Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Parents: Beware

Parents beware. Something very dangerous can begin happening in your child’s teenage years.  It’s called “Philosophy.”

Watch out for the warning signs.


Hat tip Peter Namtvedt who says, “If I had a teenager, I would also be concerned with finding Kant in his/her bedroom.” (Although it is true as a commenter says that “You cannot find copies of Kant in his/her bedroom. S/he will manage to hide them in the noumenal world so you cannot see them”)

A new old element

(From our Science Desk) Yes, it’s been around a while but a new generation has discovered the gag: A new chemical element has ben discovered…

The new element is Governmentium (Gv). It has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lefton-like particles called peons.

Since Governmentium has no electrons or protons, it is inert. However, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction normally taking less than a second to take from four days to four years to complete.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2- 6 years. It does not decay but instead undergoes a reorganisation in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.

In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganisation will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass.

When catalysed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.  All of the money is
consumed in the exchange, and no other by-products are produced.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: The ‘Friday on a Thursday’ edition

Yes, it’s a Friday Ramble on a Thursday. It’s a Friday Ramble on a Thursday because Thursday is the end of the week this week, and tomorrow zealots will infest the country either demanding sacrifice or celebrating it.

Here’s something to celebrate for the first group, those demanding the sacrifice of retailers to their beliefs:


Here’s something to contemplate about this first lot:

And here’s something to contemplate for the second:

  • It's Easter! – N O T   P C
    It’s Easter. Almost. Time for a day off. A day out. Time to get nailed up and talk about torture…


By contrast here’s something just to celebrate, i.e., life on earth, and those “exalted moments” that give it meaning

In a letter to a fan, Ayn Rand spoke of exalted moments and her novel Atlas Shrugged:


There’s a decent thought for Easter, don’t you think—Easter, which in its original pagan  Northern Hemisphere form was a soaring celebration of Spring, fertility and new life!

And now, on with the rest of the show—a short one, as befitting the length of this working week.

  • Spain is the poster child for the ‘Green Jobs’ promoted by Russel Norman, with billions of "Green Jobs" subsidies.  Spain also has a jobless rate 23.6%, with over 50% of youths unemployed. You think it’s possible these things are connected?
    Youth unemployment passes 50pc in Spain and Greece – T H E   T E L E G R A P H
  • Russell Brown, Cameron Brewer and sundry xenophobes ponder the present dismal state of Queen St and ask “should something be done?” I argue , as I argued years ago, that the present dismal state of Queen St is the sad result of “too much being done.” That is, too much is being done by planners. Queen St is a living example of the collision of planners’ plans and the Law of Unintended Consequences.
    The Golden Mile – P U B L I C   A D D R E S S
    Helping to kill the city – N O T   P C
  • Recorded crime figures are down.  Is it due to better policing? Or to earthquakes.
    Crime statistics -  L I N D S A Y    M I T C H E L L
  • Govt making it easier for international students? “Good move,” says Eric Crampton. “Granting permanent residence on degree completion would be even better.”
    Health screening changed to entice more international students  - N . B . R .
  • The Greens and their friends in the regulation factory are working to make Home Energy Rating Sytems another hurdle home-builders have to cross before making a home.  Apart from the iniquity of the imposition, news from Australia says the Rating System is junk, with many houses with low ratings and high performance, and vice versa. “No prizes for guessing that architect-designed green homes suffered in the ratings department for not under-glazing, and not air-conditioning. The system encourages a conformity of design that suits boxes, and punishes thought-built buildings. So perhaps it’s the “thought” part they’re against?
    Shades of green -  B U T T E R P A P E R
  • It would be premature to celebrate, but it looks like ObamaCare is in serious trouble. (This, folks, is what constitutional courts are for.)
    Friday Four – G U S  V A N  H O R N
  • Ben Bernanke’s Federal Reserve invited several high-profile critics to give them a piece of their mind. Jim Grant’s piece is a must-read. For example…
    • In the not quite 100 years since the founding of your institution, America has exchanged central banking for a kind of central planning and the gold standard for what I will call the Ph.D. standard. I regret the changes and will propose reforms, or, I suppose, re-reforms, as my program is very much in accord with that of the founders of this institution. Have you ever read the Federal Reserve Act? The authorizing legislation projected a body “to provide for the establishment of the Federal Reserve banks, to furnish an elastic currency, to afford means of rediscounting commercial paper and to establish a more effective supervision of banking in the United States, and for other purposes.” By now can we identify the operative phrase? Of course: “for other purposes.”
      Piece of my mind – G R A N T ’ S   I N T E R E S T   R A T E   O B S E R V E R
  • It’s worth reminding ourselves that "Regulators who are required to forecast have had a woeful record of chronic failure.” And it’s worth remembering who said that.
    Greenspan's 'No Housing Bubble' Prediction, 7 Years Later – R E A L   E S T A T E . A O L
  • Here’s what a dialogue between an Austrian economist and an unreconstructed Keynesian looks like when both are British MPs—one of whom, Austin Mitchell, has a long-standing NZ connection. Fascinating.
    Dialogue: Quantitative Easing  - P O L I T I C S    H O M E
  • Why is British PM saying he’s cutting debt when he’s not. And what does his friendship with ‘Black Swan’ author Nasim Taleb have to do with it?
    Cameron, Nasim Taleb and cutting debt - C O B D E N   C E N T R E
  • Now, here’s a question to ponder: Do Taxes Inhibit or Inspire Hard Work?

  • Here’s some words I bet you’ never thought you’d hear in this order: “Former Al Gore press secretary slams Irish plans to honour Che Guevara.”
    Former Al Gore press secretary slams plans to honour Che Guevara – I R I S H  C E N T R A L
  • When it comes to lying lefties, Robert Fisk is the world leader. But Michael Moore and Johanne Hari aren’t far behind.
    Lying Lefties…
    –  Damian, Thompson, T E L E G R A P H
  • Today’s history lesson: The fall of the Roman empire and the rise of Islam.
    The fall of the Roman empire and the rise of Islam  - G U A R D I A N
  • imageAnd a related movie…
    A New Short Worth Watching –  S C O T  T    H O L L E R A N ’ S   B L O G
  • Interesting question to ponder…
    Can Liberalism Tolerate Islam? – S E A N   G A B B
  • …because among other vices:
    Islam Makes Women Invisible –  N O O D L E   F O O D
  • The argument that immigration must be limited due to the burdens that illegal immigrants impose via the welfare state is just a rationalization for conservative opposition to immigration. Kelly and Santiago Valenzuela offer the perfect reductio ad absurdem of the argument. Jonathan Swift would surely approve.
    More Blaming of Immigrants for the Welfare State 
    – M O T H E R   O F   E X I L E S
  • Rand Simberg discusses benefits and possible approaches to securing private property rights in outer space: - Homesteading the Final Frontier – C . E . I .
  • Top ten signs a social media expert is nothing of the sort. My fave: He sends you an email saying “email is dead.”
    Top Ten Signs a Social Media Expert Isn’t – E . P O L I T I C S
  • Wow! View art works in breath-taking detail from gallery collections all around the world via the Google Art Project, including works from our own Auckland Gallery. This is seriously exciting!
    Google Art Project 
  • Building the Pink Tower is a new documentary film project re-imagining schools and learning through the lens of Montessori education, shining a light on what we want in education: eager learning, creative thinking, and collaborative work.  Says neuro-psychologist Stephen Hughes: “The task of education must change!”
    Help out at Building the Pink Tower—and find out “What’s a pink tower, anyway?”

  • Yes, Virginia, you can do Montessori at home. You can do it beautifully.
    Montessori at Home – A P A R T M E N T   T H E R A P Y
  • By the way, if you’re going to learn about education from anyone other than Maria Montessori, you could do a lot worse than learn from the French!  Turns out putting adults first is better for everyone—kids included
    No bowing down before Bébé – S P I K E D   R E V I E W   O F   B O O K S
  • The NY Post asked America's best comedians for their favourite jokes from the past year. These being American comedians, some of them are even funny.
    Comics' favorite jokes –  N E W   Y O R K   P O S T
  • And now, some thoughts on the architecture of casinos. Apparently newer casinos are less like soulless factories that grab you by the heels and shake your pockets until they’re empty, and more like “adult’s playgrounds.”
    The new casinos and how they induce you to spend money -  M A R G I N A L   R E V O L U T I O N
  • “A former researcher at Amgen Inc has found that many basic studies on cancer — a high proportion of them from university labs — are unreliable, with grim consequences for producing new medicines in the future.”  Confirmation bias and incentives play a big role in all parts of human life, responds Russ Roberts.
    Fake science everywhere  - C A FE   H A Y E K
  • More cool new technology on the way, courtesy of genuine nano-science: Smart windows that keep heat out - but let light in.
    Smart windows keep heat out – but let light in -  N E W   S C I E N T I S T
  • No. Please, please no!
    Here come the sons: the return of the Beatles? – T E L E G R A P H

Enjoy your long weekend!
PS: Here’s the real thing:

[Hat tips to Cobden CentreRighteous Bren, Jonathan Hoenig, Cary Yates, Auckland Art Gallery, Eric Crampton, Joe Swam, The Commentator, Lyndsi Stevens, Gus Van Horn, Whale Oil, Noodle Food, Geek Press]

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Sky City is not the limit when it comes to govt’s favours

Q: What do Sky City, Air New Zealand, Mediaworks, South Canterbury Finance and Fletcher Building have in common?
A: They’re all big enough to pull favours out of the Prime Minister’s arse.

After four years This National Government’s policy on encouraging business is now clear: it’s policy is not to encourage an environment in which business in general can grow.  It’s policy is to grant favours to specific businesses so they can grow, while all about  them struggle.

This is what’s behind behind the quasi-governmental monopoly powers granted Fletcher Building in Christchurch. It was behind the govt’s decision to bailout out South Canterbury Finance investors and Mediaworks.  It’s what’s behind the public/private partnerships Key and English favour—as it happens, precisely the crony corporatist model followed in Mussolini’s Italy.

And it’s what’s behind the Government’s plan now to pass special legislation allowing SkyCity to pack the halls of its fusty casino with as many pokie machines as it can manage while maintaining the prohibition on every small operator in the country against overstepping the government’s chosen number.

In the National Government lexicon, this sort of thing is what it means to grow business: it simply means to grow those businesses who can get an appointment with the Prime Minister.

It’s little not large where business life is difficult.  But it’s large to whom this National Government sells its favours.

This is what this government thinks it means to do business. Which shows how little they understand about how business really works.

Government profligacy comes back to bite an irresponsible govt

An announcement this week shows this government’s alleged economic management is even more irresponsible than we thought.

When the recession hit the decision facing everyone in the country, from politician to businessman, from borrower to creditor, was this: whether to hunker down, look at your bottom lines and reduce every overhead you can to meet falling revenues, or to keep spending like a drunken sailor and borrow heavily to cover the ever-increasing gap between incomings and outgoings.

It is now a matter of record that governments both central and local, both here and overseas, almost to a man and woman chose the latter course.  Lacking both the courage and the conviction to do what had to be done, even what the Prime Minister himself told the world needed to be done (“you can’t spend your way out of a crisis,” John Key told the March, 2009 Wall Street Journal*) the National Government in particular chose to pursue the opposite course: raising spending year after year with borrowing of around $300 million per week to keep the government’s spending spree on the road.

So much for responsible government. Their pledge to the public, supposedly justifying this golden shower of government profligacy, rested solely on the imaginative—not to say heroic—assumptions by Treasury that the government’s Budget would somehow go from red and bleeding over the last few years of National’s management to black and bonny in 2014/15.

_RecoveryHow would the National Government achieve this wondrous state of affairs without cutting any spending? “Somehow” came the answer from both Treasury and the Blue Team’s alleged economic managers.  Even at the time the “plan” appeared to be little more than borrow and hope—borrow to keep the bread and circuses coming, and hope the economic situation picks up.

How? Somehow.

Even at the time this looked stupid. Now, it’s just pure fantasy.

When this assumption of balanced budgets by 2014 were first announced they were roundly rubbished, but after enough people kept repeating the same thing over and over again then “serious” economic commentators who should have known better began repeating the inanity themselves.

But it’s not true and never could have been. Those who downgraded the government’s credit knew it, even if Bill English didn’t.

The assumption was laughable in 2009. And now in 2012 when those who made it now concede it is not possible—and sober economic commentators understand it was never possible—it’s no longer laughable, it’s tragic.

* * * * *

* Key told the Journal his idea for New Zealand was to “grow it out of recession by improving productivity,” “putting Mr. Key National Party at odds with Washington, Tokyo and Canberra” noted the Journal.

“Those capitals are rolling out billions of dollars in stimulus packages -- with taxpayers' money -- to try to prop up growth. That's ‘risky,’ Mr. Key says. ‘You've saddled future generations with an enormous amount of debt that then they have to repay,’ he explains. ‘There is actually a limit to what governments can do’.”

There is. This is true. But somewhere between Wall Street and Wellington Mr Key appears either to have visited Damascus or to have thought he could tell one group of people what they wanted to hear and another what they wanted to hear—with both messages at total odds with each other. Or in other words, to place deception above doing the right thing.
Which of the two choices do you think he made?

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Well Said, Councillor Morrison!

This week, Doc McGrath is driving freely around Wellington

Good news this week in the form of some welcome respite for Wellington drivers, whose protests about a city council revenue spy-car led to it being taken off the road.

But isn't it horrendous that a city council, funded by ratepayers, set up a spy car in the first place to persecute many of those self-same ratepayers—those with the audacity to shun inconvenient and unreliable public transport?

And doesn't it raise the question of what exactly the role of local government is

Because over the last 18 months, a council-owned Toyota Yaris, equipped with camera, has generated nearly a million dollars in fines for the grey ones on council, levied on car owners for sins as egregious as stopping at an intersection with indicator flashing (driver then charged with "double parking"), and dropping kids off at school ("dangerous stop-and-drop practices").

Obviously, this vehicle clearly had, as its primary aim, not safety but the extraction of yet more money from Wellington motorists. The cynic in me suggests that it was all part of a Green-inspired anti-car (read: anti-freedom) crusade to boost the numbers using public transport. It was certainly profitable: with running costs of $250k a year, and revenue generation of $900k a year, operating these vehicles is a veritable licence to print money (Ben Bernanke and Alan Bollard would almost be envious!).

Effectively, this was a selective motoring tax with private motorists as its victims - a nasty, spiteful and vicious way of robbing Wellingtonians.

Good riddance to it, and if such a move is tried again I recommend the citizenry take matters into their own hands and disable the vehicle concerned. And the driver.

At least councillor John Morrison had the honesty to call this spy car "sneaky and surreptitious" and admitted: "The ratepayers are our friend and customer, not our enemy. The spy car treated them like the enemy."

Well done, John. If only more bureaucrats would adopt such a respectful attitude toward their masters.

See ya next week!
Doc McGrath.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Ineptocracy: Are we there yet?

Guest post by Phil Scott of Wellington’s Foundation for Economic Growth 

Ineptocracy [in-ep-toc'-ra-cy] - a system of government where the least capable of leading are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.
Greece springs to mind.

We are not an ineptocracy yet, but we have spent many decades moving in that direction. It seems that nations are either becoming wealthier or poorer. The fact that we are running our economy with paper money makes it very difficult to even tell whether or not we are getting wealthier as a nation. I know that when a nation doubles the unit of money the price of everything doubles and the wages double and everything remains stable as we saw when New Zealand changed from using pounds to using dollars, overnight.

It therefore seems reasonable that if we are increasing our paper money supply by 10% each year then, by and large over a period of time the cost of things will increase by 10% each year as well. Increasing productivity by 1% or 2% may keep costs down but when we look at REAL Estate which is the one REAL asset that we can all recognize we notice that over a period of four decades properties have been going up in price by around 9% or 10% each year, on average.

The value of a house to its owner does not change over time. It is still the same more or less comfortable and secure place to live. But the increase in paper money deludes us into thinking that since our house is now worth a million dollars we must be rich. Not at all. Our wealth has remained stable. It just takes more government supplied paper money to buy things.

Owning a property maintains our wealth. It does not increase it. How then do the Green Party members of parliament justify calling this a "capital" gain and then taxing us if we sell it?

This is just another means of taking wealth from the savers and giving it to the voters for socialism. The net effect is to destroy the middle class and have a society of a few very wealthy people and a vast array of peasants.
We see this problem overseas with the protests in Wall street demanding help for the "99%".

The question is, "How do we solve this problem?"

A study of REAL Economics will provide the answer. Have a read here.

Earth Day vs human ingenuity


Apparently some folk turned their lights off voluntarily on Saturday night in an attempt to emulate the plight of the dirt-poor North Koreans.

North Koreans endure the darkness due to their devotion to Marxism and to the death-worshipping dictatoriat  of the Kim family.  Which means, for most North Koreans, they have no direct choice about living in darkness.

But the fools turning their lights off on Saturday night were doing it by choice. They were doing it in the name of “sustainability.” Which as Craig Biddle points out, is fatuous nonsense.

The idea behind so-called sustainability is that if we humans consume too many raw materials (or “natural resources”) we will reach a point of unsustainability, where there is not enough left for us or for future generations and thus we or they will die. Accordingly, the argument goes, we must stop people from using so many “natural resources”; we must curb our predilection to consume; we must embrace a policy of “sustainability.” Hence the various drives: We must periodically “turn out the lights” or “use less gas” or in some other way make do with less.
    This notion, however, is nonsense, and we can see that it is if we identify the context that the environmentalists drop in order to get people to buy in to their nonsense.
    The notion that we need a policy of “sustainability” assumes that man is merely a consumer and that raw materials are “limited.” But neither of these assumptions is true.
    Man is not merely a consumer; he is also, and more fundamentally, a thinker and a producer who can take raw materials from nature—whether dirt, berries, petroleum, or atoms—and transform them into the requirements of his life—bricks, food, energy, and weapons. And when man is free to act on his judgment, he can continually discover and implement new ways to use raw materials for his benefit.
    Nor are raw materials “limited”—at least not in any meaningful sense of the term. Of course there is a finite amount of aluminium, petroleum, and the like in the earth. But Earth is nothing but raw materials—of which we’ve tapped only a minuscule fraction of a infinitesimal portion—and the rest of the universe is nothing but a whole lot more. Petroleum used to be just goo you didn’t want to get on your feet or crops; now man uses it to fuel industrial civilization, to make heart valves, to manufacture Kindles, and so on. Sand used to be good for nothing but sunbathing and sandcastles; now man uses it to make eyeglasses and fiber-optic cables. Uranium used to be just a toxic metal you’d want nothing to do with; now man uses it to create inexpensive electricity... And on and on. There is no telling what uses man will discover for other raw materials in the future

The point to grasp here is that resources are not so much found as they are discovered; and not so much discovered as they are created—created by human ingenuity applied to human needs: identifying stuff within the infinity of the universe that can be made to meet that need and to be gainfully brought into a causal connection with that need.   So as long as we remain free to create and produce new resources, the only limit to “our” resources is our ingenuity.

As long as we do remain free to produce. Which is precisely what the Luddites wish to shut down.

More economic ignorance


This government again confirms its economic ignorance: in the midst of high unemployment, economic stagnation and with the sovereign debt time-bomb about to explode across the world, it elected to appease ignorant leftists raise  the minimum wage, starting today—raising costs for marginal producers at precisely the time neither they nor their employees need it.

It is now obvious this is a government that will do anything to remain popular, anything that it except to take the hard decisions that might actually take “the sharp edges” of the recession.

They are an economic disaster.*

As Murray Rothbard once observed,

It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a "dismal science." But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.

It is even worse to be a minister and put your economic ignorance into practice.

* Nobel Prize winner James Buchanan: “Just as no physicist would claim that "water runs uphill," no self-respecting economist would claim that increases in the minimum wage increase employment. Such a claim, if seriously advanced, becomes equivalent to a denial that there is even minimal scientific content in economics, and that, in consequence, economists can do nothing but write as advocates for ideological interests. Fortunately, only a
handful of economists are willing to throw over the teaching of two centuries; we have not yet become a bevy of camp-following whores.”

Sunday, 1 April 2012

SUNDAY MORNING MYTHOLOGY: Theseus & the Minotaur: Destroying the dark past

imageOur story this morning comes originally from the pre-historical kingdom of Crete, ruled by King Minos and said to be the birthplace of Zeus, with many, many later Greek additions as it was told and retold.

imageNow, after having sex in the Mediterranean surf with a bull* Minos’ wife Pasiphae (immortal daughter of the sun-god Helios) gave birth to the Minotaur—a half-man, half-bull creature symbolising, quite naturally, the bestial in man.

And as you probably know, King Minos of Crete imprisoned the Minotaur  in a vast Labyrinth (arguably, according to archaeologist Arthur Evans who excavated it, the vast Labyrinth of  Knossos which to this day bears marks of the bull motif)  a a conflicting maze of various wandering paths and innumerable paths of deception (just like the human psyche), to house the bull-man, the Minotaur, the beast that his wife Pasiphae bore after having intercourse with a bull—in other words, his step son.

Isn’t there some fabulous symbolism right there already?


Now, after his son Androgeus was assassinated in Athens after the Pan-Athenian Games, Minos demanded tribute from the city in the form of their 7 most courageous young men and 7 most beautiful young women to be sent every seventh year to be sacrificed to the Minotaur. (Yes, folks, this is where the leading motif of The Hunger Games comes from.)

imageEnter, stage left, the hero Theseus, already famous from his Six Labours.

Determined to put a stop to the barbarity, Theseus, an Athenian, contrived to get himself nominated as one of the “volunteers.”And upon arriving in Crete to be thrown into the Labyrinth to be devoured by the Minotaur, as the flower of Athenian youth had for many decades, naturally Theseus fell in love with Minos’ daughter Ariadne, and he with her.  (It has everything, doesn’t it—deep, dark secrets; labyrinthine human psychology; and now star-crossed lovers!)

Confiding in her his plans to slay the beast, gave him directions by which to find the heart of the Labyrinth (“always down and forward, never to left or right”) and a thread to unravel by which he could find his way out again after ridding human history of its dark past. (Yes folks, this is what the legend primarily symbolises.)which he let unwind through the Labyrinth so that he was able to kill the Minotaur and find his way back out again—after which, quite naturally, he left with the girl whereupon they both lived happily ever after,** secure in the knowledge that, symbolically at least, the Hero had put an end to man’s savage past.image

* See, already this is better than your average Bible story, right? The story goes that Minos had refused to sacrifice a bull to Poseidon, so the god took revenge by causing his wife to desire the bull—in the words of the poet Ovid, “"Pasiphaë took pleasure in becoming an adulteress with a bull." But that's definitely another story.

** Well, no, not exactly. Theseus’ father jumped to his death on presuming Theseus to be dead—the sails of his returning ship having failed to be changed for the prescribed livery signalling victory. And Theseus himself abandoned Ariadne and her sister Phaedra on the journey home on the island of Naxos, reportedly because the goddess Athena requested it. And you don’t say no to Athena, do you.

Friday, 30 March 2012

FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: The ‘Who will crush whom?’ edition

There are many people with things to say and most of them want you to listen. Time then for a Friday morning ramble around what they’ve got to say.

  • The allegedly thick-skinned Judith Collins shows the thickness is only paper thin—at least when it comes to her skin—by going where few politicians have gone before in suing her political opponents for defamation. (But if opponents aren’t defaming NoCrush Collins they’re surely not doing their job properly, no?)
    Political theatre watch, best defense is a good offense edition -  D I M   P O S T
    Collins Lawsuit: What On Earth Is She Thinking? -  I M P E R A T O R   F I S H
  • You mean you don’t think it’s odd that the Greens think when Australian Intelligence says “jump” we should ask how high? Or that their xenophobia apparently now trumps even common sense?
    The Huawei Question – Russell Brown,  H A R D  N E W S
  • Go on, take a guess how many people went on benefits ever working day last year. Hint: it’s more than the opposite of what Minister Paula Bennett would lead you to believe.
    One person a minute -  L I N D S A Y  M I T C H E L L
  • It’s often said you could almost fit New Zealand’s entire mainstream political spectrum—from conservatives to so-called liberals—inside the U.S. Democratic Party. But is that correct?
    Antipodean Dreaming  - Eric Crampton, O F F S E T T I N G   B E H A V I O U R
  • It’s also said that Americans should learn from New Zealand’s much-vaunted egalitarianism. But guess what:
    Nobody Deserves Egalitarianism -  Josh Windham, T H E   UN D E R C U R R E N T
  • Case Study of the Austrian Business Cycle: New Zealand’s whole structure of production was buggered by the latest boom-bust business cycle.
    Firm demographics and capital theory: Case study using New Zealand business data 
    – Jake Matthews, C O B D E N   C E N T R E
    Boom & Bust Economic Cycles: An Austrian Business Cycle Theory Overview – Z E R  O   H E D G E
  • Another myth exploded about the tolerant left.
    Pew Research reveals liberals most intolerant online. – H O T   A I R
  • A photographer has been documenting the sad deconstruction of Christchurch.
    Architectural demise -  A D R I E N N E   R E W I
  • What the Chris Cairns verdict teaches us about the special place of social media in today’s litigation.
    What the Cairns verdict teaches us about the special place of social media  - Chris Keall, NBR
  • Christchurch property activist Hugh Pavletich from Performance Urban Planning blasts Non-Recovery Czar Gerry Brownlee and his Government for the woeful job they’ve done allowing Christchurch to re-house. Says Hugh: “What part of ‘allow’ don’t you understand Gerry? Just listen to Brownlee’s appalling responses to the points I made.
    His only interest is to protect the interests of ‘investors’ interests – Gerry-speak for land bankers and speculators, i.e., cronies of the National Party, and to hell with those desperate for affordable housing in Christchurch.”
  • What makes it even more infuriating, says Hugh, is the ignorance of Hon Annette King, Local Government Spokesthing for Labour—the party of economic Neanderthals—allowing the all-but-absent Housing Minister Heatley such an easy ride. “Labour should have learnt by now how it ‘stuffed’ this country with the unnecessary inflating housing bubble 2002 - 2007 - as this Christchurch City Council Quick Facts Graph illustrates. Christchurch was on its knees at the time of the 4 September 2010 earthquakes some 18 months ago:
  • Come on, confess: you’ve always wanted to know what goes on inside a condom factory, haven’t you:

  • “One of the points that economists have a really hard time getting over, probably because it is so counter-intuitive, is that we human beings don’t really consume resources, we create them…”
    We Don't Consume Resources, We Create Them –Tim Worstall,  F O R B E S
  • “In campaign speech after campaign speech, Obama has said that oil is the energy of the past. This is another example of his dedication to making fallacious arguments.”
    Obama: Oil is the Energy of the Past - Utterly Fallacious 
    -  A N  O B J E C T I V I S T   I N D I V I D U A L I S T
  • American conservatives are great ones for following the Founding Fathers, or so they say. Want to guess what the Founding Father policy on immigration was? “Passed in the first Congress, the Naturalization Act of 1790 had zero restrictions on immigration. You read that right, the first immigration law passed in the United States, by the Founders themselves, supported open immigration… Combining the Founder's openness for immigration with the 14th Amendment race-neutral grant of birth-right citizenship--with proper checks for criminals, terrorists, and the seriously ill--would legalize almost all immigration…”
    The Founders’ Immigration Policy  
    -  H U F F I N G T O N   P O S T
  • Economic Dictator Ben Bernanke got the job because he’s supposedly the best in the world at knowing what the fuck is going on economically speaking. Here’s 30 examples of his alleged wisdom, such as, in Jan. 10, 2008: “The Federal Reserve is not currently forecasting a recession.”
    30 Bernanke Quotes That Are So Absurd You Won’t Know Whether To Laugh Or Cry 
    – B U S I N E S S   I N S I D E R
  • You might have noticed that Chief Fed Reserve Spinmeister Ben Bernanke has been out on the trail trying to win the hearts and minds of impressionable youngsters.  He starts bad and he gets worse. “Bernanke’s discussion of the gold standard is perhaps the low point of a generally poor performance,” reports George Selgin.
    Anti-Bernanke – F R E E   B A N K I N G . O R G
  • “Americans will spend $46 billion a year to obey just the new regulations the Obama administration imposed. Think of the money diverted to lawyers, accountants and ‘compliance officers’—money that might have created jobs and financed products that could make lives better. Big businesses often have no problem with this…”
    Job killers: Advocates of regulations don’t acknowledge the law of unintended consequences 
    – John Stossel, R E A S O N
  • …which leads to the obvious question:
    Is Anything Actually Legal Anymore? -  G U S  V A N   H O R N
  • Why is the UK economy failing? “Do not heed those who paint with a limited palette and speak only of [non-existent] fiscal austerity.”  It’s failing because it’s fundamentals are rooted.
    Why is the UK economy failing? – M A R G I N A L  R E V O L U T I O N
  • Speaking of non-austerity, Britain wasted the opportunity to escape some of their suicidal enviro-stupidity on climate change that push up energy bills for millions of households. The laws have been spared George Osborne’s cull.
     Silly buggers: Climate law survives red tape cull  - Steven Milloy, J U N K   S C I E N C E
  • You can never be told too many times to read this book!
    Henry Hazlitt: Economics in One Lesson – Andy Duncan,  C O B D E N   C E N T R E
  • And for ten more, which I can thoroughly endorse:
    10 Must-Read Books on Economics – Don Watkins,  L A I S S E Z   F A I R E
  • Someone is waxing poetical about Austrian economics.  I give you a Shakespearean sonnet in iambic pentameter by Alex Entz, who says “spurred on by the rash of ‘Fed Valentines,’ thought I’d take a decidedly Austrian approach.”
    Dream On, Valiant Austrian! An Economics Sonnet – F R E A K O N O M I C S

    Dream On, Valiant Austrian!

    I fell asleep quite late last night, adrift

    In books of Hayek’s thoughts. And dreaming was

    An oddity—dollars and gold, a swift

    Exchange; velocity ran flat because

    It stayed constant, our friend. Inflation sat

    A toothless beast by Milton’s sage theory;

    There was no need for Twist, or worse, a fat

    Sad QE3—of which I was leery.

    There were no bubbles to be popped, no price

    Distortions there, and property was ruled

    By Coase—so simple and so fair. A piece

    By JM Keynes no longer had us fooled.

                I woke to a report about the Fed;

                Sometimes the world runs better in my head.

  • Islam is like … ?  In response to the murders of a rabbi and three children in Toulouse, France, and to the murders of the French paratroopers by Mohamed Mera, Ed Cline likens Islam to “an ideological Black Death that must be faced up to by politicians and intellectuals. There's no such thing as a ‘benign’ Islam. It is a death-worshipping ideology from top to bottom. And the only way to emasculate it is to repudiate it in its entirety."
     Islamic Jihad: Hurry Up or Wait? - Edward Cline, R U L E   O F  R E A S O N 
  • So having a Muslim as the counterterrorism chief of the CIA while countering Islamist terrorists means [insert appropriate word here].
    CIA's counterterrorism chief is convert to Islam -  J I H A D  W A T C H
  • Here’s a fascinating discussion thread between Australian Objectivist Prodos and a (chat) room fool of anarcho-capitalists.
    Discussion thread with Anarcho-capitalists – T H E   P R O D O S   B L O G
  • Unfortunately, the Wall Street Journal is as ignorant about patent protections as your average anarcho-capitalist…
    Wall Street Journal Proves its Patent Ignorance – Dale Halling, S T A T E   O F   I N N O V A T I O N
  • …and just as ignorant about the dangers of radiation.
    Radiation Hormesis - T H R U T C H
  • “A big error has haunted humanity for centuries: it’s the equivocation between generosity and altruism.The former is a virtue any decent human being will practice: it asks of one to reach out to deserving others in times of dire need. The latter is a policy of devoting oneself to benefiting others above all. The former is admirable, the latter is suicidal.”
    Altruism Isn’t Generosity – Tibor Machan, B AS T I A T I N S T I T U T E
  • And on a completely related topic…
    How Not To Cut Government – Don Watkins, L A I S S E Z   F A I R E
  • Turns out it’s not just New Zealand, Canadian, American, Russian, Chinese and British temperature records that are shaky.
    Australian temperature records shoddy, inaccurate, unreliable. Surprise!  – J O    N O V A
  • Mythbusters’ Adam Savage tells the Reason Rally why he’s for reason over superstition.
    My talk from the Reason Rally – T E S T E D    N E W S
  • Why study history?  Historian Scott Powell gives you the answers in five ‘Is’:
      1. Instruction
      2. Inspiration
      3. Insight
      4. Integration
      5. Iteration
  • Included in his five ‘I’s is this great example of “the difference between a purely journalistic outlook and a historical one was demonstrated in the exchange between MSNBC anchors and Harvard historian Niall Fergusson.” For the historian, the outcome of the Egyptian overthrow of Hosni Mubarak “could never have been in doubt for those who benefit from the insight that history provides.”

Putting any adjective in front of "justice" makes it the opposite of justice.
- David Burge, Iowahawk

  • Fast forward to four minutes in to hear what beautiful natural singing really sounds like: these are two untrained singers in their local village choir in Havelu, Tonga, but with more beauty in their voices than many so-called stars:

  • And for those who recently saw Wagner’s Gotterdammerung at a cinema near you in the Met’s ‘Live in HD’ series, here’s how it went down in the most memorable production at Bayreuth. This is the climactic ending where the gods perish, leaving mankind to cope without them.  In other words, an actual happy ending. But naturally, the fat lady has to sing first.

  • Here’s the great saxophonist they called ‘The Brute,’ a man with immense power who could still play the sweetest ballad without bruising it…

  • And finally, how cool is this: “The Seikilos epitaph is the oldest surviving example of a complete musical composition, including musical notation, from anywhere in the world. The song, the melody of which is recorded, alongside its lyrics, in the ancient Greek musical notation, was found engraved on a tombstone, near Aidin, Turkey (not far from Ephesus). The find has been dated variously from around 200 BC to around AD 100.”

[Hat tip Marginal Revolution, Geek Press, Noodle Food, The Daily Capitalist, Bastiat Institute, Junk Science, Small Dead Animals, Bosch Fawstin, Falafulu Fisi]

That’s all for this week.
Thanks for reading and commenting.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Housing absolutism limited by Prime Ministerial corruption

It was said of King Louis’s pre-Revolutionary France that it was history’s greatest example of absolutism limited only by corruption—that is, absolute rule limited only by the favours serfs could extract from the petty chisellers around Louis’s court—the absolutism chaining up and emasculating the people; the corruption being the only thing allowing them to breathe.

imageA story involving a Prime Minister, a series of developers, some local town planners and several large paper bags full of money suggests modern Ireland could well provide one of history’s second great examples—and a model lesson from which our own students of central planning could learn.

You see, in the “boom” period of the former Irish Tiger, the boom was largely based on gobs of borrowing being poured into great gobs of house buying—raising house prices in the few places town planners allowed houses to be built until those houses eventually became unaffordable.  This situation was the same virtually all around the world, but in Ireland (for many reasons both good and very, very bad) it was taken to extremes. So much so that

the country's real estate market…, prior to the Recession, was among the fastest growing in the world.  Here is a graph showing what happened to real estate prices in Ireland over the past 20 years:

Here we thought that America's housing market readjustment was bad!  Ireland experienced the largest property price increase among Europe and North American countries with values quadrupling over the period between 1997 and the peak in 2007.

Now, naturally, this being Ireland, former Taioseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern (who was at this time the darling of his party but who now faces expulsion from it) wanted in on this deluge of apparent riches—so he adopted the time-honoured method of mayors, councillors, town planners and politicians through the ages:  in simple terms he had land around the tightly zoned city of Dublin held off the market by his town planners by having it zoned for anything other than housing, land which he released only after those paper bags full of cash came his way from developers.*

The payments, which are rumoured to be in the hundreds-of-thousands, finally came to light during a 15-year inquiry concluding Ahern “failed to truthfully account” for all the money washing through his bank account when he was Prime Minister. “Much of the explanation provided by Mr Ahern,” drily concluded the Tribunal, “was deemed by the tribunal to be untrue.”

Perhaps the moral of this story is not the obvious one. Sure, the former Taioseach is a lying, thieving toe-rag—but which politician isn’t?   The fact is that politicians should not be in any position to grant favours like this, because they should not have the power to withdraw the rights of land-owners in the first place.

And even more: since Dublin is still ranked by Demographia as being Seriously Unaffordable, fully four years after Ireland’s boom has turned to bust—and since this is almost wholly attributable to mostly due to the unnecessary, politically inflated constraints put on land supply by planners and politicians—it’s just a bloody shame the amount Ahern was taking wasn’t in the millions. Because only then might enough land have been rezoned to help make housing in Dublin affordable again.**

Such is the way things work in a system of absolutism limited only by corruption.

* * * * *

* Don’t think NZ is immune to corruption like this. Ask yourself how town planners decide how fringe land around our major cities eventually gets rezoned—or how the land on which so many of Henderson’s car yards were first built were first re-zoned to allow it. And if you answered “by a rational analysis taking into account the interests of all stakeholders” then it seems you’ve learned nothing at all by being a regular reader of this blog.

** And if you don’t see lessons here for our local situation, then you really haven’t learned anything at all from being a regular reader here.

ECONOMIC HARMONIES, II: What Steve Jobs gained from his cleaning lady

ECONOMICS FOR REAL PEOPLE: Here’s the update on tonight’s discussion with our friends at the Auckland Uni Economics Group. Why not come along?

Hi all,

Last week we began talking about the biggest lesson economics has to teach, i.e., the “Economic Harmonies” that arise when people act in their legitimate self-interest, and the greatest example of that, i.e., Division of Labour.

This coming Thursday, at 6pm in Case Room 3 of the Auckland Uni Business School, we will continue looking at these Harmonies. Specifically, we will discuss some of the leading implications of the Division of Labour that help us confirm our general point. And as always, it will be done in an interesting and unique way.

ECONOMIC HARMONIES, II: What Steve Jobs gained from his cleaning lady, or: The General Gain from the Existence of Others

  • Why, in a division-of-labour society, prosperity is open to everyone;
  • What Thomas Edison gained from his cleaning lady (and what she gained from him);
  • Why Lady Gaga should spend more time caterwauling and John Grisham more time writing books;
  • Why Malthus, Russel Norman and the Chinese government are all wrong, i.e., why greater population is a blessing not a curse; and
  • How it is that in a division-of-labour society each of us gains from the existence of each other.

Where: Business School “Case Room 3,”
                  Level 0, Owen G. Glenn Building,
                  12 Grafton Rd,
                  Auckland University [Map here]
When:   Thursday 29 March, 6:00pm

All welcome!

And do check us out on the web at http://www.facebook.com/groups/191580464208836/ & http://uoaecongroup.wordpress.com/.

Road rule changes for Westies

On 25 March 2012 the Give Way Rules changed. Since so few drivers understand them, especially out West where we hear they’ve been having fearsome problems, we offer this simple guide to assist the average Westie to understand who gives way to whom. [“Whom”? Who says “whom” in Henderson?]


The red Mk IV Cortina gives way to the green Mk IV Cortina.


Whereas the Purple Holden Ute used to have right of way over the Blue Holden Ute.


Real cars will continue to have right of way over Japanese cars.


Holden will never give way to Ford, and vice versa, leading to collisions whenever they meet.


Trucks will continue to have right of “weigh” because they weigh more.


With some exceptions. Here above the rubbish truck is heavier, but must be overtaken or it will hold up traffic which is a crime against God and nature.


Buses weigh a lot, but, being a form of public transport of course never get right of way.

Note how all these drivers cooperate to ensure there is no gap the bus can push into.


Classic cars have right of way, so the Holden gives way to the Jag XK120.


Ford Capri claims classic status but Holden Ute gains right of way because the Capri has been painted pink….and it’s a Ford.


Holden HZ gains right of way over Holden SS V not because it is a classic but because the SS driver is more worried about scratching his paint work.


Citroen DS claims right of way as a classic, but no one ever gives way to the French.


Real classics claim right of way over not really classics like this 1980s Rover 3500


Time machine gets right of way over everything, except…


Magnum PI, because nothing holds up that moustache [See Ferrari refutes the Decline of the West, in Republican Party Reptile, P J O'Rourke].


Ordinary cars give way to a police car.


Traffic police will continue to give way to real police trying to catch Sheryl West.


Police cars still give way to ambulances.


I guess if two ambulances meet they both have right of way and collide. Cool…


Then you’d have to send a really BIG ambulance!


So in summary the green piece of tinfoil and glad wrap origami on the left gives way to the green Japanese piece of tinf…oh who cares, Westies never admit to driving Japanese.

[Hat tip Susan R.]

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

And the answer is …

She’s either a great actress, or this guy should reconsider his marriage vows.

Or maybe sue her factory school for spewing out someone this innumerate?

What do you think, is she sufficiently pretty to compensate?

[Hat tip Noodle Food]

Hunger Games

imageWhy would you want to see a film in which teenagers are forced to fight to the death for a live TV audience? Sounds monstrous, doesn’t it.

Perhaps we want to see it however for the same reasons we want to see art and drama in which people are persecuted for their beliefs (Quo Vadis); decide to give themselves to their besiegers to save their city (Monna Vanna, Burghers of Calais); die for an impossible love (Romeo & Juliet, Tristan & Isolde) are forced to endure totalitarian punishment for either their vices or virtues (Clockwork Orange, 1984, Darkness at Noon, We, Anthem).

If the drama is good enough, i.e, if the theme is sufficiently powerful and told masterfully, with the barbarity integrated with the story and not used solely for titillation, then the dramatisation tells us something important about humanity in extremity. Who wouldn’t want to see that!

imageSo I’m persuaded by people whose advice I consider seriously that I should break my self-imposed exile from the watching much-hyped new releases at the cinema, wherein so much garbage untouched by human minds has been vomited out in recent years, to see the film The Hunger Games.  Reviewer Ari Armstrong reckons the book on which it is based “is a worthy addition to the dystopian corpus”:

Although Collins’s novel does not offer the philosophic depth of certain other dystopian works (including, most notably, Ayn Rand’s Anthem), it does skilfully portray believable and heroic characters trying to live and defy their oppressors. For that reason, The Hunger Games is a worthy addition to the corpus of dystopian works.

And about the film reviewer and film buff Scott Holleran says, “It isn’t fast and flashy like most of what we consume in today’s similarly-oriented movies. It is slow and subtle. As a dramatization of the individual against the state, it is a work of art.”

It is not pumped up blood porn like 300. The Hunger Games is based on reality, not fantasy. There are no speeches with lines about fighting for reason. There are no massive assaults on the senses. There are no excessively graphic scenes… It is also not laced with sex porn like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. There are no lingering shots of graphic human degradation, no fundamentally, deeply damaged souls at the center, and no scene exists without a purpose that serves the plot…”

Sounds good, doesn’t it. Almost

too clever and subtle for its own good, …part of a rich history in dystopian-themed filmmaking about the classic theme of the individual against the government – 1984, V for Vendetta, The Mortal Storm,Agora, Doctor Zhivago,The Lives of Others, Sophie Scholl, We the Living (all of which should be seen, especially now) – and it earns a place with every sound of the death cannon that hits you hard and makes you feel hollow below your chest. As any story against government control should.

I see a trip to the cinema in my near future.

How about you?