Saturday, May 08, 2010

Saturday Morning Ramble: The UK Election Edition

So the British election is finally over—ending not with a bang, but a resounding stalemate.  The British voters have spoken, and what they’ve said, rather thoroughly, is “We don’t like any of you bastards very much.”

All praise to the British voter for that.  I didn’t much like any of the bastards myself.

Which in the end made this a delightful outcome all round. For in this election, they are all losers, for which we have much to thank the stolid British voter. One of those delicious contests delivering the unlikely result that everyone you despise loses--like watching a game between England and Australia and seeing them both lose.

Let’s start with the biggest losers: Nick Clegg and the pollsters. So much for their “Clegg Mania.” Clegg’s rainbow hordes pulled fewer seats than they did last time, despite all the pundits’ prognostications of big things for the cardigan-wearers. By puncturing the augurers of the mania, the British voters demonstrated once again (just as they did in 1992) that pollsters’ predictions are about as accurate as the predictions of soothsayers and the readers of tea leaves,and should be taken about as seriously. (Nonetheless, I don’t expect journalists any time soon to stop quoting pollsters’ pontifications as if they were holy writ, or politicians to take pollster’s pathetic predictions about taking power seriously.)

And there’s Gorgon—the cup of power has been torn by the voters from his grasp, as expected, but rather then being torn away completely he's now left  (like Tantalus) with the cup so maddeningly close to it that can still smell it and taste its contents, while his former friends wait (like Brutus) for the right moment to plunge their knives into his back.

And Dave.  The British voter has handed Dave the lesson that all his spin doctors wouldn’t: That despite all the pontificating to the contrary about “appealing to the centre,” if you go into an election with nearly identical policies to those of one the most unpopular Prime Minister’s in living memory, then your vote is going to wind up somewhat similar to his.

Why on earth would anyone expect anything different?

So with those thoughts out of the way, on with the Ramble . . .

Picture from DAILY TELEGRAPHClick here to read more ... >>

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Friday, May 07, 2010

BEER O’CLOCK: Oyster Stout- Right Here, Right Now

Malthouse and NOT PC beer correspondent Neil Miller gives praise to the great Three Boys Oyster Stout, a case of which just landed outside my own door courtesy of what I like to call “the perfect client.”  So thanks to that perfect client, I herewith announce the re-launch of our once regular Beer O’Clock posts – Ed.

Oyster Stout- Right Here, Right Now
by Neil Miller

Outside, the seasons are changing. Nights are getting colder, Bluff oysters are flying off the shelves and Magnum PI makes a welcome return to early morning television. To celebrate these auspicious events, Three Boys Brewery has released the 2010 vintage of their much-anticipated Oyster Stout. As the name suggests, it is a stout brewed with the addition of real oysters.

It seemed appropriate to have a chat with the ever urbane and affable brewer, Dr Ralph Bungard, to get his thoughts on what is certainly his most famous beer. The research for this article also turned up an excellent 1995 article from late beer authority Michael Jackson entitled “Heaven sent - downing oysters by the pint.”

Click here to read more ... >>

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The (in)human face of the War on Drugs [updated]

Just for the record, the regular ‘ramble’ will appear tomorrow instead of today.  Among other reasons, it will allow me to include some sharp observations  on the British election.  And it will also give me more time today.

So in the meantime, here’s Charles Darwin.  In his classic The Origin of Species he wrote,

    “I fully subscribe to the judgement of those writers who maintain that of all the differences between man and the lower animals, the moral sense or conscience is by far the most important….  It is the most noble of all the attributes of man…”

Darwin, however, never met the lower animals who are the members of the Missouri SWAT team in the video below.

Imagine the scene: You’re sitting peacefully with your wife and seven-year-old son,  enjoying each other’s company—guilty (perhaps) of no more than having enough cannabis for a smoke later on—when the door is all of a sudden broken down by armed gorillas who burst in, fill the house with bullets, shoot your family pets  (you can hear them being wounded, then shot again in cold blood)—and then they drag you away and charge you with child endangerment!

Says Radley Balko,

    “So smoking pot = ‘child endangerment.’ Storming a home with guns, then firing bullets into the family pets as a child looks on = necessary police procedures to ensure everyone's safety.
    “Just so we're clear…
    “There are 100-150 of these raids every day in America, the vast, vast majority like this one, to serve a warrant for a consensual crime.”

Watch the video if you can because this military-style raid on a peaceful family is done in your name. 

This ladies and gentlemen, is not unusual—this raid, and raids just like them are the order of the day.  Something the sub-human animals—without either moral sense or conscience—are obvously proud of because this is their own official video.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the (in)human face of the War on Drugs.

Watch the video if you can. And keep a drink handy, because it will (or should) leave you shaking with outrage.

[Thanks to Will de Cleene for the hat tip]

UPDATE: Our very own Missouri-Kansas correspondent reports the SWAT raid and the world-wide publicity it has attracted has prompts Columbia police review of policies. [Thanks Robert]

Looks like the review will encompass change to …  wait for it … “[change] department policy to conduct raids immediately after a search warrant is obtained” instead of waiting eight days as in this case.

And just to clarify, “In 2004, the city voted to pass an ordinance that stated: ‘The limited resources of law enforcement should be directed primarily toward crimes of violence or property loss. The enforcement of laws against marijuana shall be among the lower priorities of law enforcement.’"  Hardly sounds like policy is being followed anyway, does it. But people do get hysterical when drugs are involved, don’t they.

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Unemployment: Are those figures credible? [update 2]

While I’m asking you questions about your own experience, how does your own experience gibe with the “seasonally adjusted” unemployment figures released yesterday showing an unprecedented and  frankly enormous drop in unemployment from 7.1% to 6.0%, a drop of 25,000 (from 165,000 to 140,000).

They’d be great news all round if true—but they’ve also been greeted with surprise by many people; and we do know too that the figures are based on surveys, not on raw figures, and that the government departments involved in collecting and calculating the figures have made mistakes with their maths before.  So given this is the largest drop ever in reporting these figures, and that these figures are used by central planners to play around with us (Alan Bollard, for instance, was heard gargling loudly yesterday) there are grounds at least for caution in accepting the figure as real, don’t you think?

So to at least begin measuring the credibility of the figure (and because what we each see in our own business is what we really base business decisions on), how does your own day-to-day experience  fit with the figures? 

Does what you’ve seen tend to support what the figures say?  Or vice versa?

UPDATE 1: Matt Nolan comments at The Visible Hand:

“Labour market improving rapidly. But still weak.
    Yes the labour market is recovering incredibly rapidly.  Yes the labour market is still weak…
    The labour market data is strong than expected, but it is a very backwards looking indicator.  It appears that workers have been willing to take lower wages to get back in the labour market…
    I’d take this as a sign that our labour market is more dynamic, robust, and flexible than I’d previously realised.  That is good.  But it doesn’t mean the NZ economy is on the verge of taking off.

UPDATE 2Lindsay Mitchell kindly sent me a link to a surprisingly sane discussion of the figures with Ganesh Nana of BERL (and I say surprisingly sane because Nana’s BERL is responsible for the fantasy figures used by the Law Commission in their campaign for alcohol wowserism; and for nonsense like the economically bereft claims for building KiwiRail units locally).

Anyway, click here for the audio.

And Lindsay herself observes that unemployment figures quoted are for what’s called the Household Labour Force Survey, “which has its limitations being based on a sample survey. The figure may yet be revised. (The December figure was revised from 7.3 to 7.1).

    “[Meanwhile, the actual] unemployment benefit numbers dropped from 66,328 at the end of Dec 09 to 60,211 at the end of March 2010.   [A drop of just 6,117.]  Yet 1.1 percent of the labour force  represents something like 24,000. I am still waiting for the data that will show many people went off the dole and onto a student allowance … “

So, in a nutshell, the 'official' unemployment rate doesn't  fill Lindsay with optimism either.  How about you?

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Time for a survey! [updated]

Listen up, readers: I have a question for you.

Buried in yesterday’s post on the long-term decline of educational standards was this observation by Professor George Reisman that I’ve been struck by for some time:

    _quoteProperly, by the time a student has completed a college education, his brain should hold the essential content of well over a hundred major books on mathematics, science, history, literature, and philosophy, and do so in a form that is well organized and integrated, so that he can apply this internalized body of knowledge to his perception of everything in the world around him. He should be in a position to enlarge his knowledge of any subject and to express his thoughts on any subject clearly and logically, both verbally and in writing. Yet, as the result of the mis-education provided today, it is now much more often the case that college graduates fulfill the Romantic ideal of being ‘simple, uneducated men.’” [Emphasis mine.]

So here’s the question: I know many of you regular readers have been to college—or as we call it here, university.  How does that gibe with your own experience?

In other words:

How much of the essential content of how many major books did your
brain hold after you graduated?

We all know that many students emerge from universities knowing less than they did when they entered; graduating with heads full of random, unintegrated bites of information, and arguments they’re aware (deep down) they’ve never really mastered.

We know you can leave today's universities without every having heard of the giants of your own field; that you can be given an economics degree having never read (or read of) Adam Smith; or an architecture degree without ever getting to grips with Frank Lloyd Wright; or a philosophy degree without ever even encountering, or wrestling with Aristotle.

We know all that—or do we?

How does your own experience gibe with any or all of these observation?  I’d love to know.

UPDATE: Just to make it easier, why not answer these three questions for me:

a)How many major books were you required to read in your uni course?
b) How much of those did your brain hold after you graduated?
c) How many of the leading figures of your discipline were you introduced to, and in what depth?

For my own part…

a)  I studied at two architecture schools, the first of which (Victoria Uni of Wellington) was lucky to even own one-hundred architecture books. Fortunately, that particular situation was improved at Auckland, though one was more encouraged to read magazines on post-modernism than actual books.  So I’d have to say that I was required to read very few—but between them the Auckland architecture and main libraries allowed me to read several hundred (which somewhat made up for the paucity of the education on offer).

b) I’d like to think I managed to digest them all, but a more integrated (it could hardly have been less) course would have helped.

c)  Aside from historian Russell Walden, the lecturers I encountered at the Wellington school in my day seemed completely unaware that any architects existed apart from Ian Athfield, Roger Walker and the luminaries at the Ministry of Works (yes, possums, that does show my vintage).   And in Auckland, if you didn’t subscribe to a mongrel combination of Le Corbusier and the Deconstructivist-de-jour you might as well have been dead—which pretty much describes the response if any enthusiasm for learning more about Frank Lloyd Wright was shown.

So those are my answers.  How about yours?

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‘A Woman Waits for Me’ – Walt Whitman

Those upset about the finely sculpted genitalia posted here the other day had better look away now, because the rambunctious Uncle Walt’s poetry is being taken out to be read aloud.  Olivia reckons this one in particular is “unequalled in its glorification of earthy romanticism.”

A Woman Waits for Me

A woman waits for me, she contains all, nothing is lacking,
Yet all were lacking if sex were lacking, or if the moisture of the
right man were lacking.
Sex contains all, bodies, souls,
Meanings, proofs, purities, delicacies, results, promulgations,
Songs, commands, health, pride, the maternal mystery, the seminal milk,
All hopes, benefactions, bestowals, all the passions, loves,
beauties, delights of the earth,
All the governments, judges, gods, follow'd persons of the earth,
These are contain'd in sex as parts of itself and justifications of itself.

Without shame the man I like knows and avows the deliciousness of his sex,
Without shame the woman I like knows and avows hers.

Now I will dismiss myself from impassive women,
I will go stay with her who waits for me, and with those women that
are warm-blooded and sufficient for me,
I see that they understand me and do not deny me,
I see that they are worthy of me, I will be the robust husband of
those women.

They are not one jot less than I am,
They are tann'd in the face by shining suns and blowing winds,
Their flesh has the old divine suppleness and strength,
They know how to swim, row, ride, wrestle, shoot, run, strike,
retreat, advance, resist, defend themselves,
They are ultimate in their own right--they are calm, clear,
well-possess'd of themselves.

I draw you close to me, you women,
I cannot let you go, I would do you good,
I am for you, and you are for me, not only for our own sake, but for
others' sakes,
Envelop'd in you sleep greater heroes and bards,
They refuse to awake at the touch of any man but me.

It is I, you women, I make my way,
I am stern, acrid, large, undissuadable, but I love you,
I do not hurt you any more than is necessary for you,
I pour the stuff to start sons and daughters fit for these States, I
press with slow rude muscle,
I brace myself effectually, I listen to no entreaties,
I dare not withdraw till I deposit what has so long accumulated within me.

Through you I drain the pent-up rivers of myself,
In you I wrap a thousand onward years,
On you I graft the grafts of the best-beloved of me and America,
The drops I distil upon you shall grow fierce and athletic girls,
new artists, musicians, and singers,
The babes I beget upon you are to beget babes in their turn,
I shall demand perfect men and women out of my love-spendings,
I shall expect them to interpenetrate with others, as I and you
inter-penetrate now,
I shall count on the fruits of the gushing showers of them, as I
count on the fruits of the gushing showers I give now,
I shall look for loving crops from the birth, life, death,
immortality, I plant so lovingly now.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Smoking out the alleged statisticians

CARTOON BY JOHN COX ARTHere’s a more than appropriate cartoon above (from John Cox Art) to accompany Eric Crampton’s pursuit of the sudden, explosive* rise in estimates of the “social cost” of tobacco from the 2007 estimate which put the cost of $300 to $350 million per annum; to the current and still-to-be- substantiated work somewhere within the bowels of the Ministry of Health that suggests, for no good reason, that the figure has now jumped to be “as high as $1 to $1.6 billion per annum.”

Given that sudden jump is being used to justify the sudden inordinate hike in taxes on poor smokers, you think there’s maybe some politics going on here?

Keep up with Eric’s pursuit through his Tobacco posts.  The denouement promises to be good.

And make sure too to congratulate him and Mrs Eric while you’re there on the birth of their new bundle of sleeplessness joy—the announcement of which must be among the most anti-climactic ever.  (“Only an economist…” etc.)

* * * * *

*Yes, I know: if it’s explosive it must by definition be sudden.  But how else to explain the inflation of tobacco costs by one billion dollars in one year except by an inflationary use of words?

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UK: Adults & Children

As Britons ready themselves to vote their own country into bankruptcy—whichever of the big-spenders they chose to vote for, that result will almost certainly be the same – Liberty Scott reflects on a fact that seems to explain the self-destruction: an electorate seemingly comprised of only two kinds of people: adults and children:

What the UK election will tell you about Britain.

Read it, it’s good.  And it goes for us too.

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Acropolis Now!

“"We have the makings of a market crisis here."
- Neil Mackinnon, global macro strategist at VTB Capital.

This is more than just a market crisis.

CLICK FOR STORYGreece is now learning that bad economics kills--and the world is now learning with it that economic reality cannot be faked indefinitely.

The decades-long economically unsustainable experiment of the welfare state has now run headlong into the economically unaffordable consequences of government stimulunacy—government spending based almost wholly on the economically bankrupt notion that all the world’s governments will be able to borrow all the world’s money and somehow pull the world out of the valley of the shadow of depression and lead us back to another faked prosperity.

CLICK FOR STORYAnd the eleven-year experiment of a common European currency is close to collapse too, punctured by the very contradiction at its heart: that the prosperous European nations (which now just means Germany)will not indefinitely bail out and backstop the profligate policies of Europe’s unproductive welfare states (which now includes all of Europe).

This is more than just a collapse of one market.  It’s a collapse of economic theory.

The experiments are over, and now all serious students of markets need to learn that Keynes was wrong: that prosperity does not come out of the manipulation of government deficits and the printing presses of a central bank. Only penury lies that way.

But will the lessons be learned . . . ?

Will they be learned in time?

Will they be learned at all?

Further commentary below on the breakdown of Greece, and the world’s economics with it.

  • Who's on the Hook for the IMF's Greek Bailout? – WALL STREET JOURNAL
    So who’s gonna pay for it all?  Who could?
  • Street Fighting Man  - DOUG CASEY
    Investment guru Doug Casey predicts civil unrest world-wide as the Greater Depression takes hold.
  • Is This Our Moving Equilibrium? European Edition – PETER BOETTKE
    This cycle of deficit, debt and debasement is the "juggling trick" that Adam Smith identified as the circus act that all governments ancient and modern engage in, unless they are effectively constrained from doing so…
    What makes us think our current situation in the US is any different from the situation in Europe, let alone the cycle of deficit, debt, and debasement that Smith identified so long ago? … Is our moving equilibrium what we are currently seeing in Europe?  If so, isn't our current policy path simply moving us quicker along that path?  Stare at the graphic, shouldn't that make all policy makers and intellectuals wake up from their intellectual complacency?
  • Sitting at the table together – RUSS ROBERTS
    Rescuing Greece isn’t the end of the problem, it’s more akin to the Bear Stearns rescue of March 2008. It’s just the beginning of something that won’t end well.
  • Let Greece Default  - JEFFREY MIRON
    A bailout … does nothing to fix the misguided policies that have generated Greece's existing debt and ongoing deficits. Bailout therefore merely postpones the day of reckoning. Worse, bailout both rewards Greece's bad past behavior and encourages such behavior in future. Greece will never change its misguided policies if the E.U. and IMF infuse it with new cash, just as no teenager who has overspent an allowance will reform if the parents merely expand that allowance. Thus bailout merely transfers resources from other nations to Greece.
  • Is this the end of the euro? Or just credit crunch mark II? - IBN
    Maybe, the great sovereign debt crisis that we had been warned to expect months ago, is at last beginning to make itself felt.
  • Currency Crisis.  - JIM ROGERS
    The currency crisis has been going on for a while. It did not start this week. It has been happening for a while.
  • Where Greece went wrong – MARGINAL REVOLUTION
    ….monetary policy was dominated by the need to finance fiscal expansion.
  • Merkel’s Coalition Calls for EU ‘Orderly’ Defaults; Spain Prime Minister says Speculation of a Bailout for Spain is “Complete Madness” – MISH’S ECONOMIC ANALYSIS
    "Orderly defaults" has a nice ring to it. Somehow I suspect when Greece defaults it will be anything but orderly. Nonetheless it is interesting to hear the word default bantered about so soon after an announcement of a $145 billion bailout for Greece.
  • Is this the end of the Euro? – YARON BROOK on PJTV
    The amount of money necessary to bail Greece out is ever-growing … and it’s not clear where that money is going to come from.
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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Rise and Fall of Hope and Change

RiseAndFall

Do yourself a favour, and click on this link here to see the full-size, fully-interactive image--Move your cursor over heads of the people in the image, for example, and you can find out salacious details appropriate to the vermin depicted.

Like Edward Cline, I don’t normally enjoy seeing great art cheapened for polemic purposes, but this time it has a suitable and appropriate purpose.

    “In it one encounters a broad statement that encapsulates the character and destiny of his whole administration, which is fated to be a one-term wonder. It is called ‘The Rise and Fall of Hope and Change,’ and is an alteration of French artist Thomas Couture’s finely detailed and lively fresco, “The Romans During the Decadence” (1847). ‘Rise and Fall’ captures the literal orgy of the mindless and drunken character of the current Washington regime in a way no other poster art about Obama has. Coulture’s painting hangs in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris. . . .
    “Is the painting offensive to Obama or to his loyal admirers? Perhaps. It concretizes -- relying on artistic skills no longer evident in our culture -- the essential corruption and brazen insouciance of Obama and his extraordinarily large clique of office-holders and allies in Congress and in the mainstream media. This clique has been successful in abrogating the Constitution and violating the individual rights of Americans at home and abroad (re the concerted hunt by the Treasury Department for ‘illegal’ offshore wealth and bringing American expatriates to ‘justice’). Offending Obama and his “believers in change,“ however, is far less important than distilling and expressing the anger of all who have been offended and, hurt and condemned by him and his clique.

The circus around Obama is of a piece with the circus of freeloading meddlers around Franklin Roosevelt—and in Rome at the the time of its decline.

This captures that.

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Students working less hard. But don’t blame the students… [updated]

I don’t know about you, but I was fascinated to hear this news this morning. American research, said to be reflected here in New Zealand, indicates that university students are working less hard now than they were around half a century ago. Says the Radio NZ report:

    _quote Figures indicate that a decline in study hours among university students in the United States has been mirrored in New Zealand.
    “Research from the University of California found students in 1961 spent an average 40 hours per week on academic work, including attending lectures.
    “By this decade, the average time spent on studying had fallen to 27 hours.
    “An education consultant, Dave Guerin, says figures for the same period in New Zealand are similar.”

Says the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

    _quoteThe authors figure that 21st-century students spend an average of 10 hours fewer every week studying than their 1961 counterparts. Over the course of a four-year college career, that would add up to something like 1,500 fewer hours spent hitting the books… From the paper: ‘The large decline in academic time investment is an important pattern its own right, and one that motivates future research into underlying causes.’"

I would have thought the underlying causes were obvious—that if you’re at all surprised to hear any of this that you just haven’t been paying attention.

Over the last half-century or more the emphasis in education has been to de-emphasise the importance of knowledge, of memorisation, of actual learning—of making as few demands on students brains as possible—of filling their heads with as few facts as possible—of demanding less and less of them while grading them higher and higher—so I’m not sure why anybody would be surprised to hear they’ve been spending less time having to fill their heads.

Reisman001 (As just one example of this trend, when a long-established international Montessori teacher-training course was in the process of being accredited by NZQA to be delivered here New Zealand, the gurus of NZQA expressed horror that the course required of students around forty hours per week in class, with at least a dozen more non-contact hours. This despite the course having been successfully delivered worldwide since 1929)

Curricula without content and courses making few demands on their students—that’s been the dominant trend now for years.  And curricula without content and courses unencumbered by facts have succeeded in delivering students without real learning—and without any need to spend hours on the laborious task of memorising anything beyond what they need for the next open-book exam.

We’ve all seen them, haven’t we: those empty-headed graduates of today’s universities who seem to know less than they did when they entered; emerging unable to understand, or even to articulate, the leading principles of their chosen discipline—or the leading historical figures who developed that discipline—or the facts on which their discipline is based. 

These empty-headed know-nothings all around us are no accident, because in teaching today’s students, today’s teachers have been explicitly devoted to delivering education without any content, and with few real demands on students.

Consider, as just one example of this, the state's new high-school education curriculum, introduced last year in all schools public and private right across the country. It is quite literally the curriculum you have when you don't have a curriculum: it is explicitly a curriculum without content. At the time of its introduction its cheerleaders proudly boasted it “focuses on the process of learning, rather than content"; that “it will teach pupils how to hold a conversation or ask for help rather than remember facts, historic dates or periodic tables." Who needs to learn pesky facts, they crowed, when you can download all the facts you need at the push of a keyboard button.  We don’t teach facts anymore, they say, we teach “involvement.”

    _quoteFor example, social science students will be marked for taking action to make their community a better place to live, rather than remembering facts about a society on the other side of the world. Science students might be tested on whether they know how to design an experiment, rather than whether they remember what the result should be. Mary Chamberlain, overseeing the project for the Education Ministry, says that although people are ‘rattled’ by the changes, ‘there's no use (students) being little knowledge banks walking around on legs. We've got computers, we don't need people walking around with them in their heads... People just have to get used to that.’"

People have got used to that. We know that most of today’s students are precisely the opposite of “knowledge banks on legs”—and they are that way because of the failure of alleged educators like Mary Chamberlain—a leading example of the empty-headed educational model she herself upholds.

But Chamberlain and the mis-educators of today are nothing new: this process has been going on for years–-just as this latest news of the results of mis-education would suggest.

Writing in The Free Radical a couple of years ago George Reisman (who would have been in that 1961 cohort himself) summed up the trend:

_quoteWith little exaggeration, the whole of contemporary education can be described as a process of encumbering the student’s mind with as little knowledge as possible."

That, right there, is the problem.

Trends like this do not emerge fully grown. Reisman explains where this nonsense comes from, and what has already been the result. Settle back and read his incisive dissection of modern mis-education. It's good:

    _quoteIt is sometimes observed that most of today’s high school and college graduates have very little education in science and mathematics and thus do not understand and cannot properly appreciate modern technology. There is considerable merit in these observations, but the problem goes much deeper. Namely, from the earliest grades, the prevailing methodology of contemporary education systematically encourages irrational skepticism ...

REisman002 The prevailing methodology of all education across all disciplines is the same: it considers facts to be unimportant, leaving students prey to the irrational skepticism we also see all around us. 

But today’s mis-educators insist that facts are unnecessary; students need to keep their heads clear in order to be creative.  (This is the direct result of the mis-educators and ‘Romantic’ philosophers to whom they subscribe.)

But the fact remains: if your head is empty, what do you have to be creative with?

The problem can be seen when we compare today’s high-school curriculum (whose methodology is replicated across the sector) with what good education actually should look like.

     _quoteNow, properly, education is a process by means of which students internalize knowledge: they mentally absorb it through observation and proof, and repeated application. Memorization, deduction, and problem solving must constantly be involved. The purpose is to develop the student’s mind—to provide him with an instantaneously available storehouse of knowledge and thus an increasingly powerful mental apparatus that he will be able to use and further expand throughout his life. Such education, of course, requires hard work from the student.”

But hard work is now unfashionable. Students have got that message.  But hard work is what good educaiton requires.

    _quoteSeen from a physiological perspective, it may be that what the process of education requires of the student through his exercises is an actual imprinting of his brain. Yet … contemporary education is fundamentally opposed to these essentials of education. It draws a distinction between ‘problem solving,’ which it views as ‘creative’ and claims to favor, and ‘memorization,’ which it appears to regard as an imposition on the students, whose valuable, executive-level time, it claims, can be better spent in ‘problem solving.’ Contemporary education thus proceeds on the assumption that the ability to solve problems is innate, or at least fully developed before the child begins school. It perceives its job as allowing the student to exercise his native problem-solving abilities, while imposing on him as little as possible of the allegedly unnecessary and distracting task of memorization.
    “In the elementary grades, this approach is expressed in such attitudes as that it is not really necessary for students to go to the trouble of memorizing the multiplication tables if the availability of pocket calculators can be taken for granted which they know how to use; or go to the trouble of memorizing facts of history and geography, if the ready availability of books and atlases containing the facts can be taken for granted, which facts the students know how to look up when the need arises. In college and graduate courses, this approach is expressed in the phenomenon of the ‘open-book examination,’ in which satisfactory performance is supposedly demonstrated by the ability to use a book as a source of information, proving once again that the student knows how to find the information when he needs it.
    “With little exaggeration, the whole of contemporary education can be described as a process of encumbering the student’s mind with as little knowledge as possible. The place for knowledge, it seems to believe, is in external sources—books and libraries—which the student knows how to use when necessary. Its job, its proponents believe, is not to teach the students knowledge but ‘how to acquire knowledge’—not to teach them facts and principles, which it holds quickly become ‘obsolete,’ but to teach them ‘how to learn.’
    “Its job, its proponents openly declare, is not to teach geography, history, mathematics, science, or any other subject, including reading and writing, but to teach ‘Johnny’—to teach Johnny how he can allegedly go about learning the facts and principles it declares are not important enough to teach and which it thus gives no incentive to learn and provides the student with no means of learning.
    “The results of this type of education are visible in the hordes of students who, despite years of schooling, have learned virtually nothing, and who are least of all capable of thinking critically and solving problems. When such students read a newspaper, for example, they cannot read it in the light of a knowledge of history or economics— they do not know history or economics; history and economics are out there in the history and economics books, which, they were taught, they can ‘look up, if they need to.’
    “They cannot even read it in the light of elementary arithmetic, for they have little or no internally automated habits of doing arithmetic. Having little or no knowledge of the elementary facts of history and geography, they have no way even of relating one event to another in terms of time and place. Such students, and, of course, the adults such students become, are chronically in the position in which to be able to use the knowledge they need to use, they would first have to go out and acquire it. Not only would they have to look up relevant facts, which they already should know, and now may have no way even of knowing they need to know, but they would first have to read and understand books dealing with abstract principles, and to understand those books, they would first have to read other such books, and so on. In short, they would first have to acquire the education they already should have had.”

And that’s the major problem of the education students are receiving today. To know what we’re talking about, we need to have integrated our knowledge.  But to integrate our knowledge, the content of knowledge needs to be in our heads, not just out there in cyberspace.

And to put it there requires hours of study, and many, many hours of reading and thinking—reading and thinking that just isn’t being done now.

    _quoteProperly, by the time a student has completed a college education, his brain should hold the essential content of well over a hundred major books on mathematics, science, history, literature, and philosophy, and do so in a form that is well organized and integrated, so that he can apply this internalized body of knowledge to his perception of everything in the world around him. He should be in a position to enlarge his knowledge of any subject and to express his thoughts on any subject clearly and logically, both verbally and in writing. Yet, as the result of the miseducation provided today, it is now much more often the case that college graduates fulfill the Romantic ideal of being ‘simple, uneducated men.’

Such a process of miseducation is so far advanced that few now really see it--particularly not those already mis-educated; or those like Ms Chamberlain who’ve been doing the mis-educating.  It’s only when concrete research like that published today highlights some part of the problem that some awareness of there being a problem is in evidence.  In all other respects, parents and students alike are simply blind to what's happening right underneath their noses.

No wonder the prevailing worldview today is one of irrational skepticism (for evidence of that look at any blog comments thread, and the membership of the Green party).

    _quoteContemporary education is responsible for the growing prevalence of irrational skepticism. The students subjected to it do not acquire actual knowledge. They have no firm foundation in a base of memorized facts and they have not acquired any solid knowledge of principles because their education has avoided as far as possible the painstaking processes of logical proof and repeated application of principles, which latter constitutes a vital and totally legitimate form of memorization. Such students go through school ‘by the seat of their pants.’ They are forever ‘winging it.’ And that is how they go through life as adults.
Reisman003     “It is impossible for them to have genuine understanding of anything that is beyond the realm of their daily experience, and even of that, only on a superficial level. To such people, almost everything must appear as an arbitrary assertion, taken on faith. For their education has made them unfit to understand how things are actually known. Their failure to memorize such things as the multiplication tables in their childhood, makes it impossible for them to understand whatever directly depends on such knowledge, which, in turn, makes it impossible for them to acquire the further knowledge that depends on that knowledge, and soon. With each passing year of their education, they fall further behind.
    “Ironically, their failure to memorize what it is appropriate to memorize ends up putting them in a position in which to pass examinations, they have no other means than out-of-context memorization—that is, memorization lacking any foundation in logical connection and proof. Because they have never memorized fundamental facts, and thus have no basis for developing genuine understanding of all that depends on those facts, they are placed in the position in which to pass examinations they must attempt to memorize out-of-context conclusions.
    “It is because of this that a growing proportion of what they learn as the years pass has the status in their minds of arbitrary assertions. They are chronically in the mental state of having no good reason for most or almost all of what they believe. Thus, in their context of actual ignorance masked by pretended knowledge, they are prime targets for irrational skepticism. To them, in their mental state, doubt of everything can only seem perfectly natural. Such students, such adults, are easy targets for a doctrine such as ‘environmentalism.’
    “They are totally unprepared intellectually to resist any irrational trend and more than willing to leap on the bandwagon of one that caters to their uncertainties and fears. Environmentalism does this by blaming the stresses of their life on the existence of an industrial society and holding out the prospect of an intellectually undemanding and thus seemingly stress-free pastoral existence, one which is allegedly ‘in harmony with nature.’ The destructive work of contemporary education carried on against the development of students’ conceptual abilities from the earliest grades on is compounded, as their education advances to the higher grades, by the teaching of a whole collection of irrationalist doctrines that constitute the philosophical substance of contemporary liberal arts education... These doctrines constitute a systematic attack on reason and its role in human life...

… and the result has been the befouling of both human life and human thought.

    _quote[The] methodology of contemporary education [has] totally fouled the ‘intellectual mainstream.’ The kind of education I have described—if it can still be called education, consisting as it does of an unremitting assault on the rational faculty and every rational value—is responsible for the hordes of graduates turned out over the last decades who have had no conception of the meaning and value of [for example] the Constitution and history of the United States, of the meaning and value of Western civilization itself, or indeed of the meaning and value of membership in the human race.
    “It has been responsible for the decline in the quality of government…, as, unavoidably, many such mis-educated graduates have found their way into the halls of Congress and the state legislatures, and into major offices in all the other branches of government, and, of course, into all the various branches of the news media and publishing... Thus, in what may prove to be the greatest tragedy in all of human existence, we see at the end of more than two centuries of man’s most dazzling success, the proliferation of heirs who as adults possess less than the mentalities of children. We see a culture of reason and science being transformed before our eyes into one which more and more resembles a culture of primitive men.

Students working fewer hours to achieve their degrees are a symptom, not a cause.  But since those students are our heirs, the lack of content in their brains caused by their lack of study—caused itself by the fundamental tenets of the mis-educators—will undoubtedly continue to be the cause of increasingly irrational skepticism, and and increasing decline in our civilisation.

Which is why it’s with education that our battle for civilisation really starts.

UPDATE: Education consultant Dave Guerin, who was quoted in Radio NZ’s report, offers the basis on his blog for saying NZ’s figures are similar: Are Students Lazier or More Productive?

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DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Anti-industrialists unite, you have nothing to lose but our wealth

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

This week, nannies who stop life, living, and everybody’s chance at health, wealth and happiness.

  1. “Nanny bullies forecourt attendants” – What an insult to service station staff – they can’t be trusted to check tyre pressures, and top up the water or oil. But filling cars with highly flammable petroleum distillate is also potentially hazardous so that surely will be the next task they won’t be allowed to do. That doesn’t really leave much else to do on the forecourt, does it?
    Inside the service station, selling hot coffee will also have to stop – staff might get scalded with boiling water. Interesting that car owners are still permitted to check tyre pressures and engine fluid levels themselves, despite the risk. And most modern cars have plastic water reservoirs that don’t release steam when the cap is removed, so that potential problem is now redundant.
    These “health and safety” regulations will further dumb down the employees of service stations until they become little more than checkout operators – not that I have anything against the latter, but there was once a time when a forecourt attendant needed to have a rudimentary knowledge of motor mechanics.
    “Health and safety” is right – keep the population ignorant and they’ll be safe for Nanny State socialism.
  2. “Cabinet cowers to the sandal wearers – John-Boy’s National Socialist cabinet fail to back a suggestion by Gerry Brownlee and Kate Wilkinson to mine half a million hectares of Crown land. What a surprise. Labour’s David Parker correctly surmised that National are backtracking so quickly that one can smell the burning rubber.
    Green token-female co-leader Metiria Turei also hit the nail on the head, noting that this is a government that likes to be liked. In other words, this government is a populist administration that notices the squeaky wheel and which way the wind is blowing and cares not a whit for things such as principles. With a few exceptions, National’s cabinet has the backbone of a giant squid.
    Even Gerry Brownlee accepts “that’s the end of the story.” I wonder how hard he fought to mine these mineral-rich areas.
    So, New Zealand misses out on valuable export dollars and the government must find some other way of paying off its growing debt. Spending cuts would be the best way. Stop paying people to breed and to laze around on the couch. Privatize everything except the justice system, police and armed forces. Let New Zealanders spend their own money. When people are spending their own money, they tend to be a lot more frugal than politicians.
  3. “Green nutbars hate dairy farmers – A whole lot of people, most of them sucking at the State tit, want to stop other New Zealanders from establishing dairy farms. The excuse they use for this anti-capitalist sentiment is the threat to “biodiversity.”
    Well, the legitimate way of preventing someone using land for a purpose with which you don’t agree is to buy the piece of land in question yourself, so that you can establish your own priorities for the use of that land. But don’t try and stop other people from using land which they own or for which they have legal authority to use for their own development.
    The worst polluters and defilers of land are totalitarian governments, and the greater the private ownership of land and freedom in its use, the cleaner and greener that land tends to be.
    Biodiversity, as I see it, is not an objective value. It is a priority for some people, but if they feel that strongly about the issue, they should start saving their pennies and establish their own private reserves to foster and promote native species. The best thing is, it would be safe from government interference, especially from Tory ministers who might want to mine it.

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

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‘Hercules the Archer’ – Antoine Bourdelle

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A student to sculptor Auguste Rodin, and mentor to mythologist Joseph Campbell, Bourdelle’s modelling of Hercules in his sixth labour dramatically captures the hero’s brutal power and almost inhuman determination.

1107964446_e2e738b60c_b The Musee d’Orsay website describes it:

    “Not only the hero's victory over the monsters, but also Bourdelle's victory over his own high-spirited inspiration, this work is remarkable both for its tension and for its balanced construction. The dynamics come from the interaction of solids and voids, brutal force and balance. The nude figure denotes power, high-strung energy, pulled taut between the arm bending the bow and the foot braced against the rock. The references to primitive Greek sculpture and Roman art – the almond shaped eyes, the nose extending in a straight line from the forehead, jutting cheekbones and brows – act as catalyst for a modern approach.”

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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Why a Resource Tax is Resource Theft

Australian mining is currently keeping the Australian economy afloat (and by extension, ours), and Australian mining stocks are among the largest resource stocks on the London stock exchange.  So K.Rudd’s plan to “soak the miners” affects more than just Perth-based industrialists and shareholders in BHP.  Kris Sayce from Money Morning Australia explains why the K.Rudd’s resource tax is a resource theft.  Gerry Brownlee, take note.

Why a Resource Tax is Resource Theft 

by Kris Sayce_Kris_Sayce

There’s a lot of noise flying around about the publication of Emperor Ken Henry’s Australian tax review on Sunday.

But let’s get one thing straight. Behind all the sound bites about “helping battlers” and “ensuring the rich pay their way” and “closing loopholes” and “making tax returns easier”, the ultimate objective is for the government to increase the amount of tax it takes from you.

When the government says it wants to make the tax system more efficient, it means that it wants to make it more efficient for it to take your money.

When the government says it wants you to be able to lodge your tax return with the click of a mouse, it means it wants to make it easier and quicker for the government to take your cash.
There is zero chance of the tax burden on Australians being reduced as a result of the Emperor’s tax review.

Unfortunately we don’t know what’s in the review yet, that will be released on Sunday. But one of the hot topics is the supposed resource rent tax. It’s the idea that mining companies could be taxed up to 40% of their profits. And that this would replace state royalties and the corporate tax rate.

What will that mean to Australia’s resources companies? According to Digger’s & Drillers editor Dr. Alex Cowie:
    “Miners currently have a 30% corporate tax rate, with state production royalties of 2-8% on top. The theory goes that the review would scrap both taxes, and replace them with a single 40% tax rate. Those companies already paying higher royalties, such as coal producers, would be less affected by the change than those companies paying lower royalties, such as gold producers.
   
“We will hopefully get better clarification on how this works on Sunday. More tax on mining companies would clearly be a disaster for investors. One analyst at Merrill Lynch estimated this would reduce Rio’s profit by 30%. However this big effect is mostly due to the low (mates-rates) royalties Rio currently pays.
   
“Looking on the bright side, there are a few obstacles in the way of the proposed tax changes. Realistically, the state governments would first all need to agree to give up their royalties, which would be about as easy as rounding up a room full of cats. WA’s premier, Colin Barnett, is getting ready to defend his state’s royalties with a good punch-up with Kev if he has to. The resource sector is not taking the proposed tax very kindly either.”
But not surprisingly, the collectivists such as the trade unions think a resource tax is a wonderful idea. As Tony Maher, the top commissar of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Workers’ Union (CFMEU) told the ABC:
    “This is a tax on the super profits, the profits above and beyond a normal or generous rate of return… They should share some of the billions they are making with the community.”
He goes on:
    “Everybody knows that no-one likes to pay tax, but they have to pay a tax on the resources that are owned by the Australian people that they make squillions [sic] out of. It is only fair and it is the smart thing to do. Other countries have sovereign wealth funds. This is the opportunity for the Australian people to have a sovereign wealth fund that can pay dividends after the minerals are gone.”
We’ve chosen these quotes because they contain everything that is wrong about the socialist and mainstream approach to economics.

We’ll look at the key points that Commissar Maher raises. Although we’ll point out that he isn’t the only one with this view. And we’ll also point out that it isn’t just the ’socialist socialists’ that adopt this view either. It’s the ‘conservative socialists’ that take pretty much the same line.

So, let’s take a look at the first point, the idea that “This is a tax on the super profits, the profits above and beyond a normal or generous rate of return.”

Our simple question is, if current profits are “above and beyond” what the socialists determine to be a normal rate of return, what level do they consider to be a normal rate of return?

Is a profit of $1 billion too much? What about $990 million? Or $826 million? Would that be OK?
And who determines what that profit level should be? Do these control freaks envision a panel of [hehem] experts setting profit levels for specific industries?

Retailers can make X amount of profits. Miners can make Y amount of profits. And chemists can make Z amount of profits.

But then what happens to a diversified company such as Wesfarmers?

It’s clearly a lot of nonsense.

What Mr. Maher and others fail to appreciate is that there’s no such thing as a “normal” rate of return. There’s no such thing as a “normal” profit. “Normal” profits only occur in the mythical world of a planned economy.

Except that in those circumstances, the profits aren’t real anyway.

A profit only occurs if consumers are prepared to pay more than what it costs the company to produce the product. A profit level can’t be arbitrarily set by a Profit Tsar.

If consumers don’t believe a certain product is worth the price set by the company then consumers won’t buy it. The company will have to reduce its price. And sometimes it may have to reduce the price so much that it makes a loss.

Maybe in the world of trade unionists they’d prefer that companies didn’t make any profit. But then of course what would be the incentive for the entrepreneur to go into business in the first place?

These so-called super profits merely indicate that buyers are prepared to pay up for something they want. It’s a bit like housing right now. Buyers are prepared to pay ever higher amounts for a house.

There isn’t much different as far as we can see. Except one – resources – has an end use, whereas the other – housing – is bought simply in the belief it can be sold at a higher price to someone else.

But in both cases the boom won’t last. The housing market will crash and burn. And China will crash and burn too.

Both are inevitable. But that’s a different story…

So, the fact is, there’s no such thing as a normal profit level.

What about the next part of Commissar Maher’s statement, “They should share some of the billions they are making with the community… they have to pay a tax on the resources that are owned by the Australian people…”

Sayce001
We have to say that those comments are the biggest load of hogwash there is. But again, Maher and the union movement aren’t the only ones to say it. The idea that all Australians own the natural resources in Australia is engrained in people across the country.

But is that really the case? Do you really own 1/22,000,000th of BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam project in South Australia?

Do you really own 1/22,000,000th of Bow Energy’s coal seam gas fields in Queensland, or Woodside’s gas fields on the North West Shelf?

Of course not. You no more own 1/22,000,000th of the natural resources of Australia than do you own 1/22,000,000th of your neighbour’s backyard.

Just because Western Australia has a whole bunch of iron ore and copper several hundred metres below the surface doesn’t make it the property of the nation.

I mean, what have you or I done about all the natural resources buried deep underground in Western Australia? It’s not as though we’ve been in any hurry to raise millions of dollars in capital, pick up a shovel and head west. Well, maybe you have, but your editor hasn’t.

The fact is, the natural resources that are underground are owned by no-one. They only become someone’s property when an individual or an organisation invests the capital to recover them.

At that point it’s their property and they should reap the rewards of taking the risks. After all, how many explorers spend millions and billions searching for a resource only to strike dirt or water? The Australian Stock Exchange is littered with zombie miners perennially searching the outback for one big find.

Think about it, why should your editor take a 1/22,000,000th stake in Fortescue Metal’s iron ore mine when we’ve not done one single thing to earn it?

But let’s look at it this way. Let’s say a 40% tax is introduced on resource company’s profits. That means the “nation” supposedly gets 40% of the profits and the company and its investors keep 60%.
If we’re talking about having a fair tax system, how is that fair? The resources explorer only gets to keep just over half of the returns yet it’s the resources explorer and its investors that have taken all the risks.

The explorer will have spent millions of dollars searching for the resource. It will have spent millions more trying to recover the resource and then processing it. And then when all that’s done, the government steps in and says, “Thanks, we’ll take 40%. And if you don’t hand over the cash we’ll send you to jail. So pay up sucker!”

What has the government done for the money? Nothing. And what have you or I done, each as 1/22,000,000th owners? Nothing.

And as for the idea that resources companies should share the bounty with the community. Well, they already do that. They employ people to work at the mines. Those people don’t offer their labour for free, they demand a wage in return.

Then there’s the allied services that benefit from the exploration of the resource. And we’re talking real investment here, not a sham investment of building a school gym or a new hospital wing.

Not to mention other beneficiaries in the community. Such as steel makers who need iron ore. Or construction firms who need steel. Or electricity installers who need buildings to install wiring.

That’s what real investment provides to a community.

Of course, we suppose the nanny-staters wouldn’t get that. They’re too busy believing that money can just be printed to build stuff rather than wealth being created through real investment.

And don’t forget, you can draw a straight line from the mining sector all the way through to personal taxation. The government does the same with your income.

It would seem that if we use the same standards applied by Maher to the mining industry then the same standards must apply to your income. That is, that each Australian owns 1/22,000,000th of your income.

That’s why at the end of each week you only get to keep about 60% or 70% of the money you make. The rest is syphoned off to be shared by the community.

Finally, what about the idea of a sovereign wealth fund, “This is the opportunity for the Australian people to have a sovereign wealth fund that can pay dividends after the minerals are gone.”

Sayce002Again, it’s the idea that money should be taken from you and given to the government to invest. Supposedly on your behalf. In reality it’s on the behalf of the government and its cronies.

Unfortunately, a sovereign wealth fund is undoubtedly on the cards. It’s the next logical step for Australia’s superannuation system. As we pointed out yesterday, it’s all about taking away control from the individual and placing it in the hands of “experts” and bureaucrats.

Make no mistake, Australia and all Western nations are heading down the same path of self destruction. It’s an economy where entrepreneurialism, initiative and effort are despised, frowned upon and penalised by coercive governments.

And where the mainstream view decrees that entrepreneurialism, initiative and effort are surplus to requirements because as Prof. Kriesler from the Australian School of Business reminds us, “printing money as a way to increase demand is a good move.”

Why go to all the trouble of exploring for minerals in the middle of a desert when the government can just print money and use coercive means to take it from its citizens instead.

I don’t know about you, but it’s pretty clear which one provides a real benefit to the economy and which one is a money printing, inflation loving parasite.

Cheers.
Kris.

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QUOTE FOR THE DAY: On Belief

    _Quote Why should one be ‘considerate’ to a another’s deeply held beliefs, when one knows them to be irrational and rife with fallacies?  Consideration implies respect for the irrational, which sabotages one’s respect for the rational. It puts them on the same footing. The rational earns one’s respect; the irrational invites disrespect and mockery.”
                                                            - Edward Cline, in ‘Our Poster Boys for Censorship

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Tobacco taxes + disarmed shop-owners = an invitation to violence [updated]

We haven’t needed to wait long to see the results of virtual prohibition and the disarmament of dairy owners.

Just last week many of us pointed out that the combined effect of last week’s usurious tax-grab on smokers and of laws that prohibit dairy-owners from defending themselves would be catastrophic.  Sadly, we’ve only had to wait a few days to see the first catastrophe:

    Dairy Robbed at Gunpoint
    “Four masked men have robbed a Palmerston North dairy at gunpoint, threatening the owners and an elderly customer….They stole the cash register and a quantity of tobacco before fleeing and eluding a police cordon…
    “The Association of Community Retailers (ACR) today linked the robbery with the Government's sudden hike in tobacco tax last week.
    "' ‘They don't need to rob a bank for a mere $5000 when it's easier to rob a dairy of double that amount of value in tobacco products,’ said tobacco spokesman Richard Green.”

This government, like the last one, seems intent on making New Zealand a less safe and and less free place in which to live and work.  And they are succeeding.

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1 architect, one 32sqm apartment, 24 different layouts!

The layouts include kitchen, library, laundry room, dressing room, a lounge with a hammock, a home theatre with big screen, an enclosed dining area, a bathroom (with tub) and a wet bar.

Each arrangement is made possibly by a perimeter containing a wealth of cunningly designed and easily transformed pieces of multi-use furniture, and a series of ‘moving walls’ slung from ceiling tracks, each with its own cunningly designed accoutrements, that slide across to redefine and remodel the space.

It’s astonishingly ingenious.

Head here to see plans and diagrams. and here to see architect Gary Chang’s presentation of his tiny yet large Hong Kong apartment at a Tokyo Pecha Kucha event last year.

[PS: Thanks, Sandrine, for the heads up.]

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Monday, May 03, 2010

Just a bigoted state [update 4]

The only honest line British Prime-Minister-in-absentia Gordon Brown has ever been heard to utter  came last week when he told aides that a women who had just taken the opportunity to confide in him about the evils of Eastern-European immigrants was “just a bigoted woman.”

And so she was.

Cross the Atlantic now to Arizona, where a bigoted state now requires everyone to carry around their birth certificate, just so they aren’t mistaken for someone who’s living and working in the state without big-government’s blessing.

If Gordon Brown’s apology for his momentary rush of honesty was the shot heard still being heard around the British electorate, then Arizona’s attack on personal liberty is the shot against individual freedom that’s being heard right around the world.  It’s a reminder that it’s not just the left side of the aisle that are big-government bullies--and a reminder too that neither side has a monopoly on taking advantage of those stateless souls who leave their homes in search of a better life.Cartoon by Henry PayneJust so we’re clear, This Is What Arizona Republicans Want America to Be Like—a place where people of a certain race can be arrested dragged off to jail at the whim of a policeman for the crime of not carrying their papers.  Only Godwin’s Law precludes me from pointing out a particular police state of which that might remind you.

The police-state crackdown is bad enough.  But what it’s demonstrated all too clearly is that for many people apparently committed to individual liberty and small government are anything but.  Scratch the surface of too many small-government conservatives, and what you find there is nothing more than stinking, ill-informed authoritarian racism.  (Just one reason I’ve taken the likes of Andrew Bolt off my blog roll).

I say ill-informed, because it’s the only possible defence people like Bolt might have for being bigoted men and women themselves.

Because the facts confound the bigots. The fact is that in a free society, more people are a boon, not a burden.

That as author Robert Heinlein suggested, successful immigrants demonstrate just by their choice and gumption in choosing a new life that they are worthy of respect.

And as James Kilbourne says, “God damn you if the only two words you can find to put together when talking about people who leave their homelands to seek a better life for themselves and their families are ‘illegal aliens.’”

The fact is—and let me say it again just to stress the point—that in a free society, more people are a boon, not a burden. You think that’s hyperbole?  Well, it’s not.  Look at the American experience—the country’s wealth was built upon open immigration—on the melting pot that was the result of the open immigration of the nineteenth-century. But even in more oppressive times of today, the facts are clear that that the freer the country, the more immigration is a boon for everybody—and that immigrants themselves are overwhelmingly more productive and better behaved than most of the bigots are.

Just consider the litany of facts the bigots need to contend with regarding American immigration:


  • The runaround needed to immigrate legally to the US is one prime reason so many do it illegally.
  • 'Illegals' are not milking the government; if anything it is the other way around. The National Research Council found for example that most immigrant families "contribute an average of $80,000 more to federal coffers than they consume over their lifetimes."
  • Immigrants generally earn more than they receive.
  • More than 60% of illegal immigrants pay income tax, and two-thirds kick in to Social Security (and most get nothing back).
  • Immigrants help sustain economic growth and cultural dynamism.
  • Immigrants "are generally less involved in crime than similarly situated groups," and crime rates in border towns "are lower than those of comparable non-border cities."
  • Crime rates in the highest-immigration states have been trending significantly downward.
  • Even economists who favour restrictive immigration policies admit low-skilled immigrants are a net plus to the economy.
  • Unemployment is low and crime is down everywhere, especially in places teeming with immigrants.
  • Immigration gives you the benefits of geniuses who were born elsewhere. Google, Yahoo! and Sun Microsystems were all founded by immigrants.
  • Immigrants are more likely than 'natives' to be self-employed.
  • Immigrants tend to create their own work -- when they're allowed to.
  • The power and reach of Spanish-language media in L.A. for example shows supply of productive people creating its own demand.
  • Immigrant labour makes work easier for all of us, and brings new skills to the table.
  • Immigrants and low-skilled American workers fill very different roles in the economy.
  • Immigrant labour makes all businesses easier to start, thus spurring 'native' creativity.
  • "Some argue that we should employ a more restrictive policy that allows in only immigrants with 'needed' skills. But this assumes the government can read economic tea leaves." - Tyler Cowen and Daniel M. Rothschild
  • New arrivals, by producing more goods and services, keep prices down across the economy -- the net gain to US from immigration is about $7 billion a year.
  • There's no reason that the North American Free Trade Agreement (or NZ's own free trade agreements) shouldn't apply equally to people as to widgets.
  • Even in the halls of Congress, economic arguments against immigration are losing their aura of truthfulness, so pro-enforcement types are focussing on “national security.”
  • "The only way to actually prevent terrorists from slipping in is to legalize as much 'illegal immigration' as possible. If one is looking for a needle in a haystack, as the saying goes, one has a hell of job. Finding that needle on a relatively clean floor, however, presents an achievable goal." - James Valliant
  • Immigration is good for the immigrants themselves. . . .
Those facts were extracted from the following articles, which provide whole magazines full of ammunition against the bigoted and the ill-informed:
And of course there are the two classic Harry Binswanger articles which are 'must-reads' for the moral and practical case behind open immigration (note, open immigration, not open borders.):
The fact is that there is neither fact nor right on the side of the bigots.  As George Reisman explains for America:
    “The philosophy of individual rights and capitalism implies that foreigners have a right to come and to live and work here, i.e., to immigrate into the United States. The land of the United States is owned by individuals and voluntary associations of individuals, such as private business firms. It is not owned by the United States government or by the American people acting as a collective; indeed many of the owners of land in the United States are not Americans, but foreign nationals, including foreign investors.     “The private owners of land have the right to use or sell or rent their land for any peaceful purpose. This includes employing immigrants and selling them food and clothing and all other goods, and selling or renting housing to them. If individual private landowners are willing to accept the presence of immigrants on their property as employees, customers, or tenants, that should be all that is required for the immigrants to be present. Anyone else who attempts to determine the presence of absence of immigrants is simply an interfering busybody ready to use a gun or club to impose his will.
The fact remains that the only possibly human objection that well-informed people might have to open immigration is that immigration is a drain on the Welfare State. That they object to being forced to pay for people they’ve never met. This much is understandable. (That is the dark truth at the heart of the whole Welfare State—far from offering charity, it sets man against men.)   Again, George Reisman makes the argument: in summary, that Immigration Plus Welfare State Equal Police State.
    “Illegal immigrants are overwhelming the resources of the Welfare State: government–funded hospital emergency rooms are filled with them; public schools are filled with their children. On the basis of such complaints, many people are angry and want to close the border to new illegal immigrants and deport those who are already here.     “They want to keep new illegal immigrants out with fences along the border. It is not clear whether the fences would contain intermittent watchtowers with searchlights and machine guns. The illegal immigrants who are already here would be ferreted out by threatening anyone who employed them with severe penalties and making it a criminal offense not to report them.     “This is a classic illustration of Mises’s principle that prior government intervention into the economic system breeds later intervention. Here the application of his principle is, start with the Welfare State, end with the Police State. A police state is what is required effectively to stop substantial illegal immigration that has become a major burden because of the Welfare State.”
And Tibor Machan makes a similar argument, that the biggest problem with the welfare state is not that it might lead to even greater control by government, but that in providing a pseudo-moral argument to treat other human beings like cattle, it habituates people to the sort of easy brutality seen now in Arizona, and in sundry other cases of inhumanity.

But far from being a reason to abandon open immigration, the problems that state-enforced welfare cause for open immigration are reason instead to abandon the short-lived anti-human experiment that is the Welfare State.
    “The philosophy of individual rights and capitalism implies that the immigrants do not have a right to be supported at public expense, which is a violation of the rights of the taxpayers. Of course, it is no less a violation of the rights of the taxpayers when native-born individuals are supported at public expense. The immigrants are singled out for criticism based on the allegation that they in particular are making the burden intolerable.
    “The implementation of the rights both of the immigrants and of the taxpayers requires the abolition of the Welfare State. Ending the Welfare State will end any problem of immigrants being a public burden.
    “Of course, ending the Welfare State is much easier said than done, and it is almost certainly not going to be eliminated even in order to avoid the environment of a police state.
     “But the burdens of the Welfare State and the consequent resentment against immigrants could at the very least be substantially reduced by means of some relatively simple, common-sense reforms in the direction of greater economic freedom. . . .”
And they could be reduced too by the simple and easily-introduced expedient of allowing existing citizens to sponsor and take financial and legal responsibility for new citizens.

But this would require a basic humanity that too many of the bigots seem to lack.

In the meantime then, you want an immediate solution to the 'problem of illegal immigration? Then here it is":
    “The problem of ‘illegal’ immigration can be solved at the stroke of a pen: legalize immigration. Screen all you want (though I want damn little), but remove the quotas. Phase them out over a 5- or 10-year period. Grant immediate, unconditional amnesty to all ‘illegal’ immigrants.”

There endeth the problem.

UPDATE 1:  More good anti-bigoted commentary here [hat tip Thrutch]:

  • THE NEW CLARION: The Rights of Man, the Privileges of Citizen
    This is the end-of-road for conservative anti-immigrationists:  the selective  degradation of the liberty to live in a particular place from a right to a “privilege”.  As a hostile commenter put it sarcastically…

        “Nothing says freedom from government interference like ‘show me your papers.’ Of course, limited government only applies to people who are real Americans, not to Mexicans.”

    Let us examine the conservatives’ trip down the anti-immigration road, and see how it ended there — and what it means for conservatism’s purported fealty to Americanism….
    Read on to see many more anti-immigration shibboleths summarily dispatched.

  •  PAJAMAS MEDIA: Treat the Cause, Not the Symptom: Welfare State Is Draw for Illegals
    While I commiserate with Arizona voters [says Gus Van Horn] public services are the problem, not ‘illegals.’
        …SB 1070 is wrong for Arizona for reasons far beyond civil rights issues.
        SB 1070 deserves only one fundamental criticism: It would fail to protect the individual rights of American citizens — even if it hermetically sealed our borders and the police never touched a single American hair in the process of enforcing it. This is because the biggest headaches attributed to illegal immigration are not caused by it at all…

UPDATE 2: I’m starting a list.  And in ‘tribute’ to Gordon, I’m calling it “Just Some Bigoted Arseholes.”

First on the list is Blair, for this . . .

To which you can add Silent Running, run by a New Zealand blogger advertising “strong right-wing views” on his banner, who thinks “Mexico is polluting us”; Cactus Kate, who has “sanctimonious” on her banner (and bigotry in her waters); and Crusader Rabbit, who has “liberty” on his banner, and black thoughts about Mexican crowds being “a target-rich environment” in his heart …

UPDATE 3:  Says an editorial in the Arizona Republic:

    “We need leaders.
    “The federal government is abdicating its duty on the border.
    “Arizona politicians are pandering to public fear.
    “The result is a state law that intimidates Latinos while doing nothing to curb illegal immigration.
This represents years of failure. Years of politicians taking the easy way and allowing the debate to descend into chaos…
    “Comprehensive [immigration] reform will make the border safer. When migrant labor is channeled through the legal ports of entry, the Border Patrol can focus on catching drug smugglers and other criminals instead of chasing busboys across the desert.
    “Real leaders will have the courage to say that.”

UPDATE 4: Reason magazine, whose superb 2006 issue on immigration was the source of many of those linked articles above, has four online articles on the current melee that deserve the attention of everyone not already blinded by bigotry:

  • Immigration Isn't the Problem, David Harsanyi, May 3, 2010
      “For the most part, the controversy we face isn't about immigration at all. It's about the systematic failure of federal government to enforce the law or offer rational policy. There's a difference…
      “The uplifting tale of the hard-boiled immigrant, dipping his or her sweaty hands into the well of the American dream, is one thing. Today we find ourselves in an unsustainable and rapidly growing welfare state. Can we afford to allow millions more to partake?
      “When Nobel Prize-winning libertarian economist Milton Friedman was asked about unlimited immigration in 1999, he stated that ‘it is one thing to have free immigration to jobs. It is another thing to have free immigration to welfare. And you cannot have both.’”
  • Mysteries of an Immigration Law, Steve Chapman, April 29, 2010
      “The worst-case scenario is that Hispanics will face possible police harassment anytime they venture out of the house. Not to worry, says Kris Kobach, a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City who helped draft the text.
      “He told The Washington Examiner that cops can ask for immigration information only when they have ‘lawful contact’ with someone—when ‘the officer is already engaged in some detention of an individual because he's violated some other law.’
      “In fact, the law doesn't define the crucial term. One of the dictionary definitions of ‘contact’ is ‘immediate proximity,’ which suggests that anytime a possible illegal immigrant comes in sight of a cop, the cop has a legal duty to check her papers.”
  • How Immigration Crackdowns Backfire, Steve Chapman, April 22, 2010
      “It's no surprise that Arizonans resent the recent influx of unauthorized foreigners, some of them criminals. But there is less here than meets the eye.
      “The state has an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants. But contrary to myth, they have not brought an epidemic of murder and mayhem with them. Surprise of surprises, the state has gotten safer.
      “Over the last decade, the violent crime rate has dropped by 19 percent, while property crime is down by 20 percent. Crime has also declined in the rest of the country, but not as fast as in Arizona…”
  • Don't Let Obama Touch Immigration Reform, Shikha Dalmia, April 13, 2010
    ”America's immigration system is badly broken and in desperate need of fixing. And that is precisely why President Barack Obama should not be allowed to touch it.”
  • Immigration & Crime, Steve Chapman, February 22, 2010
      “From listening to the more vigorous critics of illegal immigration, our porous borders are a grave threat to safety. Not only can foreign terrorists sneak in to target us, but the most vicious criminals are free to walk in and inflict their worst on innocent Americans.
      “In xenophobic circles, this prospect induces stark terror. Fox News' Glenn Beck has decried an ‘illegal immigrant crime wave.’ A contributor to Patrick Buchanan's website asserts, ‘Every day, in the United States, thousands of illegal aliens unleash a reign of terror on Americans.’
      “Sure they do. And I'm Penelope Cruz…
      “A 2007 report by the Immigration Policy Center noted that "for every ethnic group, without exception, incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants, even those who are the least educated. This holds true especially for the Mexicans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans who make up the bulk of the undocumented population…
      “[Ron] Unz points out that in the five most heavily Hispanic cities in the country, violent crime is "10 percent below the national urban average and the homicide rate 40 percent lower." In Los Angeles, which is half Hispanic and easily accessible to those sneaking over the southern border, the murder rate has plummeted to levels unseen since the tranquil years of the early 1960s.
       “This is not really hard to understand. Today, as ever, most foreigners who make the sacrifice of leaving home and starting over in a strange land do so not to mug grandmothers or molest children, but to find work that will give them a better life. Coming here illegally does not alter that basic motivation.
      “In other words, they want to become full-fledged Americans, and they're succeeding. Is there something scary about that?”

Well, is there?

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