Monday, 16 May 2011

ECONOMICS FOR REAL PEOPLE: Global Financial Crisis

UoA-GFC

Tomorrow evening our friends at the Auckland Uni Economics Group tackle a subject that should interest everyone: the Global Financial Crisis—an event of such so importance it’s already become capitalised. This, from their mail-out about tomorrow night:

At this Tuesday night’s meeting we will begin looking at what is often termed the global financial crisis. It is not surprising that the ‘bust’ resulted in many asking what caused the downturn. But …

  • … are the true culprits being identified and placed under the spotlight?
  • Or are innocent parties are being blamed?
  • Will stimulus, quantitative easing, bailouts and too-big-to-fail get us out of The Great Recession?
  • Or will they only make things worse?

These are crucial questions—for what is currently being decided will affect every single one of us for many years to come.

data=XCVihWRtq4WsaAaVG7VezksrTNzDcIEE_YWd04ht9zkDZSpIOEWoVOQcm6ijrNG-RJHfajJgcjB4DR3sumbBl1J9R-Uy_B7Qm4inb8sLook forward to seeing you soon.
U0A Economics Group

DATE: Tuesday 17 May
TIME: 6pm
ROOM: University of Auckland Business School,
Owen G Glenn Building, Room 219 (Level 2) [Map here]

Smith to campers: “Go, Move, Shift” [updated]

“Freedom camping” has just been made less free. Or, by Thursday, will be—with new powers given to the wielders of council clip boards to harass, fine and prosecute people doing nothing more than enjoying the great outdoors in a mobile home.

The ill-named “Freedom Camping Bill” will be introduced by ministers Kate Wilkinson and Nick Smith (a woman who oversees the deportation of hard-working immigrants, and an authoritarian with a tongue so forked he could hug a tree with it) to reduce the freedom of all campers in order to meliorate the problems caused by just a few.

A large sledge hammer to crack a few irres0ponsible nuts.

But it’s par for the course. The puritans are at the gate, teetolitarians making everything illegal that hasn’t already been made compulsory. You can’t smoke in public; you can’t drink outside; you can’t put up signs outside that the puritans don’t like—or in places the puritans don’t want you to. Bit by bit, law by law, infringement by infringement, the great outdoors and much of our freedom is being shut down by  and who seem of one mind that if there’s any danger of someone, somewhere, enjoying themselves in a way that isn’t mandated then there ought to be a law against it forthwith.

Here’s Christy Moore:

“Go, Move Shift” by Ewen McColl, sung by Christy Moore

“New Zealand has an environmental problem … our environmental problem is freedom campers, and the government has decided to Do Something and eradicate them.
    You can see why: freedom campers are messy, untidy, and occasionally leave their shit lying around for other people to tread in … problems [that] could be solved, by (for example) providing free public facilities, backed by fines for pollution. Instead, they've decided to enable and encourage councils to ban camping, with instant spot fines. You'd almost think they were more interested in pushing people to use private, for profit campgrounds than in solving the actual problem...
    But while this will lead to tidier roadsides and public reserves, it is also a massive attack on the rights of New Zealanders. Its not just foreign tourists who camp in public space; these sorts of camping holidays are a long kiwi tradition. National would outlaw that …”

Perigo! Show 8: Don Brash, Round Two

Last time he appeared on the Perigo! show with host Lindsay Perigo, Don Brash was on the verge of ousting Rodney Hide, who had single-handedly destroyed the ACT Party, and taking over the party himself in a bloodless coup—putting him front and centre where the ACT Party should have been along: criticising this government for its irresponsible timidity in tackling the biggest financial crisis and the largest govt deficit in this country’s history.

So now that Don Brash is leading the Act Party, where’s he going to lead it to?

As the son of a preacher-man what does he now think about God and the Universe, Gay-Bashing Banks and Rodney?

And how can he preach fiscal responsibility at the same time as pushing the profligate former mayor John Banks forward as ACT’s candidate in their anchor seat of Epsom?

Watch now to find out.

Video from Stratos TV production ‘Perigo!’

Perigo! Show 7: The ‘Atlas Shrugged’ Special

Here’s the show about which Lindsay Perigo says,

This is it for me. I now don't care if I die tomorrow: I've paid my highest tribute to my highest values.

Watch it now:

Video from Stratos TV production ‘Perigo!’

GUEST POST: A Counterfactual Look at Inflation [updated]

Guest post by Vedran Vuk of Casey Research.

A Counterfactual Look at Inflation

When I mention central bank-induced inflation [by either the N.Z. Reserve Bank or the U.S. Federal Reserve], I often get the response, "Inflation is really low. You're wrong about ‘The Fed’." And I'm sure many of you have heard the same comments. But this view does not consider the counterfactuals and what-ifs of monetary policy. Ironically, when the Fed wants to defend itself, we're always asked to imagine how much worse the crisis would have been without them. We are never asked to imagine a better scenario without the Fed.

Prior to the creation of the Federal Reserve, deflation was a fairly common occurrence in the business cycle. When a boom builds, inflationary expansion hits the market. After a bubble pops, the economy contracts, often causing deflation. Despite the propaganda, deflation isn't that bad.

One common argument against deflation is falling wages. However, most economists agree that there is some resistance to downward pressure on wages. Have you noticed that wage cuts rarely ever happen in the private sector? Companies either squeeze more effort out of fewer employees or they fire people. Outside the government, furlough days and wage cuts are practically unseen.

Individuals are weird about their pay on the margins. Even a small wage cut will infuriate workers, while a 3% raise to meet inflation will make them very happy -although their purchasing power has remained the same. The disgruntled workforce is usually not worth the savings.

The primary difference between the negative effects of inflation and deflation are who benefits. With inflation, the giant corporations get the low interest rates first and expand before inflation filters through the economy. The guy living on a fixed income or collecting the same salary suffers the most. With deflation, the companies take the hit, but the workers now have higher purchasing power with their salary. Of course if deflation is too rapid or too prolonged, the company will see a significant drop in revenues leading to fewer workers. And that's where problems can arise. But something like a 3 to 4% deflation for a year or two isn't the end of the world. And an even milder deflation isn't a big reason for concern. During the 1800s - a period of amazing growth for the United States - there were some very long deflationary periods.

With this in mind, the topic of 2 to 3% inflation is only a discussion about the tip of the iceberg. The real question is, "What would the CPI be without the Fed?" It's hard to say for sure, but it probably wouldn't be 2 or 3% inflation. It would rather be something like 5 or 6% deflation. If you look at it through this lens, then the Fed is already inflating at 7 to 9% inflation per year. Furthermore, this means things could get out of hand quickly. If the natural contracting of the economy ends, we could suddenly see a rapid pickup in inflation where these numbers are openly evident.

inflation-cartoonJustin Lahart with the Wall Street Journal wrestles with the definition of ‘inflation’ in his article “Using a Dictionary to Define Inflation Can Spell Trouble.”  Lahart writes that up until 2003, Webster’s defined inflation as printing money.  Since the 2003 edition, Webster’s defines inflation as “a continuing rise in the general price level.”
    Mainstream economists say that only those out-of-step define inflation as increased money creation.  “They were quite far behind the times,” says Harvard economist Greg Mankiw. In his widely used economics textbook, he defines inflation simply as “an increase in the overall level of prices in the economy.”
    Lahart traces the I-word back to 1755 when “The state of being swelled with wind; flatulence,” defined inflation.
     In 1864, Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language defined inflation as “undue expansion or increase, from over-issue; — said of currency.”
    And so on from there until 2003.
    “This semantic innovation is by no means harmless,” Mises wrote in Planning for Freedom.   Mises points out that it’s impossible to fight an evil that you can’t name.  The public gets lost when a detailed analysis is required and continually referring to this analysis is bothersome, besides being ineffective.  “As you cannot name the policy increasing the quantity of the circulating medium, it goes on luxuriantly,”  Mises wrote.
    However, what is most damaging is that when policy makers fight the consequences of inflation–a rise in prices–they make matters worse, not realizing “the causal relation between the increase in money in circulation and credit expansion on the one hand and the rise in prices on another.”
    Mr. Lahart writes that “there has been a shift in American thinking of the purpose of dictionaries: Rather than defining words as some experts thought they should be used, dictionaries have moved toward defining words as people actually use them.”
    So what we have is a generation of people (economists and otherwise) who don’t understand what inflation is.
    When questioned about rising gasoline prices, Fed Chair Ben Bernanke said during the Federal Reserve’s first press conference.

            This is a very adverse development. It accounts for almost all of the inflation. There’s not much
        the Federal Reserve can do about gas prices, per se, without derailing growth entirely.
            The Fed cannot create more oil. What we can do is basically try to keep higher gas prices from
        passing into other prices and wages, and creating a broader inflation that would be harder to
        extinguish. Our view is that gas prices will not continue to rise at the recent pace. That will provide 
        some relief on the inflation front.

Just look it up in Webster’s. The Fed has nothing to do with prices.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Sunday Stupidity: On Faith

Faith is not knowledge. It is saying that, for you, knowledge is actually irrelevant:

“’Faith’ designates blind acceptance of a certain ideational content, acceptance induced by feeling in the absence of evidence or proof.”
            - Leonard Peikoff, The Ominous Parallels

With the result:

“The alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind.”
            - Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

[Image from the Atheist Revolution blog.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Friday Morning Ramble: Now on Saturday

A ramble around some great posts around the interweb, where the death of a terrorist is still making headlines. [PS: Sorry for the delay, Blogspot has been down for the last twenty-four hours.]

  • “Last week, SEAL Team Six shot Osama Bin Laden and fed him to sharks… This beautiful mission was expertly executed by some of the most able and admirable men on the planet, and [we all] deserve to celebrate.
    ”But we must also realize that killing Bin Laden is merely a fraction of what needs to be done—and done right…”
    One Islamist Fed to Sharks, a Few Islamist Regimes to Go – O B J E C T I V E   S T A N D A R D
  • Although the Navy SEALs pulled off their mission with great precision and competence, the Obama administration proceeded to make a perfect ass of itself following the assassination of Bin Laden.
    The Keystone-Cops Administration – O B J E C T I V E   S T A N D A R D
  • The chattering-class consensus that it was illegal for America to bump off bin Laden is not as radical as some people think.
    This pity for bin Laden is just pacifist-nihilism – Brendan O’Neill,  S P I K E D
  • The Paradox of Terrorists: they are happy for other peoples kids to become martyrs but not their own...latest example, Osama's final will. [hat tip Stan B.]
    I'm Sorry for Neglecting You: Osama's Final Message to His 24 Children 
    – S Y D N E Y   M O R N I N G   H E R A L D
  • “We maintain that arbitrary killing is not a solution to political problems,” said the family of dead terrorist Osama Bin Laden.
    Their father held a somewhat different position however. In fact, a position diametrically opposite. That was why he was killed.
    In further news, the sons said bin Laden’s burial at sea “demeaned and humiliated” his family. I sure hope so.
    Sons lash out at bin Laden’s ‘arbitrary killing’ – K H A L E E J  T I M E S
  • Anyone who thinks Bin Laden was a "freedom fighter" has no clue.
    The witless on the pitiless - Russell Brown, H A R D   N E W S
  • The Left, for all for all its professions of solidarity and concern, has little time for ordinary people. The victims of Bin Laden are of no interest to the likes of Ranginui Walker or Hone Harawira.
    Ordinary People - Paul Litterick, F U N D Y  P O S T
  • And now from the “I bet you think this song is about you” department. Ever the egotist, all Martyn ‘Bombastic’ Bradbury can see from those last two excellent posts is an attack on him. Poor lamb.
    Being defamed by Russell Brown and Mr Smug – T U M E K E

Whereas the Obama administration’s repeated blunders made them
look like Keystone Cops, the Navy SEALs’ awe-inspiring assassination
of Bin Laden shows that they come about as close as anyone can to
being gods. Unlike the false gods of religious scripture, however,
the SEALs are admirable because they earn their power and glory,
defend freedom and civilization, and aim to kill only bad guys
- Craig Biddle, ‘Navy SEALs: Gods among Men
,’ Objective Standard

  • And now, in local news—but in Britain—Smile and Wave finally faces a more challenging interviewer than the dumbed-down local variety who are allowed on mainstream television here in Enzed … and is shown up for the airheaded lightweight he really is.
    [Sorry about the poor sound and picture quality.]
  • Don Brash's Letter To PM John Key Goes Viral (Includes letter & Scoop analysis of Budget& ACT's response)
    Don Brash's Letter To PM John Key Goes Viral – S C O O P
  • The unsustainable taxpayer subsidy for KiwiSaver faces a long-overdue cut. But not, you might note, the inequitable taxpayer subsidy for the Parliamentary Superannuation Scheme. They’ll still get a $2.50 taxpayer subsidy for every dollar of “theirs” (i.e., yours) that they put in.
    KiwiSaver cuts ignore MPs' super – S T U F F
  • Tattooed, preserved, shrunken Maori heads—mostly the heads of former slaves—are being repatriated to New Zealand from European museums. Like Lindsay Mitchell, “I struggle to understand why anyone wants a reminder of this brutal, exploitive practice.” Respect for human remains? “Ironic as they weren't respected in life.”
    Returned heads reminders of a brutal past  - L I N D S A Y   M I T C H E L L
  • There’s been a lot of photo galleries showing the tragic destruction of what was once NZ’s second-biggest city, but none showing it anywhere near this well. Or this thoroughly.
    Into the Red Zone – Ross Becker, P I C A S A
    ROSS2505-1D3
  • As the Australian housing bubble starts deflating, and as the air continues to go out of NZ’s housing bubble, it might be a good time to read (or re-read) Hugh Pavletich’s insightful piece on housing bubbles and their aftermath—what causes them; why planners and “trained economists” can’t pick them but untrained vegetable pickers with common sense can; and what this means for central banks, central planners and you.
     Housing Bubbles And Market Sense 
    - Hugh Pavletich,
    P E R F O R M A N C E   U R B A N   P L A N N I N G
  • By the way, remember when Prime Minister Smile and Wave told the Wall Street Journal “You cannot spend your way out of a crisis.” Time he starts doing what he said he’d be doing, eh.
    "You cannot spend your way out of a crisis" – W A L L   S T R E E T  J O U R N A L
  • Don Brash’s resignation letter to John Boy says what many thinking New Zealanders would like to say to him about his premiership: For how much longer do you intend to ignore reality.
    Don Brash's Dear John Letter to the PM – Don Brash

“I place economy among the first and most important virtues, and public debt
as the greatest of dangers to be feared . . . To preserve our independence,
we must not let our rulers load us with public debt . . . we must make
our choice between economy and liberty or confusion and servitude . . . If
we run into such debts, we must be taxed in our meat and drink, in
our necessities and comforts, in our labor and in our amusements . . . If
we can prevent the government from wasting the labor of the people, under
the pretense of caring for them, they will be happy.”
-
Thomas Jefferson

  • Every western government is struggling with ballooning deficits. Every western government is struggling with ballooning deficits because every western nation has had a decades-long experiment with unsustainable welfarism, and a system of central banking to pay for it.
    And now the debt for that experiment is being called in.
    Monetary Policy, the Federal Reserve, and the National Debt Problem 
    - Richard Ebeling, N O R T H W O O D   U N I V E R S I T Y
  • You might not have noticed it, but The Next Great Inflation has already started.
    “I can’t eat an iPad.’ This could go down in history as the line that launched the great inflation of the 2010s.
    ”The reason the CPI [doesn’t credibly measure price inflation] is that, as economist John Williams tirelessly points out, it’s a bogus index. The way inflation is calculated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has been “improved” 24 times since 1978. If the old methods were still used, the CPI would actually be 10 percent. Yes, folks, double-digit inflation is back. Pretty soon you’ll be able to figure out the real inflation rate just by moving the decimal point in the core CPI one place to the right…
    The Great Inflation of the 2010s – Niall Ferguson,  N E W S W E E K
  • A largely overlooked phenomenon in the market for gold futures is the “canary in the coal mine” for the coming crack-up boom. That canary is now dying.
    Permanent Gold Backwardation: The Crack Up Boom
    – Keith Weiner, D A I L Y   C A P I T A L I S T
  • What comes next after the crack-up boom? Well …
    Steve Forbes predicts Gold Standard within 5 years – H U M A N  E V E N T S
  • Ron Paul and Steve Forbes discuss why a gold standard would begin stability, and put an end to the Federal Reserve.
    Dr. Ron Paul's Gold Standard – F O R B E S
  • Just for the record, “Alan Greenspan, I knew Ayn Rand, and you're no Objectivist.” Nor are you any kind of free marketeer. But you might be the man who destroyed America.
    Alan Greenspan vs. Ayn Rand and Freedom
    – Harry Binswanger, C A P I T A L I S M   M A G A Z I N E
    Alan Greenspan Betrayed Ayn Rand and Ruined the Economy, Says Ayn Rand Institute President
    - Yaron Brook,   Y A H O O  F I N A N C E
  • You know how cool it is when your heroes are also your heroes’ heroes. Here’s a fan letter sent to Ayn Rand by Ludwig Von Mises after he’d just put down Atlas Shrugged for the first time.
    Dear Mrs Rand… -  L U D W I G   V O N   M I S E S
  • You’ve seen the Hayek v Keynes rap anthems here and here. Now read what they were all about.
    The Hayek-Keynes Debate, 1931-1971 
    – Sudha Shenoy, M I S E S   E C O N O M I C S   B L O G
  • And find out how Hayek differed to Milton Friedman.
    Hayek & Friedman: Head to Head – Roger Garrison
  • And here’s a cornucopia of Hayek on the Tube:
    First, Bernard Levin (who first coined the term ‘Nanny State’) interviewing the great man back in the 70s.
  • Jamie Whyte analyses Hayek’s analysis of boom and bust, and how it applies to the latest bust—and asks “Was the crash itself caused by problems already manifest in the boom?”
  • There are many good things to be said about PJ O’Rourke.  But his understanding of Ayn Rand is not one of them.
    P.J. O’Rourke doesn’t get Ayn Rand – Don Watkins, V O I C E S   O F   R E A S O N
  • Here’s the perfect thing to take into your next meeting with your thieving lawyer. (Apologies for the tautology.)
    L A W Y E R   C L O C K
  • “When people are driven by profits and protected by property rights, environmentally friendly products will develop naturally."
    Governments vs. Markets: Julian Morris on Environmental Protection – R E A S O N
  • When it comes to discussions about ethics, flatulent subjectivist blowhards will talk about something called the “is-ought” gap and use it as their excuse for claiming anything goes. Hit them over the head with this.
    The Is–Ought Gap: Subjectivism’s Technical Retreat 
    – Craig Biddle, O B J E C T I V E   S T A N D A R D
  • Science is slowly confirming what artists and aestheticians—those that are worth a damn—knew all along: That beautiful works of art give the same mind rush as being in love!
    Brain scans reveal the power of art – T E L E G R A P H
    Scientists Confirm: Beautiful Art = Mind Rush Love – Michael Newberry, S O L O
  • Just another reason to dislike Apple. Their ads (even when they’re real) are so smug.
  • How did the homeopath, the politician, the engineer and the lobbyist upgrade the bridge? Answers at Darwin Eats Cake.
    Civil Engineering Exam Question on the Reinforcement of Existing Bridge 
    – D A R W I N  E A T S  C A K E
  • U.S. troops in Afghanistan are using “green” ammo. Better for armour penetration, but (despite the headline) not as effective in killing bad guys as lead.
     New Army Ammo Puts Mean in ‘Green’ – M I L I T A R Y . C O M
  • I don’t know about you, but instead of Grand Designs I’ll be watching this new TV series with interest when it starts on Maori TV on Sunday night: “a fascinating new 13 part documentary series dedicated to exploring the unique architectural history of our Māori ancestors. Architect Rau Hoskins will guide viewers on a journey around the country, exploring the rich history of Māori architecture, both historical buildings as well as contemporary work.”  (Keep an eye out for architect and Libz candidate Fred Stevens in Episode 12.)
    Whare Maori with architect Rau Hoskins – M A O R I   T E L E V I S I O N
  • And here’s another I’d like to see on local television—a documentary providing an astonishing journey through the innovative, futuristic, utopian and sometimes bizarre “visionary architecture” of the twentieth century.
    Great Expectations – S O L A R I S    F I L M S
  • Bugger ‘Vienna.’ There was a time (back before John Foxx left the band) when Ultravox were hot. Damned hot. (Never mind the shitty live video, this stuff is the dog’s bollocks.)
  • Speaking of hot.
  • How’s this for love, from the sacred all the way to the profane. Only jazz can do this.
  • And finally, Jimmy Lunceford’s lead trumpeter Snooky Young died yesterday at the age of 92. Listen for his cameo on this beauty. [And see and read more about him here at Jazz on the Tube.]

Thanks for being so patient.
Enjoy your weekend.
PC

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Stricker House & Studio II, by Milton Stricker

Stricker002

A “tree house” on a Seattle mountain side designed for the architect’s own family.Stricker004 Architect Milton Stricker explains his design process for this house and studio below. You can read more about the fascinating organic design process of “design through abstraction” he used for all his work in his online book, Design Through Abstraction.

Stricker005

Perigo! : Don Brash, second time around

Last time he appeared on the Perigo! show with host Lindsay Perigo, Don Brash was on the verge of ousting Rodney Hide, who had single-handedly destroyed the ACT Party, and taking over the party himself in a bloodless coup.

That now puts Don Brash front and centre where the ACT Party should have been along: criticising this government for its irresponsible timidity in tackling the biggest financial crisis and the largest govt deficit in this country’s history.

So now that Don Brash is leading the Act Party, where’s he going to lead it to? 

As the son of a preacher-man what does he now think about God and the Universe, Gay-Bashing Banks and Rodney? 

And how can he preach fiscal responsibility at the same time as pushing the profligate former mayor John Banks forward as ACT’s candidate in their anchor seat of Epsom?

Join Lindsay tonight on the Stratos channel to find out.

PERIGO!-show-eDM-Brash-2

Villa Ronde, by Ciel Rouge Création

d9327c43

A project outside Tokyo, by: Ciel Rouge Création, France. More pics at Architizer.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Why you won’t be seeing serious spending cuts on the 19th

If you’re still thinking you might see Bill and John making any serious cuts to govt spending to help peg back that $16 billion gap between what they spend and what they appropriate, here’s why you won’t.

In a sentence: because voters have discovered they can vote themselves rich. For a while, at least.

NOT PJ: TANSTAAFL

_BernardDarnton This week Bernard Darnton uncharacteristically turns down a free lunch.

Free lunches were promised by Act on Campus this week in conjunction with KFC’s release of the “Double Down”. The thing appears to be a burger in which the bread has been replaced with fried chicken, the gap filled with bacon and the whole calorific horror stuck together with two kinds of cheese. Act on Campus is giving these away in the name of freedom, choice, and individual responsibility - although, if they were being honest, it’s more freedom than responsibility.

It’s a sad indicator of what the world has come to. Chemistry sets with no chemicals - “discover the wonders of salt - it dissolves!” - and where hot drinks are plastered with labels warning that they’re hot. We’re only supposed to eat food that the busy-bodies have tagged with their “tick of approval”. (And, in another sign of what the world has come to, that tick means not much more than, “We gave the Heart Foundation $10,000.”)We live in a world where university students show off their brash irresponsibility by eating a Chicken Kiev.

The promotion is undoubtedly designed to provoke Sue Kedgley into saying something bossy thus providing both parties with free publicity. It’s called “social media” and it’s at least 2,000 years old. If you’re running a film festival you always need to include a lesbian revenge flick so that the local churches will vigorously advertise the event.

If the do-gooders do rise to the bait, my advice is to ignore them completely if they prattle on about KFC causing the obesity epidemic. The last time I had KFC - thankfully many years ago - it was more like a rapid weight-loss program.

03-Double-Down The Act on Campus link makes me wonder if this is the secret to Rodney Hide’s miracle weight loss. Rather than go down the Donna Awatere-Huata route of stealing money to pay for a stomach stapling operation, fried chicken could have been just the miracle ticket. He could have a nice little post-coup career as the Jared of KFC, showing off his enormous fat pants and extolling the dietary virtues of chicken drumsticks, undercooked by a careless teenagers.

Robyn Toomath and other fishwives of the health industry industry insist that food like the Double Down is killing people and should be banned or taxed into oblivion. Much like cigarettes, one of these burgers alone won’t kill you but forty a day for four decades probably would. But does that mean they should be banned?

If the thing was an instant health risk - say, hypothetically, it was prepared by hungover youths and therefore full of Campylobacter - then it should be illegal to sell as food. But if it gradually clogs your arteries and causes heart disease or clogs your liver and causes metabolic syndrome over forty years, then no. We all know this stuff is bad for you and decide accordingly. Economists call this “time preference”. We trade pleasure now for a risk of increased mortality later. (Pleasure here is a subjective thing. If I’m going to destroy my internal organs I’d prefer to do it with pinot noir and scotch rather than some polymer masquerading as cheese.)

It’s good to see someone facing the healthists with a wicked grin. Far better than McDonald’s salad-flavoured appeasement. I just wish it wasn’t KFC because their offerings repulse me.

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Not one that you’d want anyway.

DISCLOSURE: Bernard Darnton’s NOT PJ column was written after imbibitions of pinto noir and scotch. And a kebab.

INFINITE SPACE: The Architecture of John Lautner

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Economics for Real People: Carl Menger & his Theory of Goods

Speaking of economics … tonight in Auckland my friends at the Uni Economics Group will be talking about one of the greatest economists who ever lived, Carl Menger.

He was the man who explained economic value.

Who brought Aristotle into modern economics.

Who brought causality into economic reasoning.

Unlike his contemporaries, Menger was not interested in in creating artificial, stylized representations of reality, but in explaining the real world actions of real people. Economics, for Carl Menger, is not the study of rarefied aggregates but of purposeful human choice.

No wonder he is largely ignored today. Except by the likes of New Zealand’s richest billionaire.

Come along tonight and learn about this unsung giant.

UoA Econ Group 10 Maydata=XCVihWRtq4WsaAaVG7VezksrTNzDcIEE_YWd04ht9zkDZSpIOEWoVOQcm6ijrNG-RJHfajJgcjB4DR3sumbBl1J9R-Uy_B7Qm4inb8s Join us tonight, Tuesday, 6pm, at the Auckland University Business School

Where:      Business School
                  Room 219,
                  Level 2, Owen G. Glenn Building,
                  12 Grafton Rd,
                  Auckland University [Map here]
When:       Tonight, Tuesday 10 May, 6:00pm

It’s the economy, stupid.

“Finance Minister Bill English says the govt deficit for the year is likely to be about $16 billion to $17 billion - the largest deficit New Zealand has ever had.”

And this government wants to run with Bill English’s handling of the economy as a “core” election issue!

Unbelievable.

This is the largest deficit any New Zealand govt has ever run. Ever. And they think it give them economic credibility.

That they do is one more reason to damn them.

Make no mistake, this economic disaster is not the result of a natural disaster. Things were already well out of control well before half of Christchurch was destroyed. It is not the result of things beyond this government’s control. It is precisely because this grossly irresponsible govt has made some very, very bad choices:

  • To swallow the dead rats that have now come back to bite us.
  • To smile and wave instead of knuckle down and do the right thing.

Roger Douglas is right. This sort of result is what happens when you put off dealing with problems in your first term for fear of scaring the horses.

But big as this deficit is—big enough even for ratings agencies and the IMF to notice—there is an even bigger deficit here, and that is the ability deficit of this Finance Minister and his Master—and of their opposition counterparts in Hard Labour.  Hard Labour’s David Cunliffe is right that Key’s men have no economic plan. But neither does Silent T. Nothing at all. Frankly, it’s beyond him too.

But it’s frankly not hard to know what has to be done. Not hard at all. It’s precisely the same recipe now as it was in 2008, only more so:

At this dangerously destructive point, you’d be stupid not to.

On the perils of playing a capitalist…

Grant Bowler makes a great point in this clip, around 2:35, that in today's Hollywood its perfectly okay to play a psychopath or a child molester and nobody bats an eyelid. But play a capitalist … ("my god, what were you thinking!”) … and you're virtually blackballed.

Is this why the New Zealand actor is getting no love back here in EnZed for his starring role in Atlas Shrugged:Part 1?

Make mine man-made

The human environment is beautiful. See:

Timelapse - The City Limits from Dominic on Vimeo.
[Hat tip Jeffrey Tucker]

Monday, 9 May 2011

‘Swoosh’ Pavilion, by Architectural Association students

swoosh-pavilion-at-the-architectural-association-lfa2008_aapav_1 It’s encouraging to discover that this is what is getting students excited these days. The home of avant garde bollocks and deconstructed trash, London’s Architectural Association School of Architecture (aka AA), now sees students pursuing spatial adventure through geometric development. Witness for example this construction recently decorating Bedford Square, ‘The Swoosh Pavilion,' an easily de-mountable summer pavilion and shading structure.

More info here.

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Price-fixing, flag burning and Jinty McTavish’s emotional incontinence

_McGRath Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath offers inoculation against the nonsense appearing in recent stories and headlines.

This week: Price-fixing, flag burning and Jinty McTavish’s emotional incontinence

  • DOMPOST: “Cost of calls and texts to drop – The Anti-Commerce Commission dictates what competing telecommunication companies can charge others for use of their network, hoping this will reduce mobile “termination” charges…

THE PROBLEM: The government wants to make mobile phone calls cheaper. That’s fine.
    But it’s not their job to encourage people to use cell phones. Their job is to protect our individual rights. This price-fixing decree violates individual rights by interfering in the free commerce between privately owned companies, who should be able to charge each other what they damn well like.
    You can bet if the telco companies colluded and undercharged mobile termination rates, there would be allegations of a conspiracy to make people dependent on mobile phones and then raise user charges once the poor helpless public are ‘hooked.’
    This price fixing move by the Anti-Commerce Commission could make it cheaper for kids to text each other in class, thus increasing the likelihood that it will happen. With state school classes already disrupted by the kids who don’t want to be there but who are held captive by leaving age laws, does the government want it even more likely that kids will be distracted via cheap texting?
    Anyway, there is no guarantee that the telcos will lower their mobile termination charges despite the price-fixing by that has been forced on them. Nor that they will continue ot offer the same services at these compulsorily-lowered prices…

THE SOLUTION: Leave the telco market open to all comers. Make it easier to set up a competing mobile phone company.Accept that Telecom may have an advantage in owning a lot of the network infrastructure (granted, I would be the first to admit I don’t know much about who owns how much of ‘the network’) but leave the market to sort itself out.
    Competition and the prospect of profit breeds innovation. It is likely that a future competitor in the mobile phone market will come up with technology that makes the current mobile network obsolete, and sends prices through the floor, just as the price of wide screen TVs has plummeted in recent years.
    For the sake of free trade, disband the Anti-Commerce Commission.

  • OTAGO DAILY TIMES: “Temperatures rise as climate discussed – Dunedin City Councillor Jinty McTavish effectively tells Dr Jock Allison, former director of the Invermay Research Centre and global warming heretic, to STFU and accept the opposite view simply because a majority of the scientific community apparently believe it at this point…

THE PROBLEM: Local government should not concern itself over matters over which they, and their ratepayers, have no control. The global cooling of the past 12 years is unrelated to the production of CO2 and other ‘greenhouse’ gases by the people of Dunedin City. Correlation is not the same as causation.
    Just because a majority hold some opinion to be true does not make it so. Scientific proof makes it so. And the hypothesis of AGW is just that—a hypothesis; it is not a theorem or a law.
    Councillor Jinty McTavish should stop turning on the water works when she discusses the weather—using emotion devoid of reason in trying to make a point threatens to make her a laughing stock. Or more of one.
    Carbon taxes, emissions tax scams, whatever you call them, are all a disincentive for industry to produce, a disincentive for people to use energy to improve their standard of living, and a scam to enrich Albert Gore and other parasites who have never done an honest day’s work in their lives, but who want to punish producers for producing.

THE SOLUTION: Let people devise their own solutions to global warming, if they see it as a problem. Some people enjoy hotter weather; let them. Many farmers could make use of rising CO2 levels and higher temperatures. Let them.
    Don’t use the weather as a basis for taxing people. To paraphrase my predecessor as Libz leader, socialism doesn’t work, no matter what the temperature. It didn’t work in Siberia, it wouldn’t work in Libya, it will not work here.
    Encourage (by getting out of the way) the production of more near-zero-emission hydro-electric dams and nuclear power stations instead of hideously expensive, temperamental and deadly wind turbines and even more deadly solar panels.
    Allow private hydro dams and small scale nuclear energy production.
    High electricity prices will encourage energy conservation. Laws don’t need to be passed to fix prices, nor to subsidise lethal installation of home insulation.

IN SHORT: Let consumers sort out their own response to the “horror” of changing weather patterns. The government has bigger fish to fry, like reversing the unsustainable borrowing and spending that is infinitely more of a threat to future generations of New Zealanders than a few tenths of a degree of global cooling ever could.

THE PROBLEM: Some people still think flag burning should be outlawed. But this attitude is at odds with the liberal Western (particularly British) view that people should be able to express their opinions by whatever their means, while respecting the property rights of others.
    Burning a flag in a public place is fine, as long as the owner of the flag gives his/her permission. An individual has no property rights over the land in a public place and so has no basis to object to someone burning a flag there.

THE SOLUTION: If you are offended by someone burning a flag, then don’t look. Ignore them, as publicity only fans the flames of their activism. Wave your flag instead.
    There is nothing sacred about a flag. Nor a Bible. Nor a copy of the Quran. Burn the lot of them, I say, especially if you’re cold and there is a power cut.
    The McCullyist view that freedom of speech is all right as long as it doesn’t offend others is simply BS. It’s precisely speech that does offend that needs freedom’s protection.
    The test of whether someone’s flag-immolation crosses the line is whether objective (measurable) harm has been done as a result. If so, compensation is in order. If not, the offended party should exercise their own freedom of expression to protest, remembering that their own freedom ends where the property of others begins.

"The [American] First Amendment exists to insure that freedom of speech
and expression applies not just to that with which we agree or disagree,
but also that which we find outrageous. I would not amend that great
shield of democracy to hammer a few miscreants. The flag will still be
flying proudly long after they have slunk away."
- Colin Powell, U.S. Army General

Friday, 6 May 2011

Musical Ramble

A short ramble this week—a ramble through some relevant musical gems.

First, Robert Johnson was born one-hundred years ago this week—which makes just eighty years since he went down to that fateful crossroad and made a deal that changed modern music…

It’s not dark yet…

And finally, get ye to the Venusberg…

Thursday, 5 May 2011

‘Perigo!’: The ‘Atlas Shrugged’ Special

PERIGO!--Rand-Special-V1

Who is John Galt? Who was Ayn Rand? What is Atlas Shrugged?

Find out tonight on Perigo! as Lindsay marks the release of the movie based on Rand's epoch-changing best-seller.

PERIGO! Thursday on Stratos 7.30pm. Freeview 21 & Sky 89

NOT PJ: 3D or Not 3D

_BernardDarnton This week Bernard Darnton reviews a film he slept through.

FILM TECHNOLOGY TOOKANOTHER leap forward this week with the announcement of special “2D” glasses that convert 3D films into an amazing unblurred 2D experience. The relentless march of technology never ceases to amaze me.

Gadget site Red Ferret announced this stunning new development, explaining how the cunningly designed glasses block one of the two images projected onto the screen in a bog-standard 3D film and convert it into glorious flat-o-vision.

This gave me an idea for an even better technology in which both lenses of the glasses are replaced by black cardboard. Films would be rendered in zero-D, instantly improving the vast majority of them.
Avatar, for example. It was Avatar’s hype that brought 3D back into fashion and yet it would be so much better in zero-D. I only went to it because I thought it was a documentary on the incarnations of Vishnu.

(This might sound like utter nonsense but this sort of thing happens to me all the time. When I was working in Porirua and commuting from the Hutt Valley, one of my workmates had a meeting to go to and asked me the best way to get to Avalon. At the time I was reading Foucault’s Pendulum and my head was full of esoteric religious nonsense. I thought he meant Avalon the Celtic paradise. It never occurred to me that he wanted to go to Avalon the suburb in Lower Hutt. I looked at him for a moment and said, “You can’t just go there - you have to be a Celtic warrior and die in battle.” He stared at me for an even longer moment and then backed off to ask someone who wasn’t utterly batshit crazy.)

True story. Anyway, Avatar.

Avatar is an action-adventure movie in which a group of humans, called “Americans,” invade a foreign planet populated by a peace-loving people known as “the Arabs” to steal an unobtainable mineral called “oil.” They blow up a tree and the star of the film turns blue (that bit at least was Hindu god-like) and goes native. I think that’s what happened. I was asleep for a lot of it and, if I’d had the benefit of the zero-D glasses, I might have been able to sleep through a bit more of it and really put that three hours to good use.

Even with my sporadic wakefulness it was quite clear that the film had a message to ram home. Americans are nasty and they shouldn’t blow up trees that belong to other people, even if those people speak another language and look like ten-foot tall smurfs. Director James Cameron explained that the film was in fact very patriotic because it’s patriotic to slag off your own country if your own country is crap. Or something. I was asleep during that interview too, with good reason.

Cameron also said, “We know what it feels like to launch the missiles. We don’t know what it feels like for them to land on our home soil.” Except for that one time when some guys stole some Boeing 767s and crashed them into American landmarks killing thousands. Admittedly, if Cameron can’t remember that event then the last decade of American foreign policy probably looks belligerent.

Not that the War on Terror hasn’t got a stupid name, and hasn’t at times descended into a shambles, but Americans aren’t just crashing around the world to steal oil or to kill people for fun. They are primarily, if not always directly, trying to prevent another 9/11.

Fortunately, the message of moral equivalence hasn’t sunk in. That much was clear in the jubilant scenes on Tuesday night, when we heard that US Navy Seals had delivered Osama bin Laden the bullets he so richly deserved - something that many of us were happy to see with or without special glasses.

Bernard Darnton’s NOT PJ column appears here every Thursday. Except when it doesn’t

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Brash v Harawira

Don Brash and Hone Harawira face off with the Walrus in the chair. Watch it here:

Part One.

Part Two.

“End the War on Drugs,” says the Law Commission

Well, almost.

2001's 22 most wanted.

There’s still 15 to go.

[Click to enlarge]

Man, the Builder

_Quote I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York’s skyline. Particularly when one can’t see the details. Just the shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them. The sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need? And then people tell me about pilgrimages to some dank pesthole in a jungle where they go to do homage to a crumbling temple, to a leering stone monster with a pot belly, created by some leprous savage. Is it beauty and genius they want to see? Do they seek a sense of the sublime? Let them come to New York, stand on the shore of the Hudson, look and kneel. When I see the city from my window – no, I don’t feel how small I am – but I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body.”
                       – Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

[Hat tip Temple of the Human Spirit]

Monday, 2 May 2011

Quote of the day: “An infinite amount more where that came from”

“Most of the state’s wealth comes from ordinary people working hard and then giving a huge chunk of their income to the government, so spending it is a sacred trust not an endless opportunity to squander it all on gimmicks and whims and political stunts…”
           - Danyl at Dim Post - “An infinite amount more where that came from

Discuss.

I’m going to be busy today [updated]

I’m going to be busy today. Here’s why.

Obituary: Willa Cresswell

CRESSWELL, Willa (nee Clarihew).
Died peacefully after a long illness, with family at her side. Loved mother and mother-in- law of Lyn and Andrew, Peter and Carol, Bhim and Shammi. Much treasured cousin of Barbara. Thanks to staff at Metlifecare Highlands and the dear friends whose visits meant so much to her. In lieu of flowers donations to the Bible Society or Child Cancer Foundation and can be left at the service. A celebration of Willa's life will be held in the Chapel of Manukau Memorial Gardens 357 Puhinui Road Papatoetoe, on Monday 2 May 2011 at 2pm.

UPDATE: Thanks to you all for your kind and generous thoughts.