Tuesday, 5 February 2008

One-Law-For-All Day

Expect another day tomorrow of protest, anger and hot air, all now par for the course for the day on which New Zealand was founded.  You'd think, in a country with as much to offer and as much to celebrate as New Zealand has that our National Day itself would be something to celebrate. Not likely.

Even without a full moon, Waitangi Day instead regularly produces a ragtag cavalcade of mischief-makers intent on misunderstanding whatever anyone else says -- no matter how simple and however straightforward. Every year there's a whole lot of people doing a whole lot of talking very loudly past each other -- often the same people every year. I expect no less this year. I expect another Waitangi Day with the same protests as last year, the same people loudly proclaiming that the state owes them a living ... and more claims for even more legal privilege  based on race.

Another Waitangi Day in which the the usual parade of politicians and protestors confront and avoid each other, in which the professional grievance industry bewail their fate and issue further demands for the taxpayer to give 'til it hurts.  Frankly, we don't need another tax-paid gravy train or another grievance industry or yet another charter for separatism or a forum in which to demand it -- and this was never what was promised by the Treaty.  We simply need good law -- good colourblind law.  That was what the Treaty promised.

We don't need more nationalisation of land, of seabed or of foreshore; we simply need a legal system in which what we own is protected, in which real injustices can be proven swiftly and without great expense, and where justice can be done and be seen to be done.  That was what the Treaty made possible.

The disappointment is that the promise has not always been the reality.

Perhaps the greatest disappointment every Waitangi Day is to reflect that for all the time spent on Te Tiriti in New Zealand school rooms, there's so little understanding of what it means, nor of the context in which it was signed.  Teaching real history is no longer fashionable.  Teaching myths is.

Partnership? The Treaty was not about 'partnership' of the form now espoused -- neither word nor concept appeared in the document. It was not a Treaty offering permanent welfare, nor a tax-paid gravy train into perpetuity.  In three short articles it simply offered the introduction of British law, and the rights and protections that were then protected by British law.  That was it. 

Biculturalism?  The Treaty that was agreed talked neither about race nor culture.  Like British law itself at the time it was colourblind.  What it promised was not the politics of race but the same protection for anyone, regardless of race, creed or skin colour.

Would that today's law was so blind.

At the time it was signed, the context of British law really meant something.  By the middle of the nineteenth century, British law -- which included British common law -- was the best the world had yet seen.  It was what had made Britain rich, and what still makes the places where British law was introduced some of the most prosperous places in the world in which to live today. From the perspective of one-hundred and sixty-eight years later, when individual rights and property rights are taken for granted even as they're slowly expunged, it's easy to take the framework and protection of British law for granted.  Looked at in the context of the history of human affairs however it was a tremendous achievement: the first time in which individual rights and property rights were recognised in law, and protected in a relatively simple and accessible framework.  Perhaps history's first truly objective legal system

The introduction of British law to the residents of these Shaky Isles  at the bottom of the South Pacific, which at the the time were riven with inter-tribal warfare, was a boon -- and those who eagerly signed knew that.  Their immediate perspective might have been short-term -- to forestall a feared annexation by France; to end inter-tribal violence; to secure territorial gains made in the most recent inter-tribal wars; to gain a foothold for trade -- but there's no doubt they had at least an inkling that life under British law promised greater peace, and the chance at prosperity.

"He iwi tahi tatou"

'He iwi tahi tatou.' We are now one people. So said Governor Hobson to Maori chieftains as they signed the Treaty that is now the source of so much division. But are we really 'one people'? Not really. No more than our ancestors were then. But nor are we two, three or fifty-four peoples -- do you have a people? -- and nor does it matter. What Governor Hobson brought to New Zealand with the Treaty was British law, which then meant something, and Western Culture, which makes it possible to see one another not as 'peoples,' not as part of a tribe or a race, but each of us as sovereign individuals in our own right.

That was a good thing.

But unfortunately, we still don't see each other that way, do we? And the myth-making about 'partnership' and 'biculturalism' is just one way to avoid seeing it.

To be fair, the Treaty itself isn't much to see. What Hobson brought was not the founding document for a country, but a hastily written document intended to forestall French attempts at dominion (and the Frank imposition of croissants and string bikinis), and which brought to New Zealand for the first time the concept of individualism, and the protection of property rights and of an objective rule of law.
But the Treaty itself was short, spare and to the point. What it relied upon was the context of British law as it then existed.   The Treaty's three short clauses promised little -- as everyone understood, the intent was to point to the wider context and say 'We're having that here.'  But that understanding is now clouded with invective, and the context that is no longer with us. 

British law is not what it was, and there's a meal ticket now in fomenting misunderstanding of what it once promised.

The Treaty signed one-hundred sixty-seven years ago today was not intended as the charter for separatism and grievance and the welfare gravy train that it has become - to repeat, it was intended no more and no less than to bring the protection of British law and the rights and privileges of British citizens to the residents of these islands -- residents of all colours. That was the context that three simple clauses were intended to enunciate. And one-hundred and sixty-seven years ago, the rights and privileges of British citizens actually meant something -- this was not a promise to protect the prevailing culture of tribalism (which had dominated pre-European New Zealand history and underpinned generations of inter-tribal conflict, and which the modern myth of 'partnership' still underpins), but a promise to protect individuals from each other; a promise to see Maoris not as part of a tribe, but as individuals in their own right; a promise to protect what individuals own and what they produce by their own efforts. That the promise is sometimes seen in the breach than in practice is no reason to spurn the attempt.

The Treaty helped to make New Zealand a better place for everyone.

Protection

Life in New Zealand before the advent of the rule of law recognised neither right, nor privilege, nor even the concept of ownership. It was not the paradise of Rousseau's noble savage; force was the recognised rule du jour and the source of much barbarity (see for example 'Property Rights: A Blessing for Maori New Zealand').  Indeed just a few short years before the Treaty was signed, savage inter-tribal warfare reigned, and much of New Zealand was found to be unpopulated following the fleeing of tribes before the muskets and savagery and cannibalism of other tribes.

Property in this war of all against all was not truly owned; instead, it was just something that was grabbed and held by one tribe, until it was later grabbed and held by another. To be blunt, life was brutish and it was short, just as it was in pre-Industrial Revolution Europe, and - let's face it -- it was largely due to the local culture that favoured conquest over peace and prosperity. As Thomas Sowell reminds us: "Cultures are not museum pieces. They are the working machinery of everyday life. Unlike objects of aesthetic contemplation, working machinery is judged by how well it works, compared to the alternatives." Pre-European local culture was not working well for those within that culture. Let's be really blunt (and here I paraphrase from this article):

In the many years before the Treaty was signed, the scattered tribes occupying New Zealand lived in abject poverty, ignorance, and superstition -- not due to any racial inferiority, but because that is how all mankind starts out (Europeans included). The transfer of Western civilisation to these islands was one of the great cultural gifts in recorded history, affording Maori almost effortless access to centuries of European accomplishments in philosophy, science, technology, and government. As a result, today's Maori enjoy a capacity for generating health, wealth, and happiness that their Stone Age ancestors could never have conceived.

Harsh, but true. And note those words before you hyperventilate: "not due to any racial inferiority, but because that is how all mankind starts out (Europeans included)."   Some one-hundred and fifty years before, the same boon was offered to the savage, dirt-poor Scottish tribesmen who were living then much as pre-Waitangi Maori were.  Within one-hundred years following the embrace of Western civilisation, Scotland was transformed and had became one of the centres of the Enlightenment.  Such was the cultural gift being offered.

The boon of Western Civilisation was being offered here in New Zealand not after conquest but for just a mess of pottage, and in return for the right of Westerners to settle here too. As Sir Apirana Ngata stated, "if you think these things are wrong, then blame your ancestors when they gave away their rights when they were strong" - giving the clue that 'right' to Ngata's ancestors, equated to 'strong' more than it did to 'right.'

Who 'owned' New Zealand?

It's said that Maori owned New Zealand before the Treaty was signed, and that while the 'shadow' of sovereignty was passed on, the substance remained.  This is nonsense.  Pre-European Maori never "owned" New Zealand in any sense, let alone in any meaningful sense of exercising either ownership or sovereignty over all of it. 

First of all, they had no concept at all of ownership by right; 'ownership' was not by right but  by force; it represented taonga that was taken by force and held by force -- just as long as they were able to be held (see again, for example 'Property Rights: A Blessing for Maori New Zealand').  Witness for example the savage conflict over the prosperous lands of Tamaki Makaurau, over which generations of Kawerau, Nga Puhi, Ngati Whatua and others fought.  There was no recognition at any time that these lands were owned by a tribe by right -- they were only held as long as a tribe's might made holding them possible, and as long as the fighting necessary to retain them brought a greater benefit than it did to relinquish them (and by the early 1800s, with so much fighting to be done to hold them, all tribes gave up and left the land to bracken instead).

Second, even if the tribesmen and women had begun to develop the rudiments of the concept of ownership by right (the concept of ownership by right being relatively new even to 1840 Europeans) they didn't own all of the country -- they only 'owned' what they owned.  That is, what Maori possessed were the lands and fisheries they occupied and farmed and fished and used.  This was never all of New Zealand, nor even most of New Zealand. The rest of it lay unowned, and unclaimed.

Third, prior to the arrival of Europeans Maori did not even see themselves as 'one people'; the word 'Maori' simply meant 'normal,' as opposed to the somewhat abnormal outsiders who had now appeared with their crosses and muskets and strange written incantations. The tangata whenua saw themselves not as a homogeneous whole, but as members of various tribes.  This was not a nation, nor even a collection of warring tribes.  Apart from the Confederacy of United Tribes -- an ad hoc group who clubbed together in 1835 in a bid to reject expected overtures from the French -- there was no single sovereignty over pre-European New Zealand, no sovereign entity to cede sovereignty, and no way a whole country could be ceded by those who had never yet even laid claim to it in its entirety.

Our 'Founding Document'?

So the British came, and saw, and hung about a bit. The truth is that some of the best places in the world in which to live are those where the British once came, and saw and then buggered off -- leaving behind them their (once) magnificent legal system, and the rudiments of Western Culture. See for example, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and of course (as noted in obituaries of former governor John Cowperthwaite) Hong Kong. We lucked out.

What the Treaty did do, for which we can all be thankful, was to bring British law to NZ at a time when British law was actually intended to protect the rights of British citizens, and it promised to extend that protection to all who lived here. For many and often differing reasons, that was what the chieftains signed up to.  To become British citizens, with all the rights and privileges thereof.

But the Treaty itself was not a founding document. No, it wasn't. On its own, with just three simple articles and a brief introduction, there was just not enough there to make it a document that founds a nation. As a document it simply pointed to the superstructure of British law as it then was and said, 'let's have that down here on these islands in the South Pacific.'

The treaty's greatest promise was really in its bringing to these islands those rights and privileges that British citizens enjoyed by virtue of their then superb legal system; the protection of Pax Britannia when those rights and that protection meant something, and when British power saw protection of British rights as its sworn duty. The result of this blessing of relatively secure individual rights was the palpable blessings of relative peace, of increasing security, and of expanding prosperity.

Sadly, British jurisprudence no longer does see its duty that way, which means the legal context in which the Treaty was signed has changed enormously, and the blessings themselves are sometimes difficult to see. Law, both in Britain and here in NZ, now places welfarism and need above individualism and rights. That's the changing context that has given steam and power to the treaty-based gravy train, and allowed the Treaty and those who consume the Treaty's gravy to say it says something other than what is written in it.

The truly sad thing is that the Treaty relied on a context that no longer exists -- and the only way to restore that context, in my view, is with a new constitution that makes the original context explicit.  To restore the original legal context, and to improve upon it with a legal context that protects and reinforces an Objective rule of law -- as British law itself once did -- one that clarifies what in the Treaty was only vague or was barely put. And in doing so, of course, such a constitution would make the Treaty obsolete.

Thank goodness.

The Dream

Waitangi Day comes just two weeks after Martin Luther King Day. It might be worthwhile to remind ourselves of King's dream for the future of his own children:

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character..."
Perhaps we will one day celebrate that dream down here -- not as a dream, but as reality.  Celebrating our national day not as a charter for grievance that continues to poison discussion, but instead with real joy.  Celebrating that the colour of a man's skin is of no importance compared to the content of his character.  Shaking off the gravy train of grievance.

Perhaps one day we will actually celebrate the birth of this great little country, instead of seeing its birthday as an annual source of conflict. Wouldn't that be something to celebrate?

* * * * *

Linked Articles: Unsure on foreshore: A Brash dismissal of Maori rights? - Not PC
Do you have a people? - Not PC
Property Rights: A Gift to Maori New Zealand - Peter Cresswell
What is Objective Law? - Harry Binswanger
No Apology to Indians - Thomas Bowden
Superseding the Treaty with something objective called "good law" - Not PC
All hail the Industrial Revolution - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Individualism - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Rights - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Need - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Welfarism - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Ethnicity - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Government - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism:Constitution - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Property - Not PC
A Constitution for New Freeland - The Free Radical

More from the Archives: Maoritanga, Racism, History, Law, Constitution

UPDATE: Lindsay Perigo forgoes the idea of 'One Law For All Day' and plumps instead for going the whole hog: "Dump the Treaty and the Day; Let’s Have Western Civilisation Day!" he says.

Don't Vote Labour

Don't Vote Labour.  It hasn't gone away, you know.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio (1889), Oak Park, Illinois

                   FLW home & Studio 2

Frank Lloyd Wright's home and draughting office. 

The Shingle Style home he designed and had built in his late teenage years when he first began work with Louis Sullivan (Wright's first employer Lyman Silsbee was a Shingle Style designer); the attached draughting office built nine years later was where Wright set up office with Marion Mahoney and Walter Burley Griffin once he left Sullivan -- and where they invented the Prairie Style

                   FLW home & Studio 3   

More photos here and here.

Monday, 4 February 2008

$150,000 per car!

12_bus_180 After four years of delaying traffic the North Shore busway gets its first proper use today. With its opening the government has spent nearly $300 million of your money in order to get 2000 cars off the Northern motorway every day. That's $210 million, plus the cost of bus stations and buses.  That's $150,000 per car!

Couldn't they have invested our money in a few private taxis instead?  Or a viable second crossing?

That's $300 million to keep an empty lane open next to the Northern motorway's clogged lanes just so that (as Liberty Scott says) a near-empty bus can whiz by every three minutes. At that price, the bloody thing deserves to be better used.  It won't be -- not unless, as Scott suggests, it becomes a tollway.

As a tollway, it could charge vehicles a premium to bypass congestion, like the 91 express lanes in California. The tolls would be high, and vary according to demand, and would ensure free flow conditions remain. However, the tolls could ultimately pay for the road (except that past road users have already paid for it). An even better option would be to sell it, let bus companies pay for the right to use it, along with other road users. People could hardly moan about there not being an alternative, the government owned "free" motorway beside it would remain available.

He has another even more radical solution for North Shore's drivers to consider: see 'Auckland's Northern Busway Opens, But...' - LIBERTY SCOTT.

They died of it

Three Hawkes Bay people have died waiting for coronary bypass surgery, and Health Minister David Cunliffe is calling for an "independent inquiry."  It doesn't require another viewing of 'Yes Minister' to realise that the chief reason for such an inquiry is not to uncover anything, but to divert attention from those truly culpable.

"There is no need for an independent inquiry into the deaths of the three Hawkes Bay people waiting for coronary bypass operations," says Libertarianz deputy and Wairarapa candidate Dr McGrath. The root cause is obvious.

Mr Cunliffe already knows the root cause of long surgical waiting lists.   It is the Sovietization of health care [in New Zealand] and the failure of subsequent governments to allow New Zealanders to fully fund and manage their health requirements...

Unless he publicly renounces socialism and moves to urgently deregulate and privatise the health industry, says McGrath, the incumbent minister of health must be held accountable for the die-while-you-wait health 'care,' and resign immediately.  It's not like it hasn't been obvious for some time.  Politicians take billions from NZers every year, and deliver in return a socialised system in which health care is rationed. 

These three people just died of it.

Twelve years ago, former Libertarianz Party leader Lindsay Perigo spoke of the die-while-you-wait health system. Since then, nothing has changed. There is still a shortage of qualified specialist staff in cardiac surgery and other services.

Under a private system, market forces mean hospitals would have to offer higher rates of pay and better conditions in order to attract staff - and rapidly - or risk financial ruin. Under a socialized system, hospitals respond to the demands of their customers with the trademark bureaucratic inertia we have come to expect in our public hospitals and health ministry.

As three Hawkes Bay families have now been made aware, this bureaucratic inertia is fatal. Or as Don Watkins says: "socialized medicine kills."

'FARC off' says worldwide protest (updated)

 TFR76_Cover_Web-Edition Tomorrow morning offers Aucklanders and Wellingtonians the opportunity to stand up against tyranny.  First, some background. 

Hugo Chavez's South American socialism is pulling the switch on Venezuela, and is making moves to turn out the lights all across South America.  For forty years Venezuela's neighbour Colombia has been wracked with kidnapping, killing and would-be insurrection from an organisation called the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) whose stated goal is to create a communist state, and for whom Chavez is now their mouthpiece.

FARC's insurgency has already resulted in the displacement of 2 million people, thousands of deaths, and the labelling of Colombia as the "kidnapping capital of the world."  These people are scum.

Colombians are heartily sick of the violence of these 'narco-guerillas,' and they sure don't want either Chavez-style communism or his interference.  What they want is peace and the chance at prosperity they have without FARC's terrorism. 

Around the world tomorrow one million voices will be raised in protest against FARC and its terrorism.  The Auckland and Wellington rallies are timed to coincide with protests throughout Colombia and in 131 other cities throughout the world. Demonstrators will be demanding an end to FARC's campaign of terror against the the population of Colombia and to its kidnappings, massacres and murders.

The idea of a worldwide protest was born less than a month ago on the social networking Web site Facebook under the banner, "No more kidnappings! No more lies! No more deaths! No more FARC!". [Story here.]

"We hope the whole country will come out to join us," said Cristina Lucena, a 24-year-old political science student from Bogota and one of the protest's six main organizers.  Join several hundred Colombian nationals in NZ tomorrow to help make their voice heard from here.

Join the international protest against the terrorist activities of the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Queen Elizabeth Square in Auckland on Tuesday, February 5 from 6am-9am, and in Wellington at the end of Lambton Quay and beside the Parlament building from 7.30am to 8.30 am.  WEAR WHITE FOR PEACE.

  • Organiser's No Mas Farc press release here.
  • Some useful background on FARC in The Guardian.

A swift boat for McCain (updated)

Arch-Republicans Ann Coulter and Jack Wheeler agree: Don't back McCain.  Says Coulter, "I'd rather deal with President Hillary than with President McCain. With Hillary, we'll get the same ruinous liberal policies with none of the responsibility."  You can see video of Coulter's admission here.  For Wheeler's part, he explains:

I would not in any circumstances vote for John McCain, not if either Hillary or Obama were the alternative.  Evil is safer than crazy.  Leftie amateur inexperience is safer than crazy...

A McCain presidency will be the destruction of the Republican Party.  It needs to be rebuilt, not wiped out with the field clear for the fascists of the left to consolidate power and eliminate freedom.
And maybe the only way to rebuild it is in dedicated impassioned opposition to a Clinton White House.  That should be the subject of Ann Coulter's next book.  I've already got the title for her.  Her last book was If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans.  Ann needs to now write this book:  If Republicans Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans.

Wheeler's opposition to McCain is visceral -- "psychologically unstable" he calls him.  Worse, says Wheeler:

That John McCain is clinically nuts is scary enough.  What worries a small group of GOP Senators and Congressmen even more is a deep and dark skeletal secret in McCain's glorified past to which they are privy, and which [they believe] the Clintons will use to blackmail him.

Read Wheeler's whole article here to see what McCain is accused of.

UPDATE: Links fixed.

"A pleasant man who, without any important qualifications for the office, would very much like to be Prime Minister."

David Farrar has drawn great comfort from a review of John Key’s background appearing in NZ's Sunday Star-Times -- which is now, let's face it, an unreliable rag. (The article suggests the report has some association with London's esteemed Financial Times (FT), but the exact connection is unclear, and a search at FT's site reveals no recent news on John Boy.) The Sunday Star-Times praises his managerial skills:

What made Key an outstanding success in the brutally Darwinian business of banking was not his foreign exchange skills although they were more than acceptable. Instead what set him apart were essentially political and managerial skills. He was unusually good at charming colleagues and clients, and rallying staff around him...

While most successful traders in the financial world tend to be introverted, extremely brainy or thrive on taking crazily big bets, Key had never been a “typical” trader...

“I suppose a lot of FX [foreign exchange] guys do tend to be inward looking [says Steve Bellotti, Key’s immediate boss at Merrill Lynch] but John is a lot broader than that. He has real leadership skills. That was what made him really stand out.”

I have no doubt that John Key's management skills are exemplary. I've never challenged that. I'm sure his ability to lead a team in business is second to none. I've never questioned that. What I do note, however, is the skills cited are not the qualities that are needed in politics.

In business one's goals are generally focused and clear -- the job is to manage your team towards those goals. Politics is not like that. What's more important in politics is not so much what you can do (thought let's not discount that) but as what you stand for: the ability to charm colleagues and clients is all very well, but what's more important is what you're charming them for; leadership skills are all very well, but in a chap seeking the job of Prime Minister what's more important is where exactly we might be led. In this respect, John Key stands for nothing, and the Star-Times article gives no indication he ever has. The worry is that we'll all be led up the garden path.

John Key has articulated no clear direction. None at all. He's given no clear idea of which direction he intends to take New Zealand if he gets the chance, and given his proven ability to make one-hundred and eighty degree changes in direction, no sign that he even has one. In which direction does he intend to manage us? Anyone know? Does he?

Last week's spectacular U-turn on interest-free student loans -- a Labour policy it once promised to oppose with "every bone in our bodies" -- tends to indicate that there is no bone in the National Party body, and no direction in view beyond getting elected. No bone, no spine, no heart, no guts and no vision -- just charm, smarm and the empty vessel of managerialism.

Key's own direction is certainly not set by any inner political conviction -- the existence of which he has never given any sign -- but by the simple expedient of a wetting a finger to find the prevailing wind. A man with no direction is an empty vessel waiting for someone else to fill him up. For all John Key's admirable managerial skills, one is unable to shake the firm conviction that John Key's next direction is all-too frequently determined by the last person he talks to.

In this respect he is the hollow man he's frequently been described as. To paraphrase Walter Lippman's famous remark of Franklin Roosevelt, he is a pleasant man who, without any important qualifications for the office, would very much like to be Prime Minister.

That's not enough. As Leighton Smith has been heard to say, "John Key's National is not necessarily the answer."

OneLawForAll


UPDATE 1: Added for clarification: The co-author of the 'Star-Times' article is Gillian Tett, "an assistant editor of the Financial Times [who] oversees the global coverage of the financial markets."

UPDATE 2: Dave Mann puts it bluntly in the comments: "The choice between an ugly domineering asshole and a grinning smarmy conman is not an enviable one and the country really should have a real alternative to chose from. Where is our alternative?" Might I suggest that the only fundamental alternative to all the various brands of Nanny State is Libertarianz -- and to those who suggest Libertarianz need to get serious to be taken seriously I say, "Watch this space."

UPDATE 3: An article that could have been written especially for John Key's list of essential reading appeared as The Weekend Read of the Mises Daily: 'The Role of Ideas' by Ludwig von Mises.  Mises points out that "action is necessarily preceded by thinking" -- in the realm of public affairs, acting without thought generally means actions based on the thoughts and ideas of others. Me-tooing.  Real thinking on which genuine human action is based means "to deliberate beforehand over future action and to reflect afterward upon past action. Thinking and acting are inseparable..."

It is always the individual who thinks. Society does not think any more than it eats or drinks... The theories directing action are often imperfect and unsatisfactory. They may be contradictory and unfit to be arranged into a comprehensive and coherent system.

If we look at all the theorems and theories guiding the conduct of certain individuals and groups as a coherent complex and try to arrange them as far as is feasible into a system, i.e., a comprehensive body of knowledge, we may speak of it as a worldview...  The concept of an ideology is narrower than that of a worldview. In speaking of ideology we have in view only human action and social cooperation and disregard the problems of metaphysics, religious dogma, the natural sciences, and the technologies derived from them. Ideology is the totality of our doctrines concerning individual conduct and social relations. Both, worldview and ideology, go beyond the limits imposed upon a purely neutral and academic study of things as they are. They are not only scientific theories, but also doctrines about the ought, i.e., about the ultimate ends which man should aim at in his earthly concerns...

Some authors try to justify the contradictions of generally accepted ideologies by pointing out the alleged advantages of a compromise, however unsatisfactory from the logical point of view, for the smooth functioning of interhuman relations. They refer to the popular fallacy that life and reality are "not logical"; they contend that a contradictory system may prove its expediency or even its truth by working satisfactorily while a logically consistent system would result in disaster. There is no need to refute anew such popular errors. Logical thinking and real life are not two separate orbits. Logic is for man the only means to master the problems of reality. What is contradictory in theory, is no less contradictory in reality. No ideological inconsistency can provide a satisfactory, i.e., working, solution for the problems offered by the facts of the world. The only effect of contradictory ideologies is to conceal the real problems and thus to prevent people from finding in time an appropriate policy for solving them. Inconsistent ideologies may sometimes postpone the emergence of a manifest conflict. But they certainly aggravate the evils which they mask and render a final solution more difficult. They multiply the agonies, they intensify the hatreds, and make peaceful settlement impossible. It is a serious blunder to consider ideological contradictions harmless or even beneficial...

There is no other means of preventing social disintegration and of safeguarding the steady improvement of human conditions than those provided by reason. Men must try to think through all the problems involved up to the point beyond which a human mind cannot proceed farther. They must never acquiesce in any solutions conveyed by older generations, they must always question anew every theory and every theorem, they must never relax in their endeavors to brush away fallacies and to find the best possible cognition. They must fight error by unmasking spurious doctrines and by expounding truth...

Society is a product of human action. Human action is directed by ideologies. Thus society and any concrete order of social affairs are an outcome of ideologies...  Any existing state of social affairs is the product of ideologies previously thought out. Within society new ideologies may emerge and may supersede older ideologies and thus transform the social system. However, society is always the creation of ideologies temporally and logically anterior. Action is always directed by ideas; it realizes what previous thinking has designed.

If we hypostatize or anthropomorphize the notion of ideology, we may say that ideologies have might over men. Might is the faculty or power of directing actions. As a rule one says only of a man or of groups of men that they are mighty. Then the definition of might is: might is the power to direct other people's actions. He who is mighty owes his might to an ideology. Only ideologies can convey to a man the power to influence other people's choices and conduct. One can become a leader only if one is supported by an ideology which makes other people tractable and accommodating. Might is thus not a physical and tangible thing, but a moral and spiritual phenomenon...

Friday, 1 February 2008

Beer O'Clock: Bill Shakespeare & beer

                         image

A more contemplative Beer O'Clock for you this avo.  "Wot's 'contemplative' mean?" you ask?  If you do have to ask, let me warn you this post is probably not for you.

This week we celebrate the connection between beer and Bill Shakespeare.  If you ask this time, "Wot connection?" then this post is very definitely worth pursuing.  You see, according to new friend George Light (who writes at the NeverMind Aesthetic blog), your basic garden ale was "the little drink that made the glories of the English stage possible."

shakespeare_narrowweb__300x322,2 Without beer, no Bill (not least because his father was an official ale-taster, which meant sitting around in leather keks to test the quality of beer).  So not only no beer, no Bill - it also turns out that without Bill, no beer. 

You see, Elizabethan pubs hosted entertainment for the same reason that today's pubs host karaoke: because it pulled in the punters.  The strolling players of Will Shakespeare's troupe performed the same function then that gigging guitarists do today: and it was William Shakespeare who wrote the very best material for those players.  It was Shakespeare's stuff that brought in the punters that allowed the world's first commercial brewers to prosper.

drink.tg1All  hail The Bard!

If this astonishes those of you who take their theatrical performances only with "a glass of wheet ween, darling,"' then let George tease out the historical implications of all this for you. Theatre began, he says, "as a physical extensions of drinking establishments, with inn-yards being utilised as the first semi-permanent sites of theatre..."

Turns out William Shakespeare made of a lot of early brewers very happy.  And turns out today's theatre-goers have more to thank yesteryear's ale drinkers than they might realise.

This weekend, raise a glass to old Bill --  and to learn much, much more about beer, The Bard, and the Elizabethan ale and beer wars, download and consume George Light's 'Beer & the Bard' here [pdf].  "For a quart of ale is a dish for a King!" as the Bard himself once said.  And as his own King Henry said ... "I would give all my fame for a pot of ale." A very wise king indeed.

Shortage, thy name is socialism

Water's running short, electricity's on the blink, hospitals are crumbling, schools aren't working, and -- as school students head back next week --- roads are once again getting gridlocked.  Can you see the common factor in all of the above listed shortages?  (For those too dim to turn the lights on, the government 'owns' them all.)

Meanwhile those who endorse government ownership of the means of production continue to denounce the rampant consumerism, overflowing shelves and abundant prosperity produced by the engines of capitalism, however much the forces of capitalism remain shackled by their lacklustre heroes.

S'funny, isn't it.  'Privatisation' is too horrifying a word for the Blue Team to even contemplate, yet failure is the leading result of the unfortunately leading alternative.

It's a funny old world.  It's like prosperity and abundance are bad things.

The only abundance that rampant government meddling ever seems to produce is rising interest rates consequent on government's grip on banking, exploding house prices consequent on the grip of government planners over house building, exploding compliance costs for every business consequent on rapidly rising regulations and impositions, and steadily rising  youth crime consequent on several generations of failed government programmes (one in particular),  ... yet the only unshackling from government proposed by any of the mainstream political parties is, when the tax burden upon us is at another historic high, very timid, almost derisory cuts in the amount governments plan to steal from us.

Meanwhile, you lot just sit back and vote for more of the same, and nod sagely as you say "that's all one can really do, you know."  You make me sick.

Dullards behind blackouts ahead

New Zealand's power generation is in crisis. At a time when the country faces imminent blackouts it's worth reminding ourselves that the government's latest 'energy strategy' sees the construction of reliable new coal and gas plants banned, the recommissioning of new coal and gas plants put on hold, the construction of new hydro schemes made well-nigh impossible, and almost complete reliance on near non-existent "renewables" and the fickleness of wind generation for the extra capacity so urgently needed (and even Jeanette Fitzsimons is giving up on wind power).

The threat of blackouts is the product of the extraordinarily bad energy policies followed by the governments of the last twenty years, and of the even worse strategy they intend to follow in the next ten.

The energy strategy for the next decade is endorsed by both major political parties.  It is not so much a strategy for more energy as it is an anti-industrialist's manifesto.  New Zealand's power generation is in crisis -- it's in crisis because politics has trumped prosperity, and because the country's voting public just doesn't care.

Nothing to see ... no principles, no ideas ... (updated)

John Key's National Party announced the first wave of their strategy for Election Year 2008 yesterday: they're going to outflank Labour on the left. In 2005 Don Brash's National party called interest-free student loans "an irresponsible election bribe."  Yesterday Key's Labour-Lite endorsed the irresponsible election bribe, and added a further ten percent.  Story here.

                             Interest Free Student Loans - Labour Too

2008: the year of the 'me-too' election.

UPDATE 1:  It's said that the interest-free student loans policy would be "too difficult to unpick."  Not at all.  As a few commenters here have suggested -- and as has been Libertarianz policy for some time -- all that's necessary is to sell the loan agreements off to whoever wants them, at whatever mark down bidders think is workable.  Let them "unpick" what should never have been knitted in the first place.

UPDATE 2: Speaking of centrist mush ... on the back of John Boy's nine questions to Helen the other day, SOLO's Lance Davey has ten right back at him.  Just to remind you, John Boy's original nine questions were:

  1. Why, after eight years of Labour, are we paying the second-highest interest rates in the developed world?
  2. Why, under Labour, is the gap between our wages, and wages in Australia and other parts of the world, getting bigger and bigger?
  3. Why, under Labour, do we get a tax cut only in election year, when we really needed it years ago?
  4. Why are grocery and petrol prices going through the roof?
  5. Why can't our hardworking kids afford to buy their own house?
  6. Why is one in five Kiwi kids leaving school with grossly inadequate literacy and numeracy skills?
  7. Why, when Labour claim they aspire to be carbon-neutral, do our greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at an alarming rate?
  8. Why hasn't the health system improved when billions of extra dollars have been poured into it?
  9. Why is violent crime against innocent New Zealanders continuing to soar and why is Labour unable to do anything about it?

Good questions all, but as I pointed out the other day, John Boy has no more answers than Helen does -- so as Lance says, given National's well earned reputation as Labour-Lite let's ask:

  1. Why, after eight years of Labour, have we heard National whine about high interest rates - but never once offer a plausible alternative solution?  Not once.
  2. How exactly would the gap between our wages, and wages in Australia and other parts of the world stop getting bigger and bigger under your stewardship, if all you are offering is Labour-Lite?
  3. How will tax cuts be either affordable or practical under your regime, given how scared you are of the dreaded "P" word (privatisation), your unwillingness to countenance serious steps to roll back the welfare state, and no meaningful plans whatsoever to cut government spending beyond "attacking waste" -- which every opposition party since time began promises, but none ever elected ever achieves?
  4. Do you recognise that with grocery and petrol prices already going through the roof, your stated goal to "reduce carbon emissions" to an even greater extent than Labour will send the price of groceries and petrol even further skyward?
  5. Are you aware that in several recent reports the blame for high housing costs was laid squarely at the feet of over-regulation? Do you remember who it was that introduced the worst of these regulatory laws, the Resource Management Act?  Since you weren't in the country then, let me remind you: it was National. Or who administered it without change for nine years and two elections? Let me remind you again: it was National -- and, for five of those years, National's present environment spokesthing Nick Smith.  "Far reaching environmental legislation" Smith calls the RMA.
  6. Do you realise that one in five Kiwi kids who left school under the last National Government left with grossly inadequate literacy and numeracy skills as well?  Do you know that nothing tangible has changed on that score since your own sorry stewardship?  And why, under your own proposed regime, will four in five New Zealand children still be forced to endure indoctrination by the state at the factory schools responsible for NZers' grossly inadequate literacy and numeracy skills? And why are the so called 'educationalists' responsible for that tragedy not already on your hit list?
  7. Why does National buy into the nonsense of man-made Global Warming anyway?
  8. If the health system hasn't improved when billions of extra dollars have been poured into it, will National dare do the right thing and work to privatise health? Or will it keep flogging the same die-while-you-wait horse?
  9. What would your government do, John, to fight the causes of violent crime?  With most of those responsible for violent crime having been scarred with illiteracy caused by the state's factory schools, what do you propose to do about that?  With the modern rise in violent crime having been largely congruent with the time that the unwanted children of DPB recipients came to adolescence, what do you propose to do about that? What do you propose to do about the police spending more time doing over innocent people for driving fast -- or smacking their kids -- or defending themselves against violence -- than they in addressing real crime?  For arresting and incarcerating more and more  New Zealanders guilty only of victim-less crimes, when so many real criminals and real crimes with real victims are left un-addressed?  What will you do about all the anti-individualist and quasi-socialist statist busybodies that infest your own party (people like Jaqui Dean, the daft bint crusading against any "think of the children" cause thrust under her ignorant, self-serving nose) and about all the soaring state interference at the personal level of what you can, can't, must and should not consume, do or think?  What will you do to end the nannying?
  10. In short, what exactly will you do to work towards your party's purported goal of minimising the government and keeping them out of our lives?

Any further questions?  Any chance, do you think, of any plausible answers -- any at all -- either now or in the months to come?

Second Jacobs House - Frank Lloyd Wright

jacobsII10

jacobsII7

shintbw1Wright designed the first house for journalist Herbert Jacobs and his wife in 1936 -- it was the first of Wright's 'Usonian' houses, costing $5500 including architect's fee.

  The Jacobs family loved their first house so much that when they moved in 1942 in order to get away from the town that was sprawling out to meet them Jacobs-BW(Wright's advice when first the bought -- which they didn't take -- was to buy out as far as they could afford, then go out just a litle bit further)  they commissioned another Wright house, and once again he produced a 'first.' 

This time it was what he called a double-storey 'solar hemicycle' for the northern American prairies; tucked down behind an earth berm to protect it from freezing northerlies, shdaeriaand opening up to the south on both ground floor and mezzanine to sun and gardens and a pool half-inside and half-outside.

The Jacobs family built the house themselves, and by their own account lived a charmed life there.

Jacobs-Plan Jacobs-section

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Paying no-hopers to breed produces ....

Here's another government disaster we're now all paying for:  The tremendous rise in youth crime.  The explosion in youth crime since the early eighties is largely due to people being paid by the government to have children they don't want.

Paying people to have children they didn't want started in the early seventies.  By the early eighties those children were old enough to make other people's lives a nightmare, and the violent crime statistics much larger.

Think about it.  What sense is it being forced to pay no-hopers to breed, and then wondering why their progeny go wrong?

Illiterates still sadly surging forth. Ambulances positioned firmly at cliff base.

First, a quote from earlier in the week: “Education in the government's factory schools is pumping out an ever-increasing number of functionally illiterate and unemployable youths - good for nothing beyond stuffing a ballot box." - Peter Osborne

And a cartoon (from The Free Radical):

               New_Maths

And now, some good news.  The Government appears to have accepted the bad news that "the literacy level of about 800,000 workers is such that they might struggle to transfer printed information to an order form - a deficiency cited as a factor stifling the country's economic growth" -- and, not incidentally, blighting the lives and futures of  at least 800,00 New Zealanders.  Story here. Puff piece here.

The bad news is, first, that according to Pete Hodgson, it is businesses who will be expected to teach their own workers reading, writing and maths "under a complex new plan to raise the skills of the workforce." 

Business New Zealand chief executive Phil O'Reilly - who, with Government and New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, is part of the new Skill New Zealand Forum developing the plan - [said he] didn't want a "bureaucratic nightmare" for business [but] "We've got a problem in terms of functional illiteracy and innumeracy in our workplaces. We are poor by world standards," said Mr O'Reilly.

At least it means the schools responsible for this disaster won't be getting their hands back on the evidence of their resounding failure.   But the further bad news however, completely un-addressed by this "complex new plan," is that the factory schools that churned out this horde of functional illiterates continue to sail on regardless.  One in five of the New Zealanders who attended those schools for ten years or more failed to attain the most basic of life skills, yet nothing about that revelation will cause any sort of re-examination by those responsible. 

That is outrageous.  It would happen in no other line of endeavour except one monopolised by the state.

Those who continue to insist that the state simply must take charge of primary and secondary education might pause to consider what this figure shows about the efficacy and content of what those factory schools have been and are continuing to delivering -- in recent years it's been mostly bullshit, mush and toxic swill.   If you thought they were primarily teaching literacy and numeracy, you were obviously very much mistaken -- it's mostly about the seven-lesson inculcation of servitude.

If you ever thought that appalling figures such as these would get the planners behind the factory schools asking themselves serious questions about their plans and their success rate (or lack thereof), then you've been  hoodwinked.  And if you ever wondered whether a private organisation with failure of this magnitude would be able to get away with it, then I have a bridge I can sell you.

The tragedy of wholesale illiteracy and innumeracy must be laid firmly at the door of the mandarins responsible for the method of teaching and the content of what is taught at the state's indoctrination centres.  It is not enough to pick up the lives of those blighted by those mandarins years later.  It is essential that those responsible are urgently removed from the responsibility of filling up further young minds, and be placed where they are never in such a position again.

As every year a new horde of young New Zealanders surges forth into the world, one in five of whom  after ten years of factory schooling are unable to function in the modern world, the situation becomes ever more urgent.  Don't just wring your hands in impotent despair at the tragedy.  Don't just bewail the youngsters' sorry futures.  Don't just join me in hammering the factory schools.   Join me in going in there and taking them all back

          Ministry_of_Miseducation

Seth Peterson Cottage - Frank Lloyd Wright (updated)

                               mlsethp06

Designed in 1958 when Wright was ninety and described has having “more architecture per square foot than any other building Wright ever designed,” this tiny (88sqm) one-man cottage is a jewel.

peterson The Seth Peterson Cottage in Mirror Lake, Wisconsin, is one of eight Wright locations you can rent, along with:

spcfloorplan50 lodge

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

NOT in support of murder

I must confess I'm disturbed by the many messages of support and sympathy I've seen around the place for the fifty-year old murderer of Pihema Cameron, a man who knifed the fifteen-year old for the offence of tagging his Manurewa fence. This wasn't self-defence, for which he'd have my support. He didn't drag the young tagger from his fence and discipline him, for which he might have my sympathy. He didn't just chastise him, which he certainly deserved. Instead he chased him three-hundred metres down the road and stabbed him through the heart. That's not self-defence -- the only legal defence available to him. That looks more like murder.

For tagging his fence, he murdered him.

I just don't understand how people can support murder.

Now I don't know the murdered youngster from a hole in the ground -- which is where he is now -- but when I was Pihema's age I must confess to having tagged a building or two around South Auckland. I'm not proud of it. It wasn't smart. But I grew up. Pihema Cameron never will.

I just don't understand how people can his support murder.

The Minto myth (updated)

Poneke explains why John Minto was one of the heroes of his formative years, and why he is no longer.

A good read, and topical, since Minto has made news for refusing to accept the South African award of the Order of Companions of Oliver Tambo, reserved for “eminent foreign nationals and other foreign dignitaries for friendship shown to South Africa.”

Yet was the award even offered?  As Liberty Scott has spotted, Reuters says he was never offered the award in the first place.  A statement from the office of the President of South Africa states:

  The Presidency has noted publication of an open letter addressed to President Thabo Mbeki written by Mr. John Minto of New Zealand.
   In the letter, Mr. Minto claims, amongst other things, to have been nominated for the prestigious Order of the Companions of OR Tambo.In this regard, the Presidency wishes to place it on record that Mr. Minto has not, as a matter of fact, been nominated as a candidate for any of our national orders.

Minto is no hero.  He's a destructive fool and a liar.

UPDATE: From Liberty Scott:

Minto has now been reported in the Dominion Post as saying "South African sports minister Reverend Makhenkesi (Arnold) Stofile told him at his home last year he had been nominated for the award." Oh so no letter John? No written evidence? Funny that. Given this is a man who once said the death of the Kahui twins was "society's" fault, it's no surprise that he has his own portable reality generator. I guess a journalist will now interview the South African sports minister ... his contact details are here.

Sort out your own stables first

A few people around the traps have been talking these last few days about 'pop econ' books like Steven Leavitt's 'Freakonomics' and Tim Harford's 'Underground Economist' that purport to take economic reasoning from the arid realms of economic analysis and apply it to everything from the use of toilet paper to the impact of abortion on inner city crime.

For all the pleasure to be had in reading them, and the huge sales of these books show how much fun there is in them, wouldn't it be better if instead of applying economic reasoning to other people's fields, these economists first sort out their own

While revealing what their economics has to say about your nail clippings and the 'hidden' effect of what your mother calls you when you're born -- in other words, things of almost total irrelevance --  these so-called economists seem to have been blithely unaware as the meddling of the world's great central bankers brought about the world's great credit crunch.

When most economists miss such an obvious blunder, when they struggle to understand the very basics of their own profession -- including where money comes from and what causes recessions and inflation and even how to properly define them -- it's clear the economists' own stables still need seriously mucking out. Until that's done, (if I may mix a metaphor) perhaps they'd better stick to their knitting instead of advising on it.

Freakonomics [Revised and Expanded]: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

Read more about this book...

UPDATE: Here's an example: while 'mainstream' economists write 'pop econ' books and promote the need to for 'fiscal stimulus' -- in other words, more easy credit to mop up the problems caused the earlier wads of easy credit -- the more sensible chaps have asked themselves a few serious questions, and formed a Coalition against Fiscal Stimulus [hat tip Paul Walker].

Plan Red for youngsters

This year's early political football is shaping up to be sixteen to eighteen year olds.   Problems with literacy, numeracy and youth crime have become so obvious even the politicians can't ignore them.  They labour, however, under the delusion they can fix them.  Both red team and blue team have a plan, one they hope will cement their place on the treasury benches, whatever its effect on the young people they're purporting to help.

Weaning young NZers off their cradle-to-grave welfare expectations is far more important than any other 'lesson' dreamed up just to capture election-year headlines. And what headlines.  At a time in youngsters' lives when the most important lesson they can learn is independence, John Key's 'Plan Blue' is for the state to either coddle them or shackle them -- or have them sent to boot camp.  Helen Clark has just announced her own response this morning, which in all respects is even worse.  Plan Red is this: no-one under voting age should be allowed out to work

It beggars belief.  Each election is an advanced auction of stolen goods.  This election, they're coming for your children.

Gates and the wealth of nations

The world's richest man, Bill Gates, has been disgracing himself at the World Economic Forum in Davos by calling on Western nations to adopt a new, “creative capitalism.” Notes Alex Epstein at the Ayn Rand Institute, Gates complained that

under “pure capitalism . . . . the great advances in the world have often aggravated the inequities in the world. The least needy see the most improvement, and the most needy see the least . . .” Gates called for corporations and governments to devote far more time and money “doing work that eases the world's inequities.”

Gates appears wholly ignorant of the historic role of capitalism in moving people out of poverty.  To paraphrase PJ O'Rourke, the reason that some places prosper and thrive and others just plain suck is simple: some have capitalism and freedom, and some don't.  Epstein has a Memo to Gates: The Cause of Third-World Poverty Is Not Capitalism, But a Lack of Capitalism...

The West did not become wealthy at the Third World’s expense--we did not seize computers, houses, pharmaceuticals, and railroads from the Sahara. We created our wealth under capitalism, the system that liberates individuals to produce and trade without interference. And Third World countries could do the same if they adopted that system.

“The last 200 years have shown that wherever capitalism is adopted--from Singapore to the United States to Hong Kong to Australia--it enables its citizens to create wealth and prosper. Yet not one word of Gates’s speech calls for poor countries to change their anti-capitalist governments.

“No matter how many billions Bill Gates gives to poor nations, until he starts advocating universal capitalism instead of attacking it, he is acting as an enemy of prosperity in the undeveloped world.”

On voting

Tibor Machan on how to waste your vote:

The notion that one must vote for someone, anyone, just to vote, never
mind that everyone running advocates bad ideas, bad policies, is
completely off the wall. That really amounts to throwing away one’s
vote--a kind of electoral littering. Better to wait for a time when
perhaps some sensible people, with sensible ideas, become candidates.

Tugendhat house - Mies van der Rohe

exterior1_v tugendhat-CRTugen1930deSandalo

045_0002One of European modern architecture's early classics, it was designed by Mies for for textile factory owner Fritz Tugendhat in Brno Czechoslovakia, 1928. 

If it looks familiar, it's because so may of today's 'classics' are simplhy stylistic recycling of Mies' early work.

The villa was seized from its Jewish owners Fritz and Greta Tugendhat by invading Germans in 1939, and was never returned to the family.

vila_tugendhat_project_doc_2

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

No answer

John Key's speech-writers had nine questions for Helen Clark:

• Why, after eight years of Labour, are we paying the second-highest interest rates in the developed world?
• Why, under Labour, is the gap between our wages, and wages in Australia and other parts of the world, getting bigger and bigger?
• Why, under Labour, do we get a tax cut only in election year, when we really needed it years ago?
• Why are grocery and petrol prices going through the roof?
• Why can't our hardworking kids afford to buy their own house?
• Why is one in five Kiwi kids leaving school with grossly inadequate literacy and numeracy skills?
• Why, when Labour claim they aspire to be carbon-neutral, do our greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at an alarming rate?
• Why hasn't the health system improved when billions of extra dollars have been poured into it?
• Why is violent crime against innocent New Zealanders continuing to soar and why is Labour unable to do anything about it?

Unfortunately, neither the speech-writers nor John Key's policy-writers have virtually any answer to the obvious follow-up question: "What the hell would National do about any or all of these nine?" The answer to most of them still seems to be  either "Beats the hell out of me," or, "Much the same as Labour."

UPDATE: The Hive claims there was plenty of detail, all of which they liked.  I'd suggest however that the liberal use of phrases like "focus on," "more careful with" and "unrelenting in our quest" speak less of detail than they do of wishful thinking.  Every government since Jenny Shipley's has promised for example to "reduce the burden of compliance and bureaucracy."  Not one has yet managed it.  Key offers no details of how his government would be any different.  Like all such promises have proved to be, John Key's promise is all sizzle, no sausage.

Voucher schmoucher

HERALD: Key plans tertiary vouchers for teen school-leavers

Says the blogger known as Write Ups:

Is John Key’s voucher plan for 16 & 17 year old school leavers nothing more than changing the nature of the handout slightly?

No matter how you try to spin it, a voucher for polytechnic training is still a handout.

What we really should be worrying about is how to wean people of the welfare cradle-to-grave expectations many New Zealanders have of the government.

Too true.  Weaning young NZers off their cradle-to-grave welfare expectations is far more important than the details of a new handout with the designed life-span of one election year.

Frankly, a partial redesign of the handout system is far less important than cracking the culture of entitlement which young NZers imbibe in Nanny's indoctrination centres, and which a new handout will do nothing to cure.

And don't forget that it's the existing tertiary education funding system, that's a voucher system in all but name (a system introduced by the previous National Government), that delivered such delights as Rongo Wetere's outstanding salary, and tales of  profligacy and nepotism, of first class air travel, million dollar contracts to family members, and  money wasted on failed IT projects

The idea of school vouchers is popular (not least with the purveyors of twilight golf and the owners of Wananga o Aoteaora). Vouchers do purchase wider choice, it’s true, but only at the expense of either bringing private schools even more under the Ministry’s boot (as a once relatively free early childhood sector now understands), or of throwing the taxpayer’s money away on bullshit.  Key's advisors think they can achieve the latter by insisting on the former, which does nothing to wean anyone off anything, and will deliver even Ministry goons even more power over educationalists and young NZers.

Fact is, as long as state and school remain unseparated and youngsters consider themselves entitled to your cash, we may continue getting the various dogs' breakfasts that we keep being served up and to have inflicted upon us the smart-arse youngsters who think people other than their parents owe them a living; as long as it's assumed young people are the responsibility of the state, they'll keep thinking the whole world owes them a living, and they'll keep stamping their feet until they do so.  And now!

Already, more young NZers have gone to more tertiary institutions than perhaps at any time in this country's short history, yet fewer and fewer of them are educated. This is not an accident. Like the Soviets producing tractors, there are lots of figures showing an awful lot of production, but none of the tractors work. Meanwhile the number of people who can actually think on their feet -- actually do things -- is surely be at an all-time low.

The most important lesson for a sixteen- to seventeen-year old is independence, not entitlement.  John Key's vouchers are not the lesson they need.

Another murderer dead

Goodbye and good riddance to former Indonesian president Suharto, who seized power from the dictator Sukarno before embarking on his own career of repression.  Another dead dictator for whom one almost wishes the idea of hell had some meaning.  Chris Rossdale for one is enraged at the soft-soaping done by the official obituaries such as this obscene apologia from the BBC of a man in the top twenty of the last century's murderers. Says Chris:

You wouldn’t expect an article on Hitler, or Stalin, or Saddam Hussein, to start off by talking about his good economic record, and then mention ‘human rights abuses’. It would start by rightly condemning them as mass murderers. Suharto is a mass murderer, who killed somewhere between 700,000 and 1,000,000 people. The fact that he did most of this with Western support is to our shame, that it is not regarded as one of the worst atrocities of the post WW2 era is embarrassing.

Australian John Quiggin agrees, and sees signs of hope in post-Suharto Indonesia:

I don’t imagine many readers will be shedding tears at the death of former Indonesian dictator Suharto, and certainly I won’t be. The bloody massacres in which he rode to power amid the collapse of the Sukarno regime, and the brutal invasion and occupation of East Timor, not to mention his spectacular corruption, mark him down among the worst political criminals of a terrible century, and have coloured Australian attitudes to Indonesia in the decade since his fall from power.

Now that he’s gone, I hope Australians will begin to recognise the immense progress Indonesia has made against daunting odds...

Read on to see if you agree.