Friday, August 17, 2012

FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: The “Who’s Paul Ryan” edition

Crikey, who would have thought selecting a bloke for VP candidate who’s said he quite likes Atlas Shrugged would be so controversial! More on that shortly, but first…

MPs vote next week on a bill proposing to prohibit people old enough to marry, vote and fight for their country from having a drink. David Farrar has started a topical series in response…
Keep it 18, Reason #1: Youth drinking is dropping, not increasing
Keep it 18, Reason #2: Increasing the purchase age will dilute the message not to supply to minors
Keep it 18, Reason #3: A split 18/20 age will push young drinkers into town
Keep it 18, Reason #4: Most alcohol is supplied by parents or family members

Can binge drinking be fixed by increasing the price of alcohol? Answer: No.
Can harms associated with high-intensity drinking be reduced by increasing the price of alcohol? – DRUG & ALCOHOL REVIEW

MPs will also be deciding whether to grant you and your loved ones permission to end your own life. Unwilling to grant you such permission (what gives you the idea you own your own life?!) new MP Maggie Barry resorts to a filthy false dichotomy to push her case.
Palliative Care and Euthanasia – KIWIBLOG
Palliative Care vs Assisted Dying: A false dichotomy – Kevin Hague, FROG BLOG

Why should primitive superstition be delivered on the news with a straight face?
First taniwha, now Ruamoko - what next? – KARL DU FRESNE

National MP Nick Smith is an appalling waste of a human being. But with a PhD in engineering, he does know enough to write a good piece on fracking … even if he did resort to a little misdirection on how much fracking is done for geothermal energy.
Fracking the sensible choice for NZ – Nick Smith, NZ HERALD
Smith gets it wrong on fracking – Gareth Hughes, FROG BLOG

I’m no fan of one-size-fits-all National Standards. But neither am I a supporter of hiding any information that is gathered on the state of our factory schools.
Is this the real agenda? – KIWIBLOG

Not for all the same reasons, but I think his conclusion is right.
The question of Afghanistan becomes more urgent – HARD NEWS

Of course, the bad news is that the US Government’s regulatory agencies and departments (not to mention the central bank) have never been busier.  But couldn’t we at least have a parliament like this?
This Congress could be least productive since 1947 - HISTORY NEWS NETWORK.

Here’s an idea we could try here.
Passengers, not taxpayers, should pay for the railways – I.E.A. UK

Does an apology really cut the mustard when an arsehole with a clipboard has virtually closed your business down—especially when it’s accompanied by a huge rates increase.

Sailing? The Irish Olympic Sailing Committee finally make sense for us of the nonsense out there on the water.

imageDirector of the Olympic committee trough Jacques Rogge sniffs disdainfully at the notion Usain Bolt could even be considered a legend.
Usain Bolt is a legend -- even if the IOC disagrees – Dan Wetzel, YAHOO SPORTS

Athlete Shrugged: 
Usain Bolt Just Says No to UK’s Taxes on Non-Resident Athletes  - BASTIAT INSTITUTE

Not a medal table Aussie would want to top, I suspect.
How Australia topped the medal tally – SMH

Here with us now, to review that Australian Olympic performance, is John Clarke.

Isn’t it astonishing how well satire sometimes gets to the heart of the matter.
Not Even Julian Assange Clear On What's Going On With Him Right Now – THE ONION

Since a lot of you are asking me about Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand … and about those folk who confuse his Rand fandom with agreement on her fundamentals … and because opinion is so divided …
Romney, Ryan … and Rand?! – NOT PC
Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand – Don Watkins, LAISSEZ FAIRE
Paul Ryan Is No Ayn Rand Disciple: He’s a Fiscal Moderate – Yaron Brook, LAISSEZ FAIRE
The Truth About Paul Ryan – ECONOMIC POLICY JOURNAL
Further Thoughts on Why Objectivists Should Actively Campaign for Romney-Ryan – Craig Biddle, OBJECTIVE STANDARD

Probably the best discussion you’re going to hear on the Ryan-Rand relationship—and the huge opportunity it presents.
Yaron Brook talks to Amy Peikoff to talk about about Paul Ryan and the potential implications of him as VP for our long-term battle to improve the culture. – DON’T LET IT GO

It’s not like it’s hard to explain—if folk do care about the facts.
The Appeal of Ayn Rand – Onkhar Ghate

Philosopher Diana Hseih answers two now very topical questions: “Can an Objectivist believe in God?” and “How can a conservative Christian also be a supporter of capitalism?”
Ayn Rand’s Problem?NOODLE FOOD

Does the lack of a liberal Ayn Rand says something about the state of modern liberalism—and the extent to which it’s abandoned ideas?
Why is there no liberal Ayn Rand – POWER LINE

Since Ryan is at least bold enough to challenge the Entitlement State, perhaps it’s worth pondering the justification (if any) for  so called “entitlement rights.”
A short Interview about “positive rights” (entitlements) – Tibor Machan, TIBOR’S SPACE


Machan: Rights in the US by unmondelibre

With a fresh election amid dire economic times, Americans (or at least Republican Americans) are also talking about …

I’m pretty sure the second word of the heading is redundant.
Europe returns to recession – MACROBUSINESS

So if Greece gets money from the bailout fund to repay the bailout fund, has a repayment actually been made?
Greece’s Debt Bomb – DAILY CAPITALIST

And the award for Europe’s most dangerous politician goes to …
Europe's Most Dangerous Politicians: Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, David Cameron, Jean-Claude Juncker, Jose Barroso, Mario Monti, Herman Van Rompuy – MISH'S GLOBAL ECONOMIC TREND ANALYSIS

"UK inflation jumps unexpectedly in July". Oh yes, completely unexpected that...
Expect the Bank of England to be surprised by inflation in the next couple of months – STEVE BAKER, MP

The European economy turns from stagnation to contraction. Financial journalists conclude that “austerity” is the reason. Apparently none of them are able to read.
Is Austerity Killing Us? – Doug French, LAISSEZ FAIRE TODAY

"What exactly is your ‘fair share’ of what 'someone else' has worked for?"
- Thomas Sowell

Turns out it wasn’t difficult.
How Alan Turing Outsmarted Britain’s Home Guard—and For Their Own Good – Daniel Wahl, TOS BLOG

Cartoonist Tom Scott has switched from criticising Netanyahu to criticising Ahmadinejad. Not before time.
"The dumbest man in the world" – TIMG_OZ BLOG

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It’s never to late to read, or re-read, Frederic Bastiat’s classic and highly entertaining essays. As a British MP reminds us.
The obstacle mistaken for the causeCOBDEN CENTRE

Bastiat’s “What is Seen and What is Not Seen” is “the pinnacle of economic profundity.” It’s true, you know.
Who Loves Bastiat and Who Loves Him Not – Bryan Caplan, ECON LOG

Picasso understood value pricing!
What if Picasso had been an Accountant – XERO BLOG

Hmmm.
Jobs dry up for travel agents and IT workers – NZ HERALD

Here’s a question to ponder:
Where is Jesus When People Starve? – ATHEIST REVOLUTION

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This is not how every lecturer would deliver a final exam. But Tyler Cowen is not your usual lecturer.
Tyler Cowen’s Unusual Final Exam – SETH’S BLOG

Don't risk your health listening to doctors, says Dr Shaun Holt, listen to 3rd rate celebs instead.
Stars who swear by alternative medicine – DAILY MIRROR

Sex researchers do say couples who sleep apart are healthier, have happier marriages and strong sex lives. So why cling to spooning?
Separate beds are liberating – SALON

Conducting an accurate and reliable sex survey however is as difficult as … [insert your own metaphor].
Is that a kiwi in your pocket? – STATS CHAT

Speaking of damn lies and statistics, isn’t it interesting how so many academic researchers are able to jeuje up their results so convincingly.
Live by statistics, die by statistics – PHARYNGULA

Wow. This painting is by someone who describes himself as beginner, who’s currently studying under artist Michael Newberry. (Click the painting to see a larger pic.)
AJ Nesselrod, oil painting of Koi – NEWBERRY’S BLOG

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[Hat tips Home Paddock, Thrutch, 3 Quarks DailyGeek Press, Noodle Food, Julian D., Ξ BLACK REPUBLICAN, Shaun Holt, @SteveBakerMP]

Thanks for reading and linking (now we just have to get you to comment)
Cheers
PC

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Christchurch’s Anti-Recovery Plan: Theft based on threadbare analysis

_hugh-pavletich-smlGuest post by Hugh Pavletich of Cantabrians Unite

‘THE GOVERNMENT’S BUY-UP FOR the central Christchurch blueprint has been described as a "land grab" and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) as a "den of thieves.”’
The Press reports:

Angry landowners say the Government will profit by selling their sites to someone else, in some cases leaving the original owners severely out of pocket... 
    Lisle Hood, co-owner of properties around Poplar St earmarked for the new innovation precinct, accused the Government of bullying tactics.
    "It's a land grab. They are nationalising private property and stomping all over our property rights," he said. "They are buying up all this land and they will flog it off to the big corporates and make a huge killing on it."
    Owners investing in heritage restoration had improved the city "only to be treated like crap, and that's obscene.”  "The Government should be looking after people, not ripping them off, and they've got a den of thieves [CERA] doing it on their behalf," Hood said.
    Roland Logan, part-owner of the Ng building in the path of the proposed stadium, said owners would be "subject to a serious injustice" if their land was resold at a profit.
    "Their property will be taken, their business destroyed, they'll receive what is as yet undetermined compensation, then [the Government] will on-sell it when the city has recovered."
    He said Cera was "basically flouting the rule of law" by impinging on property rights.
    "What they're doing is just mindboggling; it's appalling," Logan said…
    Property lawyer Hamish Grant, of Anthony Harper, said the blueprint had opened a "legal can of worms" and unhappy property owners could try to fight the buy-up. "
Grant said the Government could take land only for earthquake recovery, not "willy-nilly" or to benefit the city or the economy, and could be challenged by judicial review. "
" 'The courts have traditionally come down on governments because they are taking advantage of people's property rights," he said. "But it could be hard to argue. Until someone who is unhappy takes them to task, we just won't know."

In Sections 60 through 70, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 sets out for confiscated property how little compensation can be paid. It needs to be studied closely and legal advice sought.

As Cantabrians Unite has made clear over recent weeks, from a commercial perspective, the Central Blueprint for Recovery is in reality an "Anti-Recovery Plan" based on theft of business owners’ property rights—to be partially paid for by that theft.

If it is allowed to proceed, it will do irreparable damage to Christchurch.

imageWITH WORK ALREADY BEGUN buying confiscated land at bargain prices, the Authorities have still to produce any detailed cost estimates, feasibility studies or robust social and economic reports. The reason for this is obvious: because they know as well as we know that this CGI-larded Blueprint would not withstand any kind of robust analysis.  It is nothing more than a politically inept attempt to ram through a hare-brained planners wish list based on nothing more than a bunch of pretty pictures.

The politicians involved unfortunately are nothing more than "parrots" for bureaucrats with neither expertise nor track record in urban development, who are clearly clueless and careless about the consequences. 

Several very good articles are already beginning to pull apart the threadbare underpinnings of this Anti-Recovery Plan.

A recent perceptive article by political scientist "Puddleglum" provided an inkling of how this whole sorry Blueprint saga is playing out, a fiasco in which the Central Development Agency (and it would appear CERA people) appear to have simply gone on an ego trip with no understanding or inkling whatsoever of urban development realities—delivering profits into the hand of a chosen few by taking the property rights of many.

Sam Richardson, economics lecturer at Massey University, has done substantial international research on the problems of these types of public projects. His short blog article with hyperlinks to further material is most helpful.

The "core problem" here has been weak and ill-informed governance at both the central and local levels right from Day One , 4 September 2010—nearly two years ago.  The writer has covered these issues, many of which began before the earthquakes destroyed the city, most of the threads of which are incorporated within a recent article: CHRISTCHURCH: THE WAY FORWARD.

Last Thursday as well, Jo Kane of Canterbury Television graciously asked me to explain some of these issues on their One on One programme.

As I tell Jo, from the outset the authorities’ priorities should always have been (1) people (2) housing and (3) business. 

In the wider context, the Central Area and its recovery is only a small component of the issues - with people and their housing being far more important. The Central Area property owners and associated businesses are more than capable of sorting out their own issues had they only been left free to do so.

imageIndeed, one of the few great "highlights" of these earthquake events has been watching the heroics performed by Christchurch’s central business people, so many of whom managed to get their businesses back up, running and relocated in the suburbs within a remarkable 7 to 14 days after the 22 February events.

A truly remarkable achievement !

Leave them alone and these same people are more than capable of making recovery happen back in the central area from which they’ve been barred—if only the authorities would allow them.

The authorities should remove their focus from grand plans formed over other people’s property rights, and focus instead restoring their own loss-making public facilities, at the lowest possible cost, in both central and suburban areas—a job, all too sadly foreign to bureaucrats now becoming used to Blueprint-driven power trips.  And in the suburban areas as well, where most people now actually do live and work.

AT A HUMAN LEVEL, one of the things that has distressed me greatly these past two years of disaster has been the sheer bureaucratic ignorance and arrogance.  It is not overstating it to say that far too many people, with their homes and their businesses, have simply been 'bureaucratically brutalised.

What the earthquake couldn’t do to them, the bureaucrats have.

This must stop. Now.

Recovery will not get under way until people and their communities are allowed to take back control.

One way to start is for ratepayers to talk to their local councillors, their employees, to instruct them and the staff they control to pull their heads in. Here are the contact details: http://www.ccc.govt.nz/thecouncil/councillors/index.aspx

Hugh Pavletich is a Christchurch entrepreneur, the owner of website Performance Urban Planning and the co-author of the Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, 2011 .

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Olympic Architecture

Coffee With an Architect has a great collection of great, and not so great, Olympic architecture—the best of them being as much a celebration of athleticism as the Games themselves.

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See them all Coffee With an Architect.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

John Ansell’s “Treatygate”

“Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the
notion …, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character
and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.
    Racism … is the caveman’s version of the doctrine of innate ideas....
Racism is a doctrine of, by and for brutes. It is a barnyard or stock-farm
version of collectivism, appropriate to a mentality that differentiates
between various breeds of animals, but not between animals and men.”

- Ayn Rand, “Racism

“Today, racism is regarded as a crime if practiced by a majority—but as
an inalienable right if practiced by a minority.”
- Ayn Rand, “The Age of Envy

Don Brash’s former adman, the inventor of the nearly-election-winning Iwi/Kiwi billboards, has launched a new campaign called “Treatygate” to promote a ColourBlind New Zealand and One Law For All. I received an invitation today to join up, and to “Like” the campaign’s Facebook page.

I won’t be doing either.

Not because I disagree with One Law For All and a ColourBlind New Zealand—because institutionalised racism is just as much a crime if practiced by a minority as when practiced by a majority—but because I’m not sure that Ansell does.

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Click to enlarge

His manifesto makes bold claims. Much of it is right on the money. But it is the points that aren’t that are the problem.

He says for example, that it has been reprehensible that prime ministers have invented Treaty Principles out of thin air. That’s very true. But it’s not true to say, for another example, they’ve been “surrendering our beaches” to Maori, when what they’ve been doing is nationalising them.

This is the sort of confusion that I think helps to undermine his case.

If property rights do exist in beaches, bluffs or bays, such as common law rights in water, seabed, beach or foreshore—as they may do—then those rights should be recognised in law, or at least a means in law made available in law, which those of whatever colour claiming rights can have their day in court to argue their claim without the presumption of pre-emption by the state. This is what Ansell and his other collaborators should be arguing for, colour-blind law recognising valid property rights, not the extinguishment of right before it’s even had a chance to be proved.

Ansell’s 15-point manifesto on the con foisted upon us by the elites has much of value, but as a whole it’s a strange assortment of grievances undercut by serious problems, and strangely silent on such obvious rorts as the Maori seats. [Ansell’s points italicised, with my response underneath.]

The elite’s methodology is clear… The Treatygate Con

1. Get state academics to rewrite New Zealand history as a fantasy novel, where the Maoris are the goodies and the British the baddies.

There is much to admire in the British export of property rights and their legal system to the bottom part of the South Pacific (and I express a lot of that admiration here)—and, when compared to Britain’s appalling record of colonisation in other places (Ireland, of course, springs immediately to mind), there is much to admire in the humanitarian way it was at least attempted here. Still, even though there was more good than bad, I’m not sure I can agree any more with the simplistic “British goodies, Maori baddies’ than I can with the sentiment in reverse.

2.Get state schools and universities to indoctrinate New Zealanders with this fake history.
3. Get the bogus historians to slam past historians as unreliable (even those who witnessed the actual events or interviewed those who were there).

This is all too sadly true, no question, and one of the reasons for so much poison being around. But it can’t be fixed just by reversing the mantra.

4. Get the state media to peddle the fake history to stoke Maori grievance and Pakeha guilt.

“State media”?

5. Get iwi to fake claims to right fake wrongs.
6. Set up a state tribunal to hear these fake Maori claims.
7. Pay senior lawyers to represent Maori, and junior lawyers to represent the Crown.
8. Give the tribunal sole  power to interpret the Treaty.
9. Let the tribunal approve claims based on pure hearsay.
10. Make all Treaty-related documents as hard to find, and hard to read, as possible.

On an issue of such importance, it’s astonishing to see points like this last—a complaint about minutiae—make the grade. It makes you wonder not only if it’s even true, but how well all this has been thought through.

11. Brand as ‘racist’ anyone who questions any Maori entitlement.

Sadly, he and his financial backer Louis Crimp make it all too easy to ask that question—which to me is the biggest danger of supporting this campaign: that it will brand the campaign leaders, and anyone who might support it, as just anther group of barnyard collectivists; another group of folk who think “our stock” is better than your stock.
Ansell, for example, quit the ACT Party after criticising what he called "white cowards" for not standing up against Maori radicals.  And his financial backer Louis Crimp told the Herald back in May he believed he had the support of "white New Zealanders" in observing Maori are "either in jail or on welfare."  Said Crimp: "All the white New Zealanders I've spoken to don't like the Maoris, the way they are full of crime and welfare."
This is exactly the kind of barnyard collectivism any genuine campaign like this should have been careful to avoid. But instead it has been embraced.
Basically, to paraphrase Leo Tolstoy, everyone thinks of campaigning for a colour-blind New Zealand, but none of the campaigners consider starting with themselves.

12. If enough people object, threaten a race war.

Scaremongering.

13. To continue the resource grab indefinitely, entrench a Treaty-based, Bolivian-style constitution where indigenous people are more equal than others.

A valid concern. However, this …

14.  Pretend that Maori are indigenous to New Zealand, when they sailed here just before the Europeans, and suppress the mounting evidence that other races got here first.

… is just trash.  Ansell has been supping at the table of conspiracy idiots who claim red-headed Celtic explorers settled here thousands of years ago and built large stone structures around the place. This is moronic, and unfortunately tells us who else is already involved with this campaign, and what those signing up to it now will be involved in.
Finally, there’s this…

15. Pretend at all times that Maori remain a separate race, even though they’re all now part-Pakeha.

What the hell!? Arguing about blood lines is precisely the sort of barnyard collectivism this campaign is purportedly trying to overturn—yet here it is permeating the very manifesto.

One Law for All as a banner is a principle properly opposed to racism; it is too important, and too sensitive, to be left to those who promote barnyard collectivism themselves.

To be colour-blind is to be totally colour-blind—not just to complain that the wrong colour glasses are being handed out. 

So put me down as a “Dislike.”

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Things architects say

As this fellow says at the Houzz site (very useful site for helping you select your favourite ‘clippings’ for your next architectural project, by the way), all architects are influenced by the architects they studied under who were in turn influenced by the architects they studied under.

For example, I believe that architecture is at its best when all the unneeded elements are stripped away to reveal the fundamental essence of the design. In other words, "Less is more," which the great modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe once said. I learned this from my third-year studio professor, who used to work for Mies. My fourth-year professor would always ask us to discover "what the building wants to be," which is a phrase he learned from the great Louis Kahn, who he studied under at the University of Pennsylvania. Now I use this phrase once a week.
These are two facts I will mention to you within the first 10 minutes of our meeting because basically I studied under Louis Kahn and Mies van der Rohe, once removed.
That's how it works. It's like the telephone game. Vitruvius whispered something to Palladio hundreds of years ago, and Thomas Jefferson thought he heard what Vitruvius said but totally got it wrong, and leaned over to Christopher Wren to repeat it, but Christopher Wren was sketching a church dome on a napkin, which McMead and White stole and used for their designs at the White City in Chicago, and this greatly offended Louis Sullivan, so he went back to the office and fired Frank Lloyd Wright for stealing his clients. At least that's what Wright's student Kevin Bacon told my second-year professor, who told me this story, although I was sketching a church steeple on a napkin at the time, so I may have misunderstood him. This is how architecture works. It's a flawless system.

Almost.

Here’s some things architects (and near-architects) said, that are re-said. Often.

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More here.

Oh , and then there’s the words of the great Charles Rennie Macintosh (courtesy of the Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery of Glasgow). If you manage to decipher them, you might think the design and message have been perfectly integrated. Or then again, you might not.

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PS: And here are eight things an architect will never ever say. Allegedly.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Can’t we get over our obsession with the bloody voting system!

We are now entering our regular quinquennial celebration of the idea that tinkering with our voting system will somehow give us freedom from politicians and all the other moochers and looters.

What a joke.

Somehow NZers have become enthralled with the notion that if only the perfect electoral system can be devised, then our golden days will somehow return. It’s an obsession. Every drinker at every leaner in every bar in the country has their own special theory of how, if only we could raise/lower the threshold/number of MPs, and encourage/discourage new talent/carpetbaggers, a new time of prosperity and wonder will be ours. At dinner parties and barbecues, one will be dragged into a small group in the corner discussing electoral boundaries, and how a referendum on the Maori seats will solve everything. Every person on every bus—not to mention every talkback caller and commentator on every radio station—seems to have a notebook with notes therein on how, if we could only follow the plan for electoral change of the passenger/caller/pontificator everyone could live happily ever after.

People: wake the fuck up.

Can we not get over this obsession about tinkering with our voting system, and go for freedom instead? 

What about that for a plan?

The word “politics” comes from the Greek “poly” and ticks meaning “small blood-sucking parasites.” Instead of obsessing every few years over how the bloodsuckers are chosen, could we not resolve instead to put the important things beyond the vote instead?

Do that, I’d suggest, and it won’t matter how you choose your parasites.

And you’ll be able to find something much better to talk about next time you have your elbow on a bar leaner.

Woman Olympian called a prostitute for participating

While virtually every place in the world is celebrating its returning athletes (well, except for Belorus, ha!) there’s one place that isn’t.

Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani returned to Saudi Arabia as the first woman to represent the Kingdom in judo, and was greeted not with cheers but a reception that “ranged from lukewarm to openly hostile.”

 Her father, a judo referee who said he wanted his daughter to make "new history for Saudi's women," is reportedly incensed at conservative Saudis who showered her with racial slurs on Twitter and called her a “prostitute” for participating.

Clerics were already saying allowing women out in public was always going to end badly.

Dr. Mohammad al-Arifi, an influential cleric who preaches at Al-Bawardi Mosque in Riyadh, is on faculty at King Saud University, warned Prince Nawaf against sending Saudi women to the Olympics:
“Women practicing sports … is fundamentally allowed … but if this leads to mixing with men … or revealing private parts … or men watching her sometimes run, sometimes fall down … sometimes laugh and sometimes cry or quarrel with another female athlete … or mount a horse … or practice gymnastics … or wrestling … or other sports … while the cameras film and the [television] channels broadcast … then there can be no doubt that it is forbidden.”

Despite the objection of the author to whose story I’ve linked, this is entirely the work of Islam—a religion that views women as evil beings with such power to bring down their masculine superiors that they must be covered, cloistered and kept at heel.

Islam is evil.

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2012 London Olympics: Economic Benefits Not What You Think

The BBC’s Jeremy Paxman has an unusually good piece celebrating British sporting success over the last glorious fortnight. He reckons “the many successes of the London 2012 Olympics should overturn the myth that Britain is country best suited to heroic failure.”  In sport, at least. That said, he says, “that was quite a way to blow nine billion pounds. As none of us needs reminding, it was nine billion that we don’t have.”

Which leads me to this morning’s Guest Post by Ben Gersten…

2012 London Olympics: Economic Benefits Not What You Think
Guest Post by Ben Gersten

With the whole world still basking in the 2012 London Olympics, it’s easy to think of this year’s Games as one big fundraising event for the city – but it’s far from the case.

Like any host city, London expected a three-week surge in visitors to draw record revenue for the region and its vendors.

But the 2012 London Olympics, like global sporting events before, will disappoint.

Instead of luring money to the city, it actually drives out the usual spenders and decreases tourism, drastically reducing revenue for local businesses. That means host cities hardly ever recoup the costs it takes to prepare for holding the Olympic Games.

Just look at Montreal.

Montreal, which hosted the 1976 Olympics, is the best example of the negative economic side effects of the Olympics.

The city’s mayor infamously said, ‘the Olympics can no more lose money than a man can have a baby.’

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

Mismanagement and unexpected costs left the city’s citizens with a C$1.5 billion debt that took three decades to erase. The final payment on the debt was made in 2006—thirty years after their Closing Ceremony.

‘The government wants to say that not only are we going to have a good time with this event, but it’s also going to make us rich,’ Stefan Szymanski, professor of sports management at the University of Michigan, told CNN. ‘And that’s just not true.’

London usually sees 300,000 foreign and 800,000 domestic tourists per day during the month of August. It is widely expected that these numbers will be down this year following the 2012 Olympics.

‘These people have been told implicitly that they should stay away and they have done so,’ European Tour Operators Association Chief Executive Tom Jenkins told the AFP. ‘The numbers are currently dramatically down on last year. How far down will be determined by how long Transport for London maintains the ‘don’t come into London’ campaign.’

Of the 2,500 U.K. hotel owners surveyed by TripAdvisor, 58% said the Games would have no impact on business, while just 35% think they will see either a short-term or long-term positive effect.

The transportation industry has a more grim take on hosting the Games – their business has already suffered.

‘Our business is down by about 20-40 percent depending on the time of day,’ Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, told the AFP. ‘Normally about 90 percent of our customers are Londoners but they’ve all left the city and haven’t been replaced by tourists. I don’t know where all these tourists are or how they’re getting about, but London is like a ghost town.’

Not only is a tourism decline hurting the city’s revenue; London is already in debt because the cost of Olympics hosting starts with the bidding process.

Olympics Economic Benefits Dead from Start

London had to beat out other U.K. cities before it went up against the international field to finally win the bid.

This process is driven by private interest groups supporting construction, architecture, bankers and lawyers who care little for London’s fiscal well-being and more for their own pockets. That means they pressure the city to overbid.

‘Even in an ideal world where aspiring host cities behaved rationally, the competition to land the games would leave the winner just about breaking even, or maybe with a small windfall,’ said Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College who recently published International Handbook on the Economics of Mega Sporting Events. ‘But we don’t live in an ideal world. In practice, host cities tend to be captured by private interests who end up promising much more than the city can afford.’

The winning city isn’t the only one hurt by the bidding process. Chicago, during its three-year bid process, spent $100 million on advertising, preparing venues for inspection, and promotions in a losing effort to lure the Olympic selection committee to choose the Windy City.

2012 London Olympics Costs Continue to Rise

The British government has raised its 2012 London Olympics budget estimate to just over £9.3 billion – almost four times the initial amount of £2.5 billion.

Some economists project an even higher cost and only some of this investment is tied up in infrastructure projects that may be useful in the future.

With about half the revenue raised going to the International Olympic Committee, London is going to need well over £6 billion more in revenue than originally projected just to break even.

It is a common trend for host cities to understate budgets. Athens’ initial budget was US$1.6 billion, but the final public cost is estimated at closer to US$16 billion, ten times higher than originally thought.

And each year, the cost of hosting gets higher.

Atlanta spent US$2.4 billion in 1996. Sydney spent A$6.8 billion in 2000 and is still trying to fill the rooms it built. Athens, which spent US$16 billion in 2004, has venues that are in disrepair because it costs hundreds of millions to maintain them.

Beijing seems to be the only recent host to have benefited in terms of tourism, but only after spending a monstrous US$40 billion in 2008 – the most expensive Olympic Games in history.

Britons are still counting medals rather than costs. But the costs will still have to be paid.

“We’re all having a great time but, similar to most parties, there’s going to be a hangover,” said Georgios Kavetsos of the London School of Economics.

“Mega events, such as the Olympics, do not significantly increase tangible outcomes such as economic growth, tourism, employment or wages,” he added.

However, he said London’s Olympics might have a positive impact on British society.

“There is limited evidence on whether they might have intangible benefits, such as happiness and the promotion of healthy living.”

The only instances of a Games generating economic success have been Barcelona, which did enjoy a significant tourism boom following the 1992 games, and Los Angeles, which hosted the 1984 games and already had the infrastructure and venues needed.

But two examples of success are hardly anything to brag about.

Ben Gersten
Ben Gersten is Associate Editor of Money Morning, and Contributing Editor Money Morning Australia

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Romney, Ryan … and Rand?!

Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his VP candidate has already brought out from Obama worshippers the new leftist talking point with which they hope to smear both Ryan and Romney: Paul Ryan is an Ayn Rand worshipper!

Take a look: the “meme” is s already all over Twitter.

Ryan the extremist!  He’s  picked Ayn Rand as his running mate! Don’t forget Paul Ryan’s obsession with Ayn Rand!

As they say, a lie goes right around the world while the truth is getting its boots on.

This about a man who voted for both TARP bailouts and Bush-era expansion of Medicare drug program.  True enough, he did give copies of Atlas Shrugged as Xmas presents, and he once credited her with inspiring his “interest in public service.” Suggesting, perhaps, he hadn’t read it too well himself.

Look, it’s not hard to explain Ayn Rand’s appeal to the better part of better people. Truth is however Ryan is at bottom just another confused Catholic conservative who said only recently,

“I reject her philosophy. It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas…Don’t give me Ayn Rand." 

As the quote suggests, whatever enthusiasm he has for her novels, he has little understanding of Rand’s philosophy (no, Virginia, Rand’s philosophy does not reduce human interactions down to mere contracts). Still, as the head of the Ayn Rand Institute says, the controversy that’s going to go all the way to November is sure as hell great publicity for them.  (Here, for instance, is one of the first “attack ads” along these lines, featuring great footage of the great woman.)

And as Michael Hurd argues, “this conflict within Paul Ryan is a good case study in the whole problem with “conservatism” as we know it.”

Ultimately, conservatism is, like leftism, based on fear. Leftists are afraid of personal responsibility, sometimes for themselves and always for people in general. Conservatives are afraid of being punished by God, and all religions (including Paul Ryan’s Catholicism) teach sacrifice of the self to the deity.
    My question for Paul Ryan and others is: How do you justify a society based on individualism and individual rights by starting with an epistemology of supernaturalism?

He’s right, you know.

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Winner’s circle [updated]

image

This is what a golden group of NZers looks like on their day off.

After a hell of a good Games for NZ, for a 16th place on the overall medals table and a fourth place on the “medals per capita” table.

Damn good.

And never mind the talk about throwing more taxpayer money at local sportsmen and women; if truckloads of taxpayers’ money at people were a guarantee of success, Australia’s sports trough would be full of gold. But it’s not.  Australia’s medal cost taxpayers $A10,000,000 each. Meanwhile, Britain’s medals cost their taxpayers under ten pence per medal .

So it’s not primarily about money. It’s about what’s going on people like that golden crowd above.

It’s what’s going on behind those smiles.

UPDATE: Oops. That’ll teach me to dash off a post without checking it first. British medals cost British taxpayers ten pence each—i.e. ten pence per taxpayer. So with 65 medals at £264 million of OPM (Other People’s Money) that’s a total of £4 million per medal.  Turns out nationalism is expensive after all.

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