "any kind of house designs that are manufactured like peas-in-a-pod."*

        The colour pictures show the prototype now located in the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan.  The painted “scenery” is intended to convey a sense of how a house in location might have felt.  I think.


        Tuesday, 2 March 2010

        Axe *what* tax? [UPDATE]

        NotAxe002 Labour’s ‘Axe the Tax’ campaign has hit the road” says the post. Except they have no plans, policies or intention to axe any tax – and certainly not GST -- and the campaign that has just hit the road is paid for by you and me.

        Out of our taxes.

        Irony, thy name is Labour—a party who, hitherto, never saw a tax it didn’t like, or a tax increase it couldn’t get in behind .

        Mind you, if it inadvertently gets some of those stall-holders at the markets getting in behind an actual axing of GST – the bain of market traders everywhere – the campaign might have done some good.

        NotAxe001 [Pictures filched from Whale Oil’s site]

        NB: Just for the record, the only political party I’m aware of who actually does have a policy of axing GST is Libertarianz.  If PhilGoff really is keen on the real thing, I’m sure they’ll be only to happy to receive his membership form in the post.

        UPDATE: Yep, their road trip is being paid for with your dollars.

        So if it’s not global warming . . . ? [updated]

        ark-of-comfort I missed something important in Al Gore’s op-ed yesterday.

        I’ll tell you what I missed in a second, but first, let ‘s set the scene.

        The “science” of the warmist team is collapsing, and the “scientists” running the warmist mantra are being found out.  The UK’s parliamentary inquiry into the university at the centre of the climate change row over stolen e-mails is now front and centre in exposing the transparent legerdemain.  [UPDATE: And climate scientist Roy Spencer suggested over the weekend that world surface station temp data has been so munged as to be worthless.]

        And the carbon-trading circle jerk that was supposed to grow up on the back of the warmist “science” is now exposed as a bust. The news that the UN’s climate chief Yvo de Boer is stepping down with no replacement being announced (“casting doubt on the effort to establish a worldwide market aimed at reducing the emissions blamed for global warming) can be added to worldwide news of the collapse of carbon trading markets, and the announcement by New Zealand’s sharemarket operator NZX that they’ll be taking “a $19.9m hit to its balance sheet from a carbon trading business it has sold, blaming a lower priority given to carbon trading and ‘lack of a global political agenda around carbon’.”

        Poor lambs.  “Macro conditions have moved against carbon trading compared with where the world was when the registry business was sold," said the failed rent-seeking bastards at NZX.  A more honest assessment would be to say that on careful analysis, businesses are finally realising that paying an indulgence for the “sin” of production is as absurd as it is destructive.

        In  other words, they’re no longer buying the scam.

        That John Key’s Labour-Lite government has yet to read the writing on the wall and cancel their “world-leading” (and New Zealand-strangling) emissions tax scam is a tribute only to their inability to read, and their disinterest in who they damage.

        But Al Gore knows how to read.  He sure as hell knows what time it is. He knows it’s time to cash out (and to talk up his position before it collapses), and time to cut the science adrift – and on that last at least the warmist world is going with him.

        The first clue was Al Gore's merger of environmentalism and religion –– his admission  last December that for him the “spiritual dimension of climate change” trumps the scientific.  He continued that theme yesterday, blathering that “From the standpoint of governance, what is at stake is our ability to use the rule of law as an instrument of human redemption.”  (Or as Charles Anderson translates, “Yes, of course, we cannot allow the People to make their own choices in the free market, because we must use the force of government to redeem these sorry sinners.  We, the elitist Progressives, must use the force of government to enforce myriad laws to make the People do what they will not choose to do . . . Government is the Messiah [and] the elitists who manipulate its levers are the Messiahs.”)

        And the second clue appeared in Gore’s op-ed yesterday, and in recent ads from Gore’s Climate Advocacy Group.   It was there, but I missed it.  There I was answering Al Gore’s “science,” when what I was really doing was wasting my time.  Because as Intellectual Activist editor Robert Tracinski was astute enough to notice, Big Al has noticed the way warmist science is going, and he’s now saying to that science, “Get thee behind me.”

        In his column What’s It All About, Al Gore, Tracinski quotes a recent Washington Post column  by Dana Milbank on Washington’s big snowstorm “being used by both sides in the global warming debate. Milbank acknowledges that this ‘argument-by-anecdote’ is invalid, briefly refers to Climategate, and then offers this remarkable shift”:

            _quote For those concerned about warming, it's time for a shift in emphasis. Fortunately, one has already been provided to them by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who has done more than any Democrat to keep climate legislation alive this year. His solution: skip the hurricanes and Himalayan glaciers and keep the argument on the hundreds of billions of dollars spent annually on foreign oil, some of that going to terrorists rather than to domestic job creation.
            “Al Gore, for one, seems to realize it's time for a new tactic. New TV ads released during last week's blizzards by Gore's climate advocacy group say nothing about climate science. They show workers asking their senators for more jobs from clean energy.
            “That's a good sign. If the Washington snows persuade the greens to put away the slides of polar bears and pine beetles and to keep the focus on national security and jobs, it will have been worth the shoveling.”

        And that’s precisely what Al was pushing in yesterday’s New York Times apologia.  And “this,” says Tracinski, “is the new party line.”

            _quote If the science can no longer be invoked to support massive government controls on the economy, then drop the science. You can drop it, because none of this was ever really about science. It was about power. It was about control. It was about central planning of our lives by the usual gang in Washington.”

        Or Wellington.

        I urge you to read Tracinski’s full column, which you can find online here at the NZ Climate Realists site. (I’ve reproduced the first three paragraphs since it’s somewhat munted on their site.)

        What's Left Without Global Warming?
        by Robert Tracinski

            With apologies to Dionne Warwick—and to Michael Caine, for that matter—I have to ask: What's it all about, Al Gore?
            I mean all of this stuff about how we have to restructure our entire society to avoid man-made global warming—what was it all really about? Was it ever really about global warming? Or was it really about restructuring our society, for which global warming was just an excuse?
            That's what we have to start asking in the wake of Climategate.
            It is not just that Climategate—the e-mails leaked from the Climatic Research Unit at Britain's University of East Anglia, and the subsequent investigations they unleashed—has revealed that the "settled science" of global warming was riddled with errors, based on questionable data and false assumptions, and distorted by conformity, bullying, and groupthink.
            It is not just that some of the main Climategate conspirators, such as the CRU's Phil Jones, are now admitting that the science isn't settled and that global temperatures may well have been warmer than today one thousand years ago, long before automobiles and industrial smokestacks.
            No, what really ought to give us pause is that so far none of these revelations has actually stopped the political agenda on global warming. Virtually everyone who advocated massive new controls on our economic life in the name of stopping global warming still advocates it. And it's not just because they're in denial and they still think science is on their side. The most frightening new trend—frightening because of what it reveals—is that many of these people are advocating these controls even if the globe is not warming.
            It started with President Obama's State of the Union address, when he referred to "the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change"—eliciting laughter in the chamber—and then went on to say: "But even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future—because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy." What is notable there is the development of a fallback position in case the public doubts the science. But of course, the fallback position makes no sense. If carbon dioxide is not frying the globe, then windmills and solar cells aren't "clean energy." They're just inefficient energy.
            Similarly, Lindsey Graham—one of a handful of Senate Republicans who really drank the Kool-Aid on global warming—has switched to advocating all the same controls as a way to reduce our "dependency" on foreign oil. But of course, the far easier way would be to lift restrictions on offshore drilling and on oil exploration on federal lands.
            When this trend finally struck me was in a column by the Washington Post's Dana Milbank that discussed how Washington's big snowstorm was being used by both sides in the global warming debate . . .

        Which is about where we came in. Read on here for the real good oil: how this could lead to the second spectacular collapse of the left in two decades.