Monday, 23 May 2005
Do you know what rights are contained in the NZ Bill of Rights for example, and how many of those are genuine rights? How about the UN Declaration of Human Rights -- how many genuine rights there?
To help you out, Tibor Machan examines here the phony rights foisted upon the world by FDR.
The plain truth, he concludes,
is that all these phony rights of FDR and his supporters, many of them going very strong today in law schools and political philosophy departments across the country, indeed all over the world via the UN’s adoption of the list, have helped to systematically abrogate our genuine, bona fide unalienable rights - rights that are the conditions of our freedom and of a free society.
Are the Browntable the new aristocracy? Or is it Heather Simpson and her colleagues? Are ACT people just Nats without the breeding? Is John Key the new John Banks? Is class temporary and form permanent, as rugby commentators tell us? Is egalitarianism a good thing, as sociologists tell us?
And does 'The Listener' have a stick up its arse and a need for a cover story? (Here's the results of their 'research.')
While you're deciding whether you even care, find out if you're a snob by using some Brit telly show's Snob-o-Meter here, or how much of one you are. Apparently I'm a 46% snob. There you go. It has about as much science about it as the Listener's research.
Roll on the meritocracy.
A reasonable decison I would have thought -- bikini-clad lovelies rather than grown men complaining to the ref as they roll arond the pitch clutching their body parts-- but crikey, I bet they could hear the whining in Wembley*. Fans were "frantic" says the Herald. Poor lambs.
Yes, I'm aware Wembley Stadium is being rebuilt and the game was in Cardiff. But Cardiff doesn't alliterate with whining. Does it.
The Jib Jab guys have now made this ad to make people believe Budweiser is drinkable. That has surely got to be a more difficult job than making fun of politicians.
Meanwhile, here in NZ we're just a week away from getting the real Czech Budvar, a beer that's at the very opposite end of the drinkability scale to its American cousin. News here.
Right, back to work.
Sunday, 22 May 2005
As Leon Trotsky long ago pointed out, where there is no private ownership individuals can be easily bent to the will of the state under threat of starvation or worse. Only ghosts can survive without property, human beings cannot.
Unlike other animals we cannot survive as we come into the world; in order to stay alive and to flourish we each need to produce and to keep the fruits of our production. If our minds are our means of survival – as Julian Simon used to say, our Ultimate Resource – then property is the result of applying the creative potential of our minds to reality in order to enhance our lives.
The need for a legal framework protecting property has been long ignored or taken for granted by economists and legal theorists of all stripes, but its importance is slowly being re- understood by contemporary thinkers. Tom Bethell’ s landmark book The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity Through the Ages traces successes and disasters of history consequent upon the respective recognition or denial of property through the ages: Ireland’s potato famine, the desertification of the Sahara, and the near-disastrous US colonies at Jamestown and Plymouth can all be traced to lack of respect for property argues Bethell. He identifies four crucial blessings of property
that cannot easily be recognised in a society that lacks the secure, decentralised, private ownership of goods. These are: liberty, justice, peace and prosperity. The argument of [his] book is that private property is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for these highly desirable social outcomes.
I met and had a drink on Thursday with an old friend who has just returned from getting married in
We reflected on the irony that having been decimated early on by Marxism, one of the most destructive intellectual exports of the west, the later infestations of western bad ideas have passed
As Ludwig von Mises observed, “Far from the wealth of one implying the poverty of others, the reverse is true: one can only acquire wealth by serving others.”
Real wealth means the ability to make choices – the freedom to produce and freedom to trade what one has produced means that the choices available to individual Chinese expand almost by the minute. The Chinese are busy making themselves rich.
I’m still fuming about losing yesterday’s post on the twelve books that influenced me. I’ve noticed that when such things have happened to me in the past that the rewrite is frequently better than the original, but it doesn’t make it any easier actually doing the rewrite.
Victorian virtues may attract only mirth these days, but on occasions such as this I always think of the example of 19th century historian Thomas Carlyle: having spent six years completing the manuscript of his magnum opus ‘The French Revolution’ he loaned the only copy of volume one to his friend John Stuart Mill to read.
Five days later an ashen-faced Mill confessed to his friend that his housemaid had accidentally consigned the thing to the flames to warm the house. Crushed but resolute – “Mill, poor fellow, is terribly cut up. We must endeavour to hide from him how very serious this business is for us” -- Carlyle set to work immediately to rewrite the book which was to become a classic. The revised volume was “different, perhaps better” reflected a sober Carlyle. Thank goodness he didn’t have to reproduce all the footnotes he would be expected to today!
So in the spirit of Carlyle I will resurrect the list of my own twelve or so inspirational books, a day at a time and in roughly the order in which I encountered them. Starting tomorrow.
Can you guess what the first one was?
I’m just finishing Primo Levi’s Moments of Reprieve, haunting palimpsests from his year in the
As Michael Ingatieff says in the book’s introduction, Levi’s book
describes people who have not surrendered entirely to the infernal world around them. The men whom Levi remembered maintained their capacity to act and think like free men, and in so doing gave moral content to what otherwise would have been only feral vitality. This idea – that the test of being a human being is the capacity for a certain exercise, however tiny, of freedom – is only one of the contributions this book makes to our understanding of ourselves.
Another thing on which Levi reflects is naturally enough his own survival. Although Levi himself was to fall prey many years later to what he calls ‘the survivor’s disease,’ his own survival in the camp was due to one of those ‘small causes’ that serves to change history, or at least a life.
The influence of small causes on history is a classic controversy, he says, “classically lacking a definitive and absolute solution,” which is why they’re such compelling discussions. What if Cleopatra’s nose was longer? Or if that British soldier had shot Hitler in the First World War when he had the chance? How about if the British had not whacked on that huge tax on tea to the
Are small causes the things that move history? Or as Ayn Rand and others argue is it in the end the power of ideas that move history? There’s a question on which to reflect on a wet Sunday afternoon.
Saturday, 21 May 2005
An embodiment of the view that one’s mind belongs to the state, that one is accountable to a government authority for one’s intellectual, artistic, aesthetic or sexual values. Censorship legislation, as in New Zealand, typically invokes “the public interest” or “the public good” to justify its existence. These terms are incapable of objective definition. What they invoke in practice are the subjective warps of the promoters of such legislation, particularly their inhibitions about sex. It is no accident that religious fundamentalists and the more virulent types of feminists are jointly at the forefront of the pro-censorship lobby. Libertarianism is implacably opposed to censorship. Laws upholding individual rights, e.g. laws against murder (upholding the right to life), or against child sex (upholding the child’s right to develop as an adult human being) are sufficient to cover any violation of rights in the censor’s current domain, e.g. snuff movies and kiddie porn.
For more detail, please read the Free speech policy of Libertarianz here.
This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. Tomorrow, 'Collectivism.'
I was just about to when I lost the shag*(&*^)_ing post. I'm not happy. A hour wasted. I'm not angry. At all.
Perhaps you could write me and tell me what your twelve are, and it might inspire me to rewrite. Grrr. Or I might just give you the list without all the blather I wrote about each book. We'll see.
I visited Simon's sadly now-moribund blog to see what he had been contributing to the blogosphere, and I'd encourage 'Not PC' readers to avoid grief in Grey Lynn and check out Simon's two helpful guides How to become a pariah in Grey-Lynn, and Rules to Avoid Banishment From Grey-Lynn: No 2.
I do hope he adds numbers three and four soon; it's a series that has real potential. But I fear having a libertarian on his show might see him facing permanent expulsion from the ranks of Grey Lynn's finest. Imagine life without the Malt Bar!
His latest is here, an article HL Mencken would recognise. Mencken once declared, "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." Higgs agrees, and he argues governments systematise the influx of hobgoblins for their own end:
Were we ever to stop being afraid of the government itself and to cast off the phoney fears it has fostered, the government would shrivel and die, and the host would disappear for the tens of millions of parasites in the United States—not to speak of the vast number of others in the rest of the world—who now feed directly and indirectly off the public’s wealth and energies. On that glorious day, everyone who had been living at public expense would have to get an honest job, and the rest of us, recognizing government as the false god it has always been, could set about assuaging our remaining fears in more productive and morally defensible ways.Higgs is the author of Crisis and Leviathan, a book exposing the crises both real and manufactures which have inspired the growth of the US government from Jeffersonian minimalism to the leviathan of today.
Given the urgent need to document the growth and expansion of our own nannying leviathan and the runaway success of Michael King's 'History of New Zealand' -- thirty-nine weeks on NZ's best-seller lists and still the number one NZ non-fiction book -- I've always thought the same book should be written for the New Zealand context. Reflecting the slightly different view we NZers have about their government, perhaps a NZ edition could be titled Crisis and Wet Nurse. Or perhaps False Fears and Front Bums. I don't think I've quite cracked the title yet; suggestions are welcome, as would be a publisher's advance to write the book.
It's there to be done.
Thanks to Richard Goode for sorting it all out; it was well beyond what I was able to do. Thank Richard for me by visiting his own blogs beNZylpiperazine, and LibertyNZ.
And if you have suggestions that will make 'Not PC' even better, then feel free to send them to me at organon at ihug dot co dot nz. I've already got plenty of messages telling me to to fold my tent and piss off, so rest assured that suggestions of that type are already pretty well covered.
Friday, 20 May 2005
And here's another classic, Hal Roach on making distinctions:
Flanagan was asked to distinguish between an explosion and a collision. "Well, with a collision," he said, "there you are. But with an explosion, where are you?"
Here's La Coddington with the latest list.
"This is your money," concludes Deborah. "You are being robbed."
She's right you know.
[UPDATE: Far be it from me to promote two ACT MPs in one day, but justice when it's due ... Rodney Hide has just announced a tax petition "to return the [$6.7 billion] surpluses to working New Zealanders. Announcement here.
"That is $1,600 for every man, woman and child in New Zealand. Put another way, it is $4,000 for every household in the country...working Kiwis are right to be outraged about this budget."
The tax petition can be downloaded here.]
Tariana Turia has complained that the Budget has "snubbed tangata whenua with no mention of the word Maori." As I've said before, her idea of rangatiratanga is a country in which everyone pays for her vision. In many ways they already are, as Parekura Horomia points out, but she would prefer that that money go through agencies endorsed by her.
Rodney Hide says this is a budget you have when not having a budget. He even seems disappointed there's no traditional election-year lolly scramble to criticise.
No lolly scramble, but Cullen and Clark have drawn a line in the sand on governance which they are hoping National will pick up. Seems they will (see here). Don Brash says hes sure they can do better, and apparently an alternative budget is on its way (Sheesh, if Libz can get one out in time ...).
In the meantime here are John Key's comments yesterday morning on what a Key Budget would look like. National's problem is that in order to make meaningful tax cuts they have to offer meaningful cuts in government. Of course they should. And of course they won't. Can I suggest John Key could easily chop out at least half of these here bureaucracies and quangoes without any but the jobsworths even noticing. Start with the Ministryof Womens' Affairs and work on up.
Helen Clark is saying this morning that all the talk of tax cuts prior to the Budget announcement was the result of journalists interviewing their typewriters. "Tax cuts don't do much for low-income earners," said a Labour Prime Minister offering nothing to low-income earners but toil, tears, sweat and Smarmey Maharey's 'Welfare for Families' package.
This is still an election-year budget, but it's a new kind of election-year budget. As I said above, it's a new line in the sand. Clark and Cullen are betting that after years of indoctrination, people have now bought the Labour line that tax cuts are bad but state welfare, state benefits, state student scholarships, scads of bureaucrats, oodles of taxes and pet schemes dreamed up by smarmy tossers are all A Good Thing. A Very Good Thing. They think people like being nannied, and will vote for more of it.
My worry is they're probably right. I blame the schools.
Business is getting $1.42 billion of tax-cuts. Good. But it's partially paid for by the $720 million Carbon Tax. Bullshit.
The country's top 500 students are offered an Anderton-backed scholarship offer of $3,000 if they promise to stay in Godzone for three years, although how the NCEA system would know which these 500 are is anyone's guess. But in any case why tie bright graduates to New Zealand when they can go offshore and get a good 'post-graduate OE'? And is $3,000 going to induce anyone to give up a more lucrative offshore income? I think not. The way to get back our best and brightest once they've done their OE is not cheap bribes, but surely to ensure this country is wealthy, vibrant and the opposite of a sorry, welfare-ridden Nanny State. No chance of that under this Government.
There is more money for a police force still unable to deal with its case load. Good. Only $73.6 million more. Hmmm. For 100 more policemen. That's it? I hope they won't be put straight on to traffic duties and revenue-collecting. A good way to effectively double the police would have been to announce the immediate legalisation of cannabis, effectively doubling police numbers to deal with real crime and at the same time knobbling the profits of organised crime. Not going to happen any time soon, is it?
There's more for roads. Good. $700 million more. Pathetic. Enough for just 7km of new road. "Glacial" is how infrastructure advocates accurately describe the pace of NZ's roading improvements. No change here. No word of RMA improvements to help new roads be built, or of allowing private investment in roading. No surprise at all.
Are New Zealanders bad savers? Opinions are mixed. Is it difficult to save when the government has its hand in your wallet to the tune of 45% of what's in there? Damn right it is.
So why not return some money to those who are having difficulty saving, ie., those who have little with which to save. So why not give people on a low income some of their own money back so they've got something to save with?
Why not for example introduce a threshold below which no income tax at all is paid? Say $10,000 - would cost bugger all and really help those earning little more than that. Why not remove excise taxes from those little pleasures that make a big difference when your money is a bit tight? Would only cost $2.2 billion. Instead they were raised back in April. You could even sack a few hundred-thousand bureaucrats and get them off the backs of taxpayers, and then get rid of GST and imediately make everyone 12.5% better off ...
Of course there was no chance of people getting back a decent chunk of their own money from a Labour Government, and instead we've got Cullen's almost irrelevant threshold increases and a derisory welfare-like savings scheme. Does Cullen trust people so little with their own money that he's not even prepared to give any decent chunk back to them so they can save their own money in their own way? Seems so.
My own results are below, which prompted the quiz's software to ask me "Are you thinking straight about morality?"
I am. :-)
Your Moralising Quotient is: 0.20.
Your Interference Factor is: 0.00.
Your Universalising Factor is: 1.00.
The opposite of matter-of-fact is the unhinged Mike Ward from the Greens -- on Auckland University campus yesterday debating environmentalism he told the crowd the mudslides were a product of global warming. What an idiot.
- private ownership of all property;
- a complete separation of the state from economics just as there is a separation of state from religion;
- free trade in a free marketplace; and
- the absence of force from human relations – with government confined to keeping things that way.
Oddly, although it is capitalism that has been the engine of prosperity around the world for decades, there is no period in history in which pure capitalism has been practiced; it has always been capitalism shackled. Capitalism won the cold war, but it has been shackled since by 'Third Way' advocates who recognise the ability of capitalism to produce wealth, but who want that wealth for their ends -- as former NZ Finance Minister Roger Douglas once described it, of 'socialist ends through capitalist means.' (We presently live, not under Capitalism, but in what economist Ludwig von Mises called a 'hampered market,' with all the inequities that entails.)
The closest examples history affords us of Capitalism 'in the wild' is arguably the US towards the end of the nineteenth century and the early part of this century as the country exploded into prosperity. Or Hong Kong in its own explosive, free-wheeling prosperity. In the US over that period there was no income tax, no military draft (with the tragic exception of the Civil War), no prohibition of drugs or alcohol, little regulation of personal, artistic or business activity, and a great deal of voluntary charity. Average incomes multiplied by six times in this period – a time of sustained peace and unbridled optimism.
Hong Kong was a rock in the South China Sea that had little to offer but free trade, the rule of law and the protection of contracts ... and simply as a result of Capitalist acts by consenting adults, it became one of the wealthiest places on earth.
The United Police States today, however, are seemingly hell-bent on erasing all vestiges of this libertarian heritage and becoming a full-fledged, statist tyranny, as are we here in New Zealand. And Hong Kong's future is still less than assured, with China's own market reforms still in the balance.
Ironically, unbridled Capitalism seemingly stands a better chance in the former Communist nations of Eastern Europe -- if they can shake off the gangsterism that has plagued Russia -- and the nominally Communist but increasingly free market People's Republic of China. But history has yet to make a call on either, and the continued dominance of collectivist ideas (see Collectivism) in these nations (and the lack of any restraint on totalitarian rule in China) will be a significant impediment. In short, the future of Capitalism is still by no means assured, and the cultural change needed for Capitalism to flourish is still needed.
Until such time as that cultural change is achieved, Capitalism will remain the 'unknown ideal' described in the title of one of Ayn Rand's non-fiction best-sellers.
This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. Tomorrow, 'Censorship.'
Thursday, 19 May 2005
Just how many taxpayers are there in
The Stats Department reports the estimated resident population of New Zealand was 4.09 million at
Of these, lets say 200,000 are in school or courses of study, so we’re down to 2.5 million, and of these 260,000 or so are self-employed, 1.8 million or so are working for wages, and a lucky 170,000 are living off their investments.
Some people are doing all three, and all power to them for that.
So let’s say we’ve got 2 mill feeding the coffers of Cullen. Of these over 800,000 are receiving government money directly, so they’re out.
Down to 1.2 million.
Now, the ranks of the self-employed include consultants working for all manner of government departments both central and local, and we've also got self-employed planners, arborists, quality assurance blowhards and the Directors of the Pipi Foundation. All are making a living by sucking off the state tit. Let’s say fully a third of self-employed people make their living this way, and each has a 'support team' working for them of at least three or four. That’s 300,000 on the take.
Down to 900,000.
What do lawyers do all day? Take Chen and Palmer for example: would there be a reason for their existence if they couldn’t go up the road and put their tongue in the ear of Government fairly frequently?
What about the other large law factories that infest our city restaurants and bars? Would the law factories exist in such size and numbers if the government’s legislation factory were called to a halt? I think not. And if tax laws were radically simpler, as they were maybe seventy years ago before the birth of the Welfare State, would we need so many accountants?
Neither lawyers nor accountants work for government directly, but they wouldn't exist in such quantities without Big Government's blandishments. For the most part they're parasites, and their costs come out of our pockets. So deduct another 200,000, because their shiny suits seem to be everywhere -- and what's worse, some of these people are this country's best and brightest, their efforts being expended not on producing wealth but instead on making it impossible for others to do so.
So we're left with how many then? 700,000? Does that seem about right?
700,000 hardy souls braving red tape, OSH, assorted government inspectorates and regulatory agencies and the tyranny of distance if they're an exporter and a small domestic market if they're not; braving all this just so they can earn a living and carry the rest of us on their backs. And from these few brave souls Michael Cullen reaps $60 billion per annum.
Do the sums. What those 700,000 are each paying to carry us is not pretty. And they've just been asked to pay $4.2 billion more.
The Cullen budget promises increases in theft to pay for election bribes ...
"New budget initiatives will cost the government $2 billion in the coming financial year, rising to $2.7 billion in 2008-09. In addition, the budget commits a further $1.3 billion in new capital spending, bringing the total over the forecast period to $4.2 billion ..."
New budget initiatives will cost the taxpayer $2 billion in the coming financial year alone. Total new theft required to pay for new bribes is forecast to be $4.2 billion over the forecast period, so we're really going to have to send the boys around ...
Do you remember David Lange once saying that taxation is like trying to pluck a goose so as to get the maximum amount of feathers with the minimum amount of hissing. Cullen must take us for bloody quiet geese.
Not PC asks whether the proponents of the RMA will "be just as happy with the RMA when also closes down proposals for electricity generation by wind turbine?"NRT answers 'yes' to this question, because he says,
Opposition to the RMA is generally founded on a denial of existing rights - or rather, as it tends to be linked to the idea of dealing with all problems via the courts, a denial of rights to those that cannot afford lawyers (rich NIMBYs, however, get to keep right on going). This is yet another example of the difference between their stunted version of freedom and that promoted by the left. Mechanisms to protect rights must be available to all, regardless of means. We do this to protect other rights - we provide police and public prosecutors to ensure that justice for crimes against persons is available to all, not just those able to afford it - and the same principle applies here.
Let me just say quickly that NRT has misunderstood the nature of my objections to the RMA. It is far from "a denial of rights to those that cannot afford lawyers." Very far from it.
I agree that inexpensive access to justice is a basic need -- 'justice not afforded is justice denied' you might say -- and the record of the common law is excellent on this score. Not so the RMA however; as litigants in RMA fixtures can attest RMA legal expenses are far from cheap, and getting that fixture can take some time, and the result full of uncertainty. I'll say more later on today on NRT's comments and those of his readers, but in the meantime let me point you to my answers to some recently voiced objections to the common law protection of rights here on NRT's blog, and here on my own, and here is some more detailed arguments with links here.
Rest assured that I will answer the objections raised at NRT's blog either later this afternoon or evening. Feel free to ask more questions (or answers) here as well.
As my PC-Budget liberally uses PJ O'Rourke's ideas on cutting the budget to size, it seems only fair that I quote liberally from PJ O'Rourke now so you get an idea of what's here, this from his fine book 'Parliament of Whores' :
The secret to balancing the budget is to remember that all tax revenue is the result of holding a gun to somebody's head. Not paying taxes is against the law. If you don't pay your taxes you'll be fined. If you don't pay the fine you'll be jailed. If you try to escape from jail, you'll be shot. Thus, I - in my role as citizen and voter - am going to shoot you - in your role as taxpayer and ripe suck - if you don't pay your share of the national tab. Therefore, every time the govt spends money on anything, you have to ask yourself, ‘Would I kill my kindly, gray-haired mother for this?’Surely a good question to keep in mind this afternoon.
Amongst the measures already signalled by Cullen here is an "extra $55 million over the next four years in childcare and employer support initiatives to enhance the work choices available to parents." Is this a good thing? Just reflect that at present tax rates, with goverment spending well over 40% of the country's income, then for each average couple of working parents one of them is going out to work just to pay the tax bill. Not good is it.
Just think what a difference it would make to working parents if, instead of more welfare the theft were stopped , or at least savagely decreased.
Wednesday, 18 May 2005
Big Government’s field army. “It is impossible to have big government without a massive and parasitic bureaucracy… generally staffed by envious little demagogues who have traded their own freedom and self-worth for a meaningless but overpaid job and the mirage of lifetime security.” (‘John Galt,’ Dreams Come Due.)
Having given up on trying to be useful and productive themselves, bureaucrats seek power over those who are useful and productive – those of whom they rely to create the wealth from which their salaries are extracted – and constantly to expand that power by devising ever more regulations. The natural tendency of bureaucracy is to enlarge itself as it strives continuously to justify its existence. A libertarian bureaucracy would be as large as required to enable government to perform its proper functions – i.e. not very large at all – and it would be prevented constitutionally from becoming any larger. Deprived of its appeal for power-lusters, it would not attract the psychological deficients who are drawn to it now.
For more reading on this subject, try Ludwig von Mises's classic book Bureaucracy, now online here.
This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. Tomorrow, 'Capitalism,' appropriate on a day in which thieves distribute the fruits of capital.
How much 'taking' is too much? Excluding government employees, lawyers and consultants from the figures of those gainfully employed, is $60billion too much for 800,000 or so taxpayers to pay? And giving people their own money back in order to make them beneficiaries of the state ... that' s just wrong isn't it?
Does it have to be this way?
No. It doesn't. Libertarianz has produced an alternative budget here showing that -- with the will to do so -- all compulsorily levied tax could be got rid of completely within four to five years, and thereafter a payment similar to that you make on insurance could keep the government and its remaining beneficiaries afloat.
In the meantime, and over those transitional four to five years, GST would be abolished, a flat rate of 15% income tax assured, and a tax-free threshold of $10,000 applied. Great for the poor, who would be able to keep their own money and become rich.
The external scars that students bear are not the worst part; what's worse is what's happening to student's minds.
Frightening reading, as are some of these quotes on education I posted here a couple of weeks ago. Are people waking up?
And if you're curious about the libertarian view on education then have another look at this.
This will of course be an election year budget, so it will be as H.L. Mencken acerbicly observed of such things "an advance auction of stolen goods," but Nanny Cullen is being unusually coy. See here.
What will Nanny give us this Thursday? How much of our money will Nanny let us keep? Will we get some back as this man wonders this morning? And should we be grateful if we are allowed to keep some.
And is there a better way? More over the next few days.
Just so you know then, from now on and for the meantime anonymous comments or those without legitimate pseudonyms (such as those without a Blogger.com profile) will be deleted. Hopefully normal transmission can be resumed shortly.
Let me repeat, I welcome honest argument and discussion. I welcome free speech. But the principle of free speech doesn't require that I provide my unhinged attackers with a microphone.
Turns out that it hasn't all gone where it was supposed to. In fact, much of it hasn't gone anywhere at all, and much that has is still trying to penetrate red tape. Mark Steyn examines what and where here. [Cached copy here.]The problem, notes Steyn, is that Westerners are "eager to help but too naive to understand that, no matter the scale of devastation visited upon a hapless developing nation, its obstructionist bureaucracy will emerge from the rubble unscathed."
The problem is that altruism has encouraged people to think the act of virtue inheres in the giving itself, rather than in the actual result of the giving. "It's the thought that counts," we say smugly. Time to rethink our virtues, I'd suggest.
Take the whole Live Aid palaver for instance. Organised to feed Ethiopia's starving millions after a famine of Biblical proportions decimated the population, the famine was no more Biblical in origin than was Stalin's starving of millions of Ukranian peasants half-a century before -- no surpise, since Colonel Haile Mariam Mengistu was following to the letter Stalin's own programme to exterminate the Kulaks in his own fiefdom. How he must have laughed at Bob Geldof. Daniel Wolf wrote (in a Spectator article originally published in the Spectator and titled in homage to Sir Bob "What Happened to the Fucking Money?"):
In 1984-85, up to a billion dollars’ worth of aid flowed into Ethiopia. Thousands of Western aid workers and journalists flew in with it. The regime ensured that the visitors converted their Western dollars to the local currency at a rate favourable to the government: in 1985 the Dergue tripled its foreign currency reserves. It used this influx of cash to build up its war machine, it commandeered aid vehicles for its own purposes and, by diverting aid supplies, helped to feed its armies.
The United Nations in Addis Ababa, which was co-ordinating the aid operation, denied that the level of diversion was significant. Later on, it became clear that a significant proportion of the relief food in Tigray - the epicentre of the famine - was consigned to the militia. The militias were known locally as "wheat militias".
As Mugged By Reality says, "People were not starving they were being starved." And giving was not saving them from being starved, it was helping to starve them. It was feeding and succoring their oppressors. As Daniel Wolf says, "The story of Band Aid is the story of us, not them"; and so it is with altruism -- with altruism it's the giving itself that matters, not the result of the giving. Sacrifice matters.
Giving the money made people feel better about themselves -- their new-found virtue in being 'good altruists' helped them feel they'd earned the right to be smug. That the giving did less than nothing to help the problem it was supposed to fix seems to have caused barely a ripple since. Don't want to challenge that smugness, do we?
Tuesday, 17 May 2005
As with trade in goods and services, trade in money (the means of exchanging goods and services) should be free – there should be no government involvement, save that which is consistent with proscribing force and fraud.
All banking should be private, with citizens free to use any means of exchange of their choosing, and any repository (Bank, Building Society, Finance House, mattress, sock, etc) in which to lodge it. Banks should be free to lend as much or as little of their reserves as they choose, on terms agreed to by them and their depositers and borrowers.
In a libertarian New Freeland, not only would the Reserve Bank Act be repealed, but the Reserve Bank itself would be disestablished and prudential regulations abolished.
For further reading, please see Larry Sechrest's Collectivist Banking and Robert P. Murphy's The Mystery of Central Banking, and George Reisman's two articles Profit Inflation by the US Government and The Anatomy of Deflation.
This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. Tomorrow, 'Bureaucracy.'
"One of the biggest challenges facing wind power growth," says the Herald, is "community opposition under the Resource Management Act. "
If community opposition under the Resource Management Act is good when it shuts down a Street Race -- as many, including the Frog, have said it is -- is it just as good when it shuts down a wind farm project?
And if it is the case that even a wind farm project is difficult to build under the RMA, then what hope is there for any other infrastructure, or any other project?
I make some comments here indicating how common law might deal with such things in a more sensible manner.
As I've said before, the Wellington Central fight should become a battle over the RMA; it's just a pity that National themselves have nothing to offer on the issue. The 'substantial changes' promised by Nick Smith are neither substantial, nor a real change, and will in no way fix the problem that property rights are not even mentioned in the RMA.
"The Resource Management Act is undoubtedly a far-sighted piece of environmental legislation," gush National's Blue-Greens here. National's Blue-Greens are the people who will write National's 'substantial changes.' See the problem? Check out just how substantial these changes won't be here (they're no longer up on National's own site).
So Mark Blumsky has a problem.
And a reader has suggested here that I apologise to Rodney, but I'm really not sure why. As I said a few weeks ago here, this idea that going after Government scalps is what an opposition should be doing is nonsense, now matter how odious the target, and rightly attracts little support from those outside the 'loop' of Wellington's political observers. For them this sort of thing is fun, but for the rest of us it's irrelevant, as was the Dope in any case. Colin James argues a similar point here.
I can understand the desperation to lever oneself up in the polls, but I'd suggest that this 'going for scalps' nonsense isn't doing that anyway, and particularly for a party that makes some claim to being the 'freedom party' there' s an opportunity cost in doing it: if you're attacking someone for putting tennis balls in people's mouths then you're not attacking the Government for the many issues on which it really should be attacked; and you're also open to accusations that if this is all you regularly do then you're open to the accusation of just being a smear merchant. And going on Hide's record that wouldn't be wrong, would it. He's Winston-Lite.
Russell Brown said last week, "Good grief. Is this the sort of election campaign we're going to have?" Sadly, a campaign in which we see opposition politicians arguing the substantive issues is further and further away.
[UPDATE: Now this is good satire. I do hope the choir master can laugh about it.]
Anarchy is the absence of government and law. Some anarcho-libertarians maintain that anarchy is the only state consistent with liberty, or that if we are to have government at all, it should take the form of private, competing governments. Most, including me, emphatically oppose these positions, arguing that whatever the nominal starting position of such a society, the result is gangsterism en route to something worse.
All that is spoken about by anarcho-capitalist ‘hippies of the right’ about the systems of anarchy amount in this view to no more than wishful thinking about the state of things and the nature of men. Some men. As James Madison said, “If all men were angels no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” But all men ain't angels, hence the need both for goverment and for controls on that government. We call those controls a constitution, just as Madison did.
Government and law then, ideally speaking, exist to protect the individual from physical coercion and from its derivative, fraud; in the absence of government and law there can be no such protection, and no proscribing of coercion in the first place. One cannot rely on spontaneous benevolence to effect a miraculous disappearance of compulsion from human affairs; human beings are volitional, and as such, capable of error and evil, from whose coercive forms it is legitimate to institute protection.
The agency of protection can be likened to a referee, beholden to no particular player, ensuring with scrupulous impartiality that the rules of the game (in this case, no murder, theft, rape, etc) are observed. To advocate anarchy is tantamount to saying that each player may make up his own rules and then enforce them as best he can – by enlisting anyone he chooses, in the case of advocates of private governments – clearly a prescription for the rule of brute force.
The need for an objective, neutral agency to which citizens can repair in the event of force being initiated against them is inescapable. That agency is government; good government is the means by which the retaliatory use of physical force is placed under objective control.
Monday, 16 May 2005
First of all he's misrepresented the nature of capitalism (see here for for some fundamental insights into the benevolence of capitalism). And he attacks conservatism when he should really be welcoming conservatives for having delivered collectivism to him on a plate.
The lietimotif of conservatism is appeasement. Appeasement and compromise. (See for example here and here if this statement surprises you.)The liberal's collectivist agenda and the willingness of conservatives to sell their own principles down the river did more in the last one-hundred years to deliver half the globe into socialism and collectivism than even Karl Marx would have thought possible.
The fightback begun in the last twenty years and the remnants of capitalism we still have left are not there because conservatives fought back or kept them alive. That we still have some lingering remnants of capitalism intact for 'third way' Ministers of Finance to loot is no thanks to the conservatives; it is tribute instead to the nascent will to freedom that resides in every human being worthy of the name. See for example here and here.
Freedom, real freedom, is the absence of physical coercion. It's worth fighting for. But conservatives wouldn't understand that; and neither would the liberals.
Rugby league and Queensland were made for each other: they go together like an air-conditioned bar goes with sports on the big screen -- and the ideal game for that big screen is rugby league. It's the game you pay to watch when you don't want to pay attention. Rugby league is not a game that repays close attention.
Which is why rugby league is not just the ideal game for both Queenslanders and morons, it's also the ideal game for TV. Can you see a pattern emerging here? The league field is fortuitously TV-screen-shaped; teams line up in closely-bunched groups opposite each other, and then take turns running at each other. Simple to understand. No more than four of five people are generally involved at any one time, so the camera can focus on the 'big hits' in blood-dripping, knuckle-grinding detail. Human drama. And the game goes in five-tackle-and-a-kick bursts, so you know what's going to happen next. Nothing much.
Which is the problem, really, for anyone with pretensions to using that grey stuff above the neckline. In the eighty minutes of a league game there's seventy-odd minutes of league action, but only one or two minutes from each game are worth lighting the candle for. Which is why the ideal way to watch league is with a beer in front of a TV highlights package -- all the weekend's action brought to you in one big hit, and most of it bypassing completely the conceptual parts of the brain and going straight to the knuckle-dragging portion of the cortex.
At least with rugby league you get nearly eighty minutes of game time. League's older cousin, rugby union, faces the problem that of eighty minutes of a game no more than thirty of those minutes are spent actually paying rugby -- fewer if England is one of the teams -- but of those thirty a full five to six of those are watchable -- or less, if England is playing.
This is still a better ratio than soccer however, of which in ninety minutes of game-time none at all is worth watching unless a goal is scored, and as 0-0 draws seem to be the most common soccer result it's little wonder then that instead of watching the game most fans spend their time throttling Belgians. A typical highlights package for soccer involves five minutes of Goals of the Week, fifteen minutes of interviews, and ten minutes of terrace action. Which helps explain the lingering popularity of Eric Cantona, since he had a talent for all three.
Which brings me to AFL. AFL produces athletes of tremendous strategic ability and great physical skill who can think on their feet and run a half-marathon in a game; a100 minute game of AFL offers over ninety minutes of action, and none of it knuckle-dragging -- after all, the knuckles are needed for other things.
Pity the game is near-unwatchable on TV.
Please visit the other members of the Creamy Latte Club, for which this week I am a guest writer, for their views on Rugby: the Ultimate Knuckle-Draggers Sport. TinCanMan, Chaos Theory, Vile File and Wired JAFA.
The legitimate concern is that raised by Whale Watch, as expressed by Conservation Minister Chris Carter, and in my view it's where lies the germ of an answer. Says Chris: "These are our whales too."
Going unerringly if unwittingly to the point of the problem, Minister Carter and the Frog have put their finger on the solution: for Kaikoura Whale Watch to make an ownership claim on "their whales," and thereby protect their whales, depoliticise the question and thus avoid the unedifying prospect of seeing pictures of Jeanette Fitzsimons picketing Japanese supermarkets and surimi lunch-carts.
How to do so? The solution to the imminent and watery Tragedy of the Commons represented by out of control whale-harvesting is similar to the problem solved by nineteenth century cattlemen by the imperfect means of branding, and eventually by the invention of barbed wire. It is one of recognising and legally protecting the property right in these animals..
Branding and barbed wire were inventions that allowed the cattlemen to identify "their cattle" and to ask the law for its protection for them. The solution is the same for those who wish to protect "their whales" -- a technological advance that allows them to identify to themselves and others which whales are theirs, and which therefore have the full protection of law.
Electronic branding? GPS-power 'barbed wire'? I don't know. The cattlemen embraced the new technology of barbed wire to legally protect their herds (read about it here); whale watchers might consider devising a similary moron-proof technology to allow legal protection to be afforded to their migrating 'pods.'
Perhaps Minister Carter, the World Court and the IWC could kick things off by announcing that should such technology be devised and introduced, that full legal protection will be afforded to those like Kaikoura Whale Watch who can make a claim that a common law property right in "their whales" actually exists, a right acquired over years and fully deserving of protection.
As they say, it's a start.
Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy, the whores are us.
- P.J. O'Rourke
Democracy, too, is a religion. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses. - H.L. Mencken
Social Security is a government program with a constituency made up of the old, the near old and those who hope or fear to grow old. After 215 years of trying, we have finally discovered a special interest that includes 100 percent of the population. Now we can vote ourselves rich. - P.J O'Rourke
Democracy is three wolves and a sheep voting for dinner. - Robert Heinlein Elections are an advance auction of stolen goods.
- H.L Mencken
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage.
- attrib. to Alexander Tytler
As they say in exams, Discuss.
The ethic of subordinating one’s own interests as a matter of principle to those of others in particular and to ‘society’ in general has been the lifeblood of tyrannies throughout history. All tyrants have invoked “the common good” and extolled (and forcibly imposed) the “virtue” of self-subordination and self-sacrifice as a means of ensuring a docile, acquiescent population.
Altruism is the ethical foundation of collectivism in politics.
Said Joseph Goebbels (approvingly),
“To be a socialist is to submit the I to the Thou; socialism is sacrificing the individual to the whole.”One Volk, with one neck.
Libertarianism deems altruism to be incompatible with individual self-ownership, and upholds instead an ethic of rational self-interest (see Objectivism). As David Kelly argues in his book Unrugged Individualism, an ethic of rational self-interest does not exclude benevolence towards others, it simply recognises that this may only come about once the acting party has secured his own flourishing. "Is it better to give or to receive?" asks Kelley rhetorically, answering, "It is better to produce," without which neither giving nor receiving nor even basic survival are actually possible.
FURTHER READING: See David Kelley's article 'Two Strains of Altruism,' and for a concrete example of how altruism undermines freedom, see Lindsay Perigo's 1996 presentation discussing New Zealand's market reforms and the consequent need for an ethical revolution, 'Antipodean Altruism,' and particularly 'The Foundations of a Revolution.'
Sunday, 15 May 2005
Tenor Simon O'Neill is currently conquering the world. Most recently he's been understudying Placido Domingo in the Met's production of Wagner's 'Walkure' in New York. You can see him in the Kiri and Friends DVD from last year's Ayatollah Centre concert in Auckland with live-wire Helen Medlyn and Newmarket-based Opera Factory Chorus, and I've just discovered you can hear him next year in an NZSO Parsifal! Can't wait!
Soundtrack composer Marc Chesterman has composed music for Florian Habicht's films Woodenhead and Kaikohe Demolition, as well as collaborating in the improvisational trio Audible 3. Currently preparing to tour Europe with the Mau Dance company, I can confirm that Marc can produce "insanely cheerful" music as if he was born to it.
Hello Sailor are New Zealand's under-rated rock music legends. Variously considering themselves either a South Pacific Rolling Stones or a South Pacific Velvet Underground -- the latter well before such a tag was even fashionable -- at their best Hello Sailor sounded and sound like they can beat the world and it's brother. And quite apart from being a thoroughly decent chap, Sailor's Graham Brazier has written New Zealand's only real 'rebel song', Billy Bold. Graham's latest album 'East of Eden' comes highly recommended, as does fellow Sailor Dave McCartney's latest, on which 'Drunk With the View' finally gets recorded.
I heartily commend all the above to your eager attention.
TFR takes the Objectivist view that the foetus is not yet a human being, but a part of a human being – the mother – who has rights over it. To be an actual, rather than merely potential, human being is, among other things, to be physically separate, which a foetus is not. As Leonard Peikoff has argued, “That which lives within the body of another can claim no prerogatives against its host.”
Thus we uphold the right to abort as part of the mother’s right to ownership of her own body. We do not, however, support state-funded abortion, since anything at all funded by compulsory-acquired money is a violation of the rights of the involuntary funders.
And there are two things I hate. (There's actually a
There are two things I hate. People who put people into categories, and those who hate those who do. I'm the latter sort.
People who put people into categories based on their 'ethnicity' are particularly vile. And people who put such questions in official Government Census forms -- forms that they then bully you in an Official Government Census Form Manner to fill in -- deserve a particularly vile rung in the hell to which all such bureaucrats are irrevocaably destined.
The Herald today however gushingly reports that census officials will still be heading to hell, but that they will be relaxing the ethnicity question next time (I paraphrase the report ever so slightly). Rungs in hell are accordingly being prepared slightly further from the flames for those census officials.
"New Zealanders better than Kiwis, say officials" is how the report is headed. Which brings me to my point (which I do have, I assure you) which is this: Is anyone else sick of being called a 'Kiwi'?
Am I the only one who feels there's something wrong with having a name known throughout the world as being associated with either 1) a tin of shoe polish; or 2) a small, blind, flightless evolutionary loser.
Surely we can do better than that, can't we?
People who are BANANAS -- "which stands for Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone" -- have caused a problem for the nice men and women who put the Resource Management Act (RMA) together, says Owen (you can see some of them here). It's not the fault of these nice people, says Owen. It's the fault of those nasty NIMBYs * who have 'misinterpreted' the nice RMA.
"It is not the RMA that causes the problems," he says, "but people abusing the consent process and using it to slow progress...There seem to be those who want people to go back and live in caves, and the RMA is not bulletproof against them."
But you see, here's where Owen and I part company. As I've said many times before to Owen, if the legislation is that bad that only he and his friends can interpret it 'correctly' -- that is, if judges, get it 'wrong' -- if politicians get it 'wrong' -- if planners, activists, bureaucrats, BANANAS and consultants all get it 'wrong' -- then surely the problem is inherent in the Act, if not in Owen and his friends. Maybe its them that is wrong.
Maybe, in fact, the RMA is not 'bulletproof' against them all because the RMA itself is bollocks. How's them apples, Owen?
If an Act is so open to interpretation that it is commonly interpreted in precisely the opposite way in which Owen says it was intended it should be, then who's really bananas here? If for example in all its 456 pages of excrement the RMA fails to even mention property rights (as it doesn't), then why should we be surprised that courts and district plans and council planners fail to give a flying fruitloop about them either (as they don't).
Owen and other ACT Party-supporting consultants such as he would prefer the RMA not be consigned to the ash-heap of history as many other forms of twentieth-century petty fascism thankfully already have been. Why would a 'consultant' like Owen want to see the RMA abolished when -- if it stays around and gets suitably 'rewritten' -- the gravy train that's provided a living for the last twelve years or so can keep going, and keep delivering.
Those of you who have wondered why I call Owen a 'twit' in the piece I link to below, which many of you will have read in this shortened version, will hopefully now understand why I did.
*NIMBY = Not In My Back Yard
'TRANSLATOR’S' NOTEMany years ago in what seems now like a galaxy far, far away, Free Radical editor Lindsay Perigo put together a set of 'Cue Cards' to help newbies understand all those difficult concepts that we libertarians bang on about while non-libertarians stand around slack-jawed; I'm thinking here of such phrases and ideas as the “non-initiation of force principle,” "Galt's Speech," "altruism is evil" and "the world will be a better place when the last politician is strangled with the guts of the last bureaucrat."
Libertarians meanwhile stand around slack-jawed in wonder that others don't grasp these simple and obvious ideas as self-evident, particularly the last. How could anyone not understand the truth of that, we wonder quietly to ourselves?
So for those who need help understanding what libertarians mean when they say these things (and to paraphrase Dame Edna Everage, we do mean them lovingly) I plan to update this series over the coming months, beginning today with the entry on 'Abortion,' with 'Altruism' and 'Anarchy' to follow tomorrow and Tuesday.
Hopefully as the series progresses you will find yourself understanding -- if not necessarily agreeing with -- these simple libertarian concepts. And perhaps there will dawn the day when you too will come to realise that the auto-asphyxiation of politicians and bureaucrats may not be such a bad thing. (But as always with such things, readers are advised not to try such things at home.)
Please feel free to suggest additions as the series progresses. Let us begin:
EDITOR’S NOTE, Wanganui, 1993
Some people encountering “The Free Radical” for the first time are reporting a difficulty coming to grips with its statement of editorial policy, evidently finding it too “abstract” and not easily applicable to everyday issues. Mindful of this, I decided to embark on an A-Z of everyday, and not so everyday, issues, to show how the non-initiation of force principle applies in each case. The “non-initiation of force principle”, to repeat, is that no one should force anyone to do anything – all our dealings with each other should be voluntary. This formulation is derived from Galt’s Speech in Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’. Non-Randian libertarians commonly refer to the ‘non-aggression principle’ – which amounts to the same thing. The following is the first part of a thumbnail introduction to the libertarian perspective on matters of moment, which I hope will make clearer, implicitly or explicitly, how the non-aggression principle applies and whence it is derived. When the series is complete, we shall release it in its entirety as a small book.TAGS: Cue Card Libertarianism
In the meantime, keep an eye here and on the sidebar where these Cue Cards will gradually be added to...