Friday, 23 July 2010

BEER O’CLOCK: Here Be Monsters – Hop Monsters

small_Yeastie_Boys_logo_270_0 If you’ve been worried about what’s happened to our once-regular beer correspondent Stu, then don’t be. As our other even-less regular beer correspondent Neil Miller explains, he’s been busy creating a monster.

Here Be Monsters – Hop Monsters
by Neil Miller

They are, according to the Made from New Zealand website, “the hottest and most unusual brewing company in New Zealand right now.”  The Yeastie Boys have just released their latest pair of beers, Yakima Monster and Motueka Monster… 

Because there is no substitute for primary research, I rang Stu McKinlay, the ginger half of the Yeastie Boys, and asked him some thoughtful questions.  The first related to the Yeastie Boys’ moniker.  Some people hate it, most people love it, but where exactly did it come from?

Well, it turns out Yeastie Boys was originally the name of Stu’s award-winning home brewery.  He says he turned up to a home brewing event and everyone else had great names for their breweries.  It was at that moment he realised then he needed one too.  Stu wanted a brewery name with a bit of a musical theme (because music is a huge part of his life) but not one which mentioned malt or hops like so many bars and breweries did. *

_QuoteOff the top of my head,” Stu said, “Little Creatures was the only brewery that referenced yeast in its name.  One day I happened to see a Beastie Boys album and the name just popped into my head.”

He admits to not particularly being a Beastie Boys fan [Me either, Ed.] but that does not stop the brewery and others constantly making references.  One media article on the Yeastie Boys was titled “Fight for your right to party” (one of the Beasties’ more famous songs) and even the Yeastie Boys’ own website has a section called “Swill Communication”, a clear play on the Beastie Boys fourth album title of “Ill Communication.”

Of course, this all meant that Stu’s still fully functional home brewery once again lacked a sobriquet.  His ingenious solution was to call it Eastie Boys, a reference, he claims, to its location deep in the eastern suburbs of Wellington.  “It has the added advantage that when I give a bottle to someone, I can use a Yeastie Boys label and just cut the letter Y off,” Stu explains.

The next question was about how the business operated.  Stu admitted it was a difficult question -

_QuoteI guess we are a brewing company but slightly more complex than most because we make different beers all the time.  We don’t own a brewery but there are lots of them around.  The Yeastie Boys just make good beer.  Maybe the best description is that we are a post-modern brewing company.” [Eeks! – Ed.]

On their Made from New Zealand profile, the Yeastie Boys note

_QuoteWe're also utilising excess capacity at small local breweries that we respect.  So, while growing our own business we are supporting other businesses made from New Zealand that we love.  The whole really can be greater than the sum of the parts. 1 + 1 = 3!!!” 

So far, all their beers have been made at Invercargill Brewery under the watchful (yet huggable) eye of Mr Steve Nally.

Then it was time to talk about The Monsters.  Both are 6% India Pale Ales brewed for winter with 100% UK malt (Golden Promise, Caramalt) and a ‘monster-load’ of hops (9g/L).  Two near identical batches of the beer were produced on subsequent days with the sole difference being the hops used.  Yakima Monster is an American Pale Ale with Nugget, Simcoe and Amarillo hops.  Motueka Monster is a New Zealand Pale Ale using the same amount of Southern Cross, Nelson Sauvin and NZ Cascade hops. **

It turns out that the idea for these particular beers was a long time in the making.  Shortly after the Yeastie Boys were set up, Stu were approached by Joseph Wood, an exceptional home brewer.  Joseph asked Stu to make one of his beers in commercial quantities.  Stu acknowledges that it was a little unusual for a home brewer to ask another home brewer to make a beer this way.

At the time, the Yeastie Boys had basically sketched out all the beers they planned to make over the next year but Joseph and Stu kept discussing the issue.  Finally, they nailed a time to do.  The Yakima Monster is based on Joseph’s beer of the same name.  The added dimension was that Stu had been toying with the concept of “cross town challenges.”

Stu had seen the Annual West Coast Challenge between Epic and Hallertau and, while he loved the beers, found them hard to compare directly because they were just so different.  He wanted people to be able to try two beers where the only difference was the hops.  It would be, in his words, “an education in hop terroir.”  

This was the thinking which led to the recent Nerherder beers from Yeastie Boys.  Nerdherder B used Motueka hops (formerly Saaz B) while Nerdherder D used Riwaka hops (formerly Saaz D).  Fundamentally, the same approach has been taken with the monsters, just with everything turned up a notch. 

So, what is the difference between the two new beers?  Well, Yakima is more assertive and, frankly American.  Motueka is more balanced and, feedback suggests, more complicated.  Both have the exact same bitterness units (around 56 IBU) but Stu believes the perceived bitterness is quite different.  In the mouth, the Motueka seems a lot less bitter.

Stu is reluctant to pick a favourite Monster saying

_QuoteNah – I sway a bit.  Initially I would have said Yakima because I’m much more familiar with aggressive American style rather the New Zealand Pale Ale style.  Now I’m not so sure.  I did a tasting last week and both nights saw pretty much a 50/50 split between the two.  The crowd came up with three or four descriptors for the Yakima and about 20 for the Motueka.  That is interesting but unexplainable.”

The only real explanation is to taste the beers.

Motueka Monster and Yakima Monster are two new beers from the Yeastie Boys, “specialists in all styles.” ***

Monsters are real and they are at Malthouse now [and around the country – Ed.]. 

* * * *

* Exhibit A: Malthouse
** The Yeasties freely acknowledge the irony of having a beer called Motueka Monster which does not use Motueka hops.
*** According to their Twitter profile.  Remember, if it’s on the internet, it must be true.


Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand 
Beer and Brewer Magazine 

The post originally appeared at Wellington’s Malthouse Blog, which is almost as good as Wellington’s excellent Malthouse Bar.


Friday breaking news: Breasts are better then ever

In important news this Friday afternoon, scientists have now determined that "Women's breasts are better larger than ever - and it's not due to implants."

This is an excellent trend, one that this blog would like to celebrate.

So here’s Dita Von Teese inviting you to drink water.

At least, I think that’s what this UK ad is trying to encourage.

High-speed broadband clusterf**k coming right up

While Australians are starting to realise they’re going to pay dearly for their government-run national broadband network, some New Zealanders are starting to question whether or not we even need ultra-fast broadband—particularly if it comes with a government label—and especially since New Zealanders are already world leaders in stealing films over their existing connections.  Something some of us have pointed out before.

These are the sort of people who were (and still are) cheering Obergruppenfuhrer Cunliffe’s break-up of Telecom in the hope it might make it easier to steal more movies and TV shows more quickly—cheering the vandalism of Telecom’s private property here while Telstra’s former CEO Sol Trujillo over there gave the spineless Therese Gattung a lesson in how to tell a thieving government to go to hell.

Trujillo was one chap who knew long ago that the government’s interest in high-speed broadband would only impede private investment in it; and having the government involved at all would only be a clusterfuck. As it has been both there and over here. The question, really, boils down to a simple value judgement:

“”The question is not whether there are, or might one day be, cool things that you can only do with 100mbps broadband.
    “The question is whether enough of us are prepared to pay what it would cost to make that available down every suburban street.”

And if we’re not prepared to pay that cost upfront to a private company--and clearly most New Zealanders aren’t, or they would have—then why pretend to ourselves we won’t be paying through the nose when (having delayed private investment in those places where it might be economic) the government starts doing it themselves.  Or trying to.

Like they’re been trying to, and failing to, in Australia.

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John Banks’s mega-money grab [update 2]

So now we’re getting some idea about the nature of the big plan is in extending the authority of John Banks’s council from Tuakau to Wellsford: it’s not just to give planners even more unbridled power over the lives of even more good folk, it’s to extend John Banks proven super-revenue-gathering powers from bus land and parking fines to 1 million people instead of just a paltry 250,000.  $20 million gathered from 430,00 people by 80 revenue-gathering traffic wardens, with $12 million more expected to be gathered by the 30 new pieces of filth about to be appointed by John Banks. Now when you’re monarch of 1.4 million, with your super-revenue-gathering imposing walletectomies on unsuspecting drivers, that would be over $100 million, and counting.

Who needs to rein in rates when you can always just keep whacking the motorist, already harassed by driving on roads that don’t work, through shortcuts infested with speed humps, on to motorways whose on-ramps no longer allow you to get on, to places where you’re not allowed to park.

Who needs to rein in rates at all when your own supporters cheer if you manage to keep your spending blow-out below ten percent every year. “Hurray!” “Great stuff'!” they hurrah while the pepple who try to pay them go to the wall.

Not bad for a mayor who campaigned on a platform of stopping rate rises altogether, and who’s raised them every year he’s been in office—while raising the revenue gathering every year just to try to keep pace.

There’s a word for a thieving arsehole like that.  And I think I just used two of them.

UPDATE 1: Owen McShane points out that everty study ever done demonstrates that bus lanes don’t drive people out of their cars, they drive them out of the city. [Hat tip Leighton Smith]

UPDATE 2: Oh crikey. Who wants mayors of a 1.4 million-people city to start unveiling “visions”! Given the size of the egos involved in doing a job that should just involve little more than making sure the sewers work, you can just about do the back-of-the-envelope calculation yourself, can’t you:

“Visions” + ego = millions and millions of dollars of your money down the drain.

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Goodbye chucker

Murali-Protractor Good to see that the chucker is finally leaving the beautiful game, leaving it with a world chucking record of 800 wickets—a permanent stain on the game. 

“Throw, throw, throw the ball, gently down the seam, Murali, Murali, Murali,
Murali chucks it like a dream."

Still, now he’s gone, I look forward watching cricket again. Instead of baseball.


Bellerophon & Pegasus


Selected to perform great deeds, the sculptor chooses to depict the moment when the hero finds his mount – the famous winged horse, Pegasus – drinking peacefully from the spring,  sent there by Athena to be his instrument in the hero struggle.

And just look how easily this anonymous sculptor from 2350 years ago depicts his scene. While barbarians all about were hacking hieroglyphics into stone, or daubing it with savagery, our Classical Greek chooses to depict the peace before battle, and by his mastery of his medium, transforms a two-dimensional surface into an image with real depth.

A good example of the power of simple relief sculpture, when done so well.

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Thursday, 22 July 2010

'Atlas Shrugged' » The Documentary

Here's the trailer, a sneak peak at one filmmaker’s exploration of one book’s impact on society:

Atlas Shrugged » The Documentary.

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Brash wants to wean NZers from the unsustainable super pyramid

Don Brash is in the news again for another good transitional proposal—not yet to help wean NZers from the great unsustainable pyramid scheme that is govt superannuation, but at least to help get that process started.

From the time Michael Joseph Savage’s Labour Government set up New Zealand’s retirement and pension scheme (you know, back when average life expectancy in New Zealand was about three weeks after you got the gold watch), this was never a pay-as-you-go scheme.  It always relied on those still working paying for those who no longer were.

But now there’s too many of the latter and not enough of the former, and while the rapidly increasing number of oldsters is spending more and more, the youngsters whose savings should be paying for them are saving less and less, and being taxed through the nose to fund what will soon be un-fundable. 

Actually, when the government is borrowing a quarter of a billion a week just to pay its welfare bill, it’s clear the whole welfare thing is already un-fundable. But while that’s just un-fundable, ‘super’ is becoming super-un-fundable, and it’s only going to get worse. This is a pyramid scheme that is near collapse. It is unsustainable.

So you would think that a simple proposal to begin gradually raising the retirement age would be welcomed, or at least discussed; something that would be announced long in advance, and would come with incentives—i.e., “those who chose to draw the pension down early being paid a lower rate over the rest of their lifetime compared with those who chose to draw the pension down late.”

Dr Don timidly suggests offering this only up to age 67. Actuary Jonathan Eriksen sensibly suggests making such as scheme accessible between 60 and 75.*

A good idea, you would think. Something worth discussing, you would imagine. Except, huh, what’s that … oh, we’ve just been told by those who must be obeyed, that no discussion will be entered into. Hard questions like this will obviously be left to the next generation to sort out.

* (My own suggestion would be to simply announce a gradual raise of the qualifying age one year at a time every couple of years until the whole unsustainable pyramid scheme is gone altogether—giving a grace period of two to three years, while compensating everyone over 65 now by making them entirely exempt from income tax. But that’s just me.  And George Reisman.)

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The biggest X since the Great Depression [insert your own answer] - updated

Barack Obama has just signed into law what he boasts is “the biggest financial reform since the Great Depression.”  (Just so you know, that was the reform that gave the world Fannie Mae—"one of the US government's most ill-fated welfare creations, ever, on the part of the United States government” and at least one of the proximate causes of the latest depression.)

So how’s the latest Dodd-Franks reform going to work, then? Explains Chris Dodd, the bill’s co-author,

“No one will know until this is actually in place how it works."

Uh, haven’t we heard this somewhere before?

"But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it..."

Ah, yes.  I thought it sounded familiar. That’s exactly the sort of “rule of law” the Obama Administration and its tame Congress can believe in.

The sort of “rule of law” ushering in precisely the sort of regime uncertainty last experienced in, you guessed it, the Great Depression.

No wonder most surviving American businesses are saving, not spending. Under this regime they literally have no idea what laws they have to follow tomorrow.

Oh, and just so you know. You know Fannie Mae The govt’s big mortgage lender who almost single-handedly generated a nation in negative equity?  Yep, that’s right. “Fannie” is exempt from all the new rules.

[Hat tip Kate]

UPDATE: Peter Schiff, who intends to stand against Chris Dodd in the forthcoming Senate elections, had this to say:

Washington did it again.
    “Last week the Senate passed a financial overhaul that balloons the role of government while suffocating small businesses. It's Washington theatrics at its worst, and I've had enough.
Instead of punishing the fat cats, Washington has given them the opportunity to feed off the American taxpayer and grow even fatter. And in failing to address the root causes of the financial crisis, this bill actually ensures that the next crises will be even worse!
    “These shenanigans are destroying our economy and they must end. That's why I'm running for the U.S. Senate…
    “I'm appalled by the Senate's carelessness in passing this financial overhaul. But you and I both know that the career politicians and their cronies don't care about the taxpayers. And a bill that enshrines mechanisms for future bailouts into law only proves that.
    “Enough is enough.
    “We need to allow market forces to restructure the economy and we cannot do that with all of the regulations Washington is imposing on the financial sector. That's why I need to be in the U.S. Senate.
    “Unlike the majority of the Washington political establishment, I understand the economy.   That means I will never support legislation like this financial overhaul bill, and I will do everything in my power to make sure that our economy has the mechanisms to thrive.
In other words- no more regulations, bailouts, tax hikes or bogus stimulus plans.
So if you are a patriot and you want America to prosper, I need your immediate help.

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“Red Delicious” - David Bowers

Red Delicious, 2009
Oil on Linen
12” x 26”

This original piece was another of the finalists in this year’s Art Renewal Center competition.  Go and give the artist praise at his website.


Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Pragmatism & Mr Nixon: The Car Crash that was Watergate

frost_nixon_ver2 I PROMISED YESTERDAY TO to discuss the single most important, eloquent and disastrous, example of Pragmatism in the modern political era.*
So sit back, pull up your cushions, and make yourself comfortable.

I give to you as first prize-winner the great political car crash that was Watergate—the scandal that sunk a President, launched a thousand suffixes, and wrote itself so much into modern history that a film merely dramatising four interviews about the scandal could still gross nearly $30 million last year
As one reviewer said, that film, Frost/Nixon,brilliantly presents “twin profiles in pragmatism”: dramatising two “corrupt, self-loathing defeatists who seek power,” and whose rise and fall between them signalled the full-blooded introduction of pragmatism to their respective worlds—something we’re still with today.

While Nixon’s  pragmatic credo (“whatever works”) gave the world wage and price controls, the Vietnam War, and the politics of image over substance -- and delivered to him the scandal that made him one of only three U.S. Presidents to face impeachment-- the self-same credo was shared by David Frost  (“whatever works”), and his work here helped delivered to the world “agenda journalism masquerading as moralism… in retrospect preview[ing] the plunge of the press into the tawdry, trashy institution it is today.”  

Seminal stuff indeed, then, based on a scandal that people still talk about.

Yet the scandal itself that brought Nixon down was simply small beer compared to many other things going on at the time (Vietnam, Chappaquiddick, the bombings of sundry Weathermen) and was unravelled because of little more than a failed break-in to the hotel that gave the scandal its name—a break-in organised by a Pro-Nixon group who self-identified as “practical men” unconcerned with ideology who would simply do whatever was necessary (“whatever works”) to re-elect their man.

Praised for his “pragmatism and flexibility” by no less than the NY Times’s leader writers earlier in his time at the White House, the car crash that was Watergate revealed just how impractical he and his team of so-called practical pragmatists really were. For Watergate and their reaction to it was really a car crash waiting to happen. A car crash that pragmatism drove, and made inevitable.

NIXON HIMSELF WAS THE ultimate pragmatist, a man who it was said “could make a U-turn on a dime (or on a paper dollar), discarding overnight every approximate principle he was approximately believed to stand for.” This is hardly a contentious claim. Writing recently in the Washington Post, Elizabeth Drew says
oogmynqcwn_i-am-not-a-crook-1_QuoteNixon, who ran a rather disorganized presidency, wasn't interested in domestic policy. He essentially handed it off to his aide John Ehrlichman. And there was no unifying philosophy. Nixon called himself a ‘pragmatist,’ and he should be taken at his word: His domestic policy was a blend of the enlightened, the pragmatic and the cynical. In 1969, a Republican senator described Nixon to me as ‘the man with the portable center…’
(Remember yesterday’s post: “The Pragmatists declared that philosophy must be practical and that practicality consists of dispensing with all absolute principles and standard…”)
In a 1973 NY Times column "Pragmatism and Zeal" by Tom Wicker, he declares the Watergate corruption to be “qualitatively different" from the scandals of the past.
_Quote Without memorable exception, most political corruption has concerned itself with money—payoffs, bribes and kickbacks for crooked or dubious services rendered, or simple theft of the taxpayers' dollars...No charge has yet been made that any part of the vast sums involved in the Watergate case were simply pocketed by larcenous men .... It does not appear that any of the principals had the usual grafter's motive of enriching himself...The motive underlying Watergate was to insure the re-election of the President and the retention of power of those around him .... In their cold pragmatism, some Nixon men apparently saw neither right nor wrong but concentrated on their goal, regardless of right or wrong."
And James Reston, in the same issue of the same newspaper:
_QuoteThe problem [of Watergate] is the assumption that chiseling pays, that dishonesty is the best policy, that loyalty to the President is the same as loyalty to the Republic, and that if the President's objectives or ends are good and honorable, his men can use any means to support him, including discrediting, bugging, burglarizing or vilifying his opponents. [Watergate may] make us wonder whether expediency and pragmatism, divorced from right and wrong, are worthy of the American republic, and even whether they work."
(“Pragmatism wedded to ‘right and wrong’ (i.e., to morality) is a philosophical
contradiction in terms…; Pragmatism denies the validity of any principles, moral
or epistemological. Pragmatism holds expediency as the only criterion of human
values and actions. Truth or falsehood, it claims, cannot be known in advance of
action: truth is "that which works" in a particular situation. According to this
standard, the only way the Watergate burglars could know that they were
doing wrong in their particular situation, was by getting caught.”**

BOTH THE PRESIDENT HIMSELF and all the President’s Men who fell with him were pragmatists to the core.   This was a President who called for polls to decide whether or not to bomb Haiphong harbour, and then waited for the results while his minions worked to skew those very polls. A President whose chief domestic adviser, John Ehrlichman, the ideologue of the White House, confessed at the Watergate hearings that he was neither a constitutional lawyer nor an “ideas man.”  Whose adviser’s lieutenant, John Haldeman, “looked upon himself not as an 'issues' man but as a technician and organizer, and the young men he hired and promoted met the same qualifications."

For what use would ‘issues’ or ideas be to such people? For them, politics wasn’t  a battle of ideas, it was a battle of warring political tribes.

(“But the big dilemma for all the pragmatists of the Right, is: what are they to fight
and by what means, if principles are inoperative? Politics is a field in which one deals
with ideas and it requires the ability to argue, to discuss, to persuade. What does
one do in politics if one has discarded the whole realm of ideas? One fights

And Nixon’s young pragmatists who bungled the burglary were all too happy to sign up to such a battle.  Readers can get a sense of the stunted world-view of these entities by reading the autobiography of the man who “organised” the burglary, G. Gordon Lilly. (Called without irony Will,  reviewers at the time called the book “a comedy masterpiece.” It’s that and much more, even if all the comedy was unintentional.)  This is a man whose party trick was holding his hand over a candle until the flesh burned, indicating to everyone (including himself, he hoped) how tough he was; a man who had served his political apprenticeship as part of Richard Nixon’s failed “War on Drugs,” and on which operation he based  what John Dean later called “his dream to build a clandestine police force for the White House”; the man whose “organisation” was responsible for the Watergate operation, after which he offered to stand on whatever street corner he needed to so his bosses could terminate him if their Commander-in-Chief wished it ("...on a street corner, I'm prepared to have that done. You just let me know when and where, and I'll be there”).

Liddy and his fellow “soldiers” in the Committee to Re-Elect the President, a semi-autonomous organisation run out of their Commander-in-Chief’s White House and dubbed by its own troops CREEP, signed up not to an intellectual battle, but to help put down the bombings, riots and mayhem instituted by the various bands of hippies, Yippies and the Weathermen of whom Obama’s friend William Ayers played such a large part.

They did this not by seeking evidence that might convict the perpetrators of these crimes, or engaging in a battle to discredit the ideas the goons used to justify the mayhem, but instead by what they called “rat-fucking” their Democratic opponents in the Presidential election. They gave this campaign of Dirty Tricks the grandiose title of “Operation Gemstone,” and almost immediately began laundering money to pay for the operation; sending out inflammatory bogus letters purporting to be from Democratic candidates; paying for spies in opposing campaigns, and planting bugs in their offices; planting rumours about illegitimate children; burgling psychiatrists’ offices to find material blackening opponents; buying prostitutes to “get close” to their opponents; and organising (or trying to) to put sand in the air-conditioners at the Democrats’ Miami convention in the hope the resulting heat would throw it into chaos.
_QuoteSuch ‘technicians’ [observed Ayn Rand] would know that one is supposed to fight, at election time. What would be a pragmatist's idea of a fight? Ideas—he has been taught—are impractical, it is only immediate events that count; what is true today, may not be true tomorrow; rigid values are childish, cynical ‘flexibility is mature. People—he has concluded—don't think; people are not interested in ideas, only in scandal, they do not care about the good, only about some sensational exposé of somebody's evil.
    “Thus the younger, more impatient pragmatists would come to believe that bugging, spying, burglary, in pursuit of somebody's scandalous personal secrets, are more effective than years of speechmaking about ‘issues.’ Pragmatism is a philosophy of action, of the ‘now. The mentality of the activists of the Left, becomes, on the Right, the mentality of the Watergate conspirators.”
Despite their grand plans for maximum electoral chaos paid for with purloined funds, the burglary that brought them all down was  in fact one of only very few operations they carried out, and it was a triumph of pragmatic “organisation”: it had no aim that anyone involved was aware of; even if successful it would have achieved precisely nothing; and everyone involved thought everyone else had authorised it.  The rest of the Watergate scandal was simply the Nixon White House trying, both pragmatically and unsuccessfully, to put down the whole apparatus of the pragmatic political “operation” that it then exposed—an operation that in the final analysis consisted of little more than eavesdropping on electoral opponents (the Democrats) who their own polls said they were going to beat in a landslide anyway.
_QuoteThe biggest mystery of Watergate [concluded Ayn Rand] is not what Richard Nixon did, but what he thought. No enemy could have destroyed him as thoroughly as he destroyed himself: consistently, systematically, he undercut his own case with every successive public statement he made  and every step he took, until there was nothing left of him or to him. Yet he was known as a ‘smart’ politician, a clever manipulator, not a man of thought, but of action. Moral issues apart, what happened to his purely practical judgment?
There is a paragraph in the first part of Dr. Peikoff's article ‘Pragmatism versus America,’ which answers this question. Reading it, I had an eerie feeling, as if a psychologist were describing the nature of Mr. Nixon's thought-processes—yet that paragraph was written over two years ago, about a philosophy originated in the nineteenth century:
        “ ‘In the normal course of affairs, the pragmatists elaborate, men do not—and need
    not—think; they merely act—by habit, by routine, by unthinking impulse. But, in
    certain situations, the malleable material of reality suddenly asserts itself, and habit
    proves inadequate: men are unable to achieve their goals, their action is blocked
    by obstacles, and they begin to experience frustration, tension, trouble, doubt, ‘disease.’
        “ ‘This, according to pragmatism, is when men should resort to the ‘instrument’ of
    thought. And the goal of the thought is to ‘reconstruct’ the situation so as to escape
    the trouble, alleviate the tension, remove the obstacles, and resume the normal process
    of unimpeded (and unthinking) action.
  “Mr. Nixon's desperate, contradictory, incomprehensible actions were aimed at ‘reconstructing the situation (even though it is unlikely that he had ever heard of this particular metaphysical prescription). But the malleable material of reality stubbornly refused to let itself be reconstructed.
    “This, dear readers, is an example of philosophy's power—of what a particular philosophic theory, pragmatism, did to its most consistent practitioner.”
My advice, therefore, to political proponents of the right whose leaders pledge to govern “in a pragmatic and balanced way,” is to run like hell the first chance you get.
* * * * 
* The “modern political era”? I’d define it fairly loosely as the period that today’s practitioners still remember well.  So in New Zealand we have people still telling war stories about Muldoon; in Britain we have unionists still bewailing Thatchers’ victory in 1979; and in the US we still have people around who’d like us to forget they were once a part of the Nixon Administration. So in short, it’s the era starting just before ABBA, or maybe, just after the Beatles.
** Unless otherwise attributed, quotes and 1973 NYT columns were taken from Ayn Rand’s masterful, full-length, 1976 summary of the Watergate car crash, “Brothers, You Asked For It.”

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DOWN TO THE DOCTOR'S: Cancers – Personal and Parliamentary

_richardmcgrath Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath ransacks the newspapers for headlines and stories in issues affecting our freedom

This week’s haul highlights stories on cancers, both personal and parliamentary.

  1. “Dying GP’s plea for euthanasia – Stricken by a particularly nasty form of cancer, GP Dr John Pollock has written a powerful and moving letter outlining why euthanasia should be legalized, addressing some of the common arguments trotted out in defence of the status quo.
        He points out that the NZ Medical Association opposes legalizing euthanasia. I believe the NZMA should rethink its stance on this issue, to recognize the individual sovereignty of people and their right to control the manner in which their life ends. The state should not usurp people’s ownership of their bodies. Libertarianz advocates that government step back and allow people to decide for themselves the manner and timing of their death.
  2. “St George’s treats Auckland cancer patients The Press notes that Auckland cancer patients are being sent for private radiotherapy in Christchurch, while Canterbury cancer patients have to join a die-while-you-wait queue for treatment. Why don’t all hospitals send their patients for private treatment, instead of allowing the disease to progress to a less curable state? That’s the beauty of private enterprise – its responsiveness to demand.
        People are not thrown off waiting lists in the private sector.  Supply is based on the ability to pay, it’s true, but this usually reflects how much purchasers themselves value their care; and those supplied are selected based only on their ability to pay - not excluded by skin colour or age, nor selected based on some bureaucratic idea of “subjective need.”  They are “self-selected” instead simply by the system of free exchange of values.
        People who make provision for their health needs are thus rewarded; those who make no such provision need to look to family, friends or charity for the means to afford health care. There is no right to receive hi-tech Western medical treatment – or any other health service for that matter. Only one political party pledges to give people back control over the health care they receive: Libertarianz.  
  3. ““MP fears for bill to beat loan sharksLabour MP Carol Beaumont believes some New Zealanders are too stupid to be lent money, while others who are willing to lend money to high risk debtors should be prohibited from charging for the extra cost of lending to high risk debtors.
        Does she think the less well-off will thank her when they find themselves unable to find anyone willing to lend them money?
        As with any government intervention in the economy, there would no doubt be further intervention to address the problems caused by Carol’s original intervention. But wait – will Carol herself come to the rescue of these poor deserving souls to whom no-one will now lend money?  Or will that new intervention take the form of a state lender, who will throw sackfuls of other people’s money at these toxic debtors, many of whom have already been showered for years with all manner of benefits unrelated to productivity.
        So it is that the whole depressing cycle of growing dependence on the state for handouts is perpetuated.
        Why doesn’t Carol just mind her own business and butt out of people’s lives--leaving Stacey Jones and Instant Finance free to serve those folk who want they can provide? Let the people for whom she expresses such concern learn the value of thrift and saving without her busybody sticky-beak interference.
        Carol seems determined to shield others from the consequences of their free choices – in the long run, she is not doing them – or the taxpayer – any favours.
  4. “Coroner blames MPs for not actingFunnily enough, I sat next to the coroner quoted in this article for breakfast this morning, at a meeting here in Masterton with local doctors and funeral directors to discuss some of the finer points of death certification. Coroner for the Wellington and Wairarapa districts, Ian Smith, notes that 10 people a year die in accidents involving all-terrain vehicles. He was particularly upset that an adult, with no experience riding a quad bike, chose to ride one which he borrowed from a farmer, and came to grief. His employers were fined a total of $140,000.
        Mr Smith suggests making roll cages, seat belts and helmets compulsory on quad bikes. Yet he remains oblivious to the fact that there are more than 70,000 quad bikes in active service throughout New Zealand. It is likely that around 69,990 of these bikes will not be involved in fatal accidents next year, yet all their owners will be penalized on the basis of 10 deaths. How does he even know that these safety features would have prevented any of the 100 deaths over the past 10 years? What about those people who don’t stupid risks while riding their quad bikes? Does their liberty count for anything? Obviously not.
        The onus for minimizing the risk of death from accidents on quad bikes rests with the individual rider, or in the case of children with their parents. Personally, I have refused to allow my children to ride quad bikes. They can do that once they reach adulthood if that is their wish. But I firmly believe that adults should face up to their responsibilities and be allowed to decide what are reasonable safety precautions when riding a quad bike. It’s a dangerous world out there, machines can kill, and it appears that the vast majority of ATV riders (69,990/70,000 = 99.986%) are capable of keeping themselves alive despite a general lack of rollcages, helmets and seat belts.

When the people fear the government, there is tyranny - when the
government fear the people, there is liberty.
        -attributed to Thomas Jefferson


The malapropisms of refudiation

Following SarahPalin’s now (in)famous malapropism (or was it a corrigendum) we’d like to air a few more famous examples, starting with some from Mrs Malaprop herself:

  • "He is the very pineapple of politeness!" – Mrs Malaprop
  • "...promise to forget this fellow - to illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory."– Mrs Malaprop
  • "I hope you will represent her to the captain as an object not altogether illegible."– Mrs Malaprop
  • "Your ambition - is that right - is to abseil across the English channel?" - Cilla Black
  • "This is unparalyzed in the state's history." - Gib Lewis, Texas Speaker of the House
  • "He's going up and down like a metronome." - Ron Pickering
  • "We cannot let terrorists and rogue nations hold this nation hostile or hold our allies hostile." - George W. Bush
  • "I am mindful not only of preserving executive powers for myself, but for predecessors as well."- George W. Bush
  • "He was a man of great statue." - Thomas Menino, Boston mayor
  • "Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child." - Dan Quayle, Vice President
  • "Well, that was a cliff-dweller." - Wes Westrum, about a close baseball game
  • This series has been swings and pendulums all the way through." - Trevor Bailey, cricket commentator
  • “Don’t upset the apple tart.” - Irish Taoiseach (PM) Bertie Ahern
  • “We shall reach greater and greater platitudes of achievement.” – Toronto mayor Allan Lamport
  • This is the crutch of the problem.” – Toronto mayor Allan Lamport
  • “The chief is inclined to believe that a crossed wife might be the cause of the fire.” - Leo Rosten
  • “A rolling stone gathers no moths.”
  • “Arabs wear turbines on their heads.”
  • “The Bible is full of interesting caricatures.”
  • “He's a wolf in cheap clothing.”

The Uncyclopaedia swears that this was “The Contraception of Malapropism”:

_Quote The very first intense of malapropism was recorded in the filming of the 'The Munich Putsch' in 1923. What started as a civil concussion as to who would play the leading role of Adolf Hitler between Adolf von Thadden and William Pierce, soon escalatored into a viscous, savage argument. Sensing the argument would soon turn to cufflinks, Pierce took initiation and struck Von Thadden's forehead with a nearby fire distinguisher…”

Finally, it was reported in New Scientist magazine (June 18 2005) that an office worker once described a colleague as "a vast suppository of information". (i.e., repository) The worker then apologised for his "Miss-Marple-ism." (i.e. malapropism).  New Scientist reported it as possibly the first time malapropism has been turned into a malapropism.


Mine, mines, mining

You know, it’s great that Gerry Brownlee is still trying to keep the mining momentum rolling, but you’re probably wondering now why the government will now be spending up to five-million dollars of your money to undertake a “magnetic aerial survey in Northland and the West Coast, to explore for minerals.”

You’re probably asking yourself, “Isn’t this something on which private companies should be risking their own money?’ to which the answer is, of course, yes.

The reason, however, that it’s the government risking your money instead of a private company spending their own is that mineral rights in New Zealand are nationalised.  Owned by the government.  Just like it used to be in the Soviet Union.

Before the first Labour Government passed legislation in 1937 nationalising whatever mineral and petroleum resources might be found around New Zealand, ownership of that potential resource was determined by the common law, essentially giving rights to the resource to whomever discovered it and/or owned the space on which the resource lay—a great incentive to discover and exploit new resources. After 1937, however, any oil, gas, radioactive minerals, gold, silver, coal and all other metallic and non-metallic minerals and aggregates found anywhere in New Zealand belonged not to those who discovered and were prepared to exploit them, but by the government in perpetuity. Just like it used to be in the Soviet Union.

Which explains why the government is now using your money to pay for the magnetic aerial survey in Northland and the West Coast to explore for minerals, instead of a private company paying for it themselves. Just like it used to be in the Soviet Union.

Which as much as anything else also explains why Australians derives so much greater wealth from that country’s mineral resources than we do from this one’s, even though ours is nearly as much per-capita than theirs.

And which as much as anything else also explains why anything involved with mining in New Zealand is so heavily politicised, so hard to undertake, and puts the government in the position of both miner and environmental guardian. Just like it used to be in the Soviet Union.

Further reading:

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By smearing the Tea Party, what exactly is the NAACP advancing?

America’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has been crying “racist!” about the disparate elements that make up the Tea Party movement. Guest poster Gen LaGreca reckons there is better work the NAACP should be doing.

* * * *

More articles by Gel LaGreca After dredging up a dozen objectionable posters from the millions of people attending Tea Party rallies across the country, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People—on the basis of these few placards—is asking its members to sign a pledge to “repudiate racism within the Tea Party.”

Instead of addressing the ideas raised by the Tea Party, the NAACP has launched a gratuitous smear campaign. At the moment of the most crucial debate of our lifetime, a fervent debate over the role of government in human affairs, the NAACP has choked off intellectual discussion and placed itself in the anteroom of human thought, forfeiting ideas for smears.

What are the central ideas driving the Tea Party movement, ideas the NAACP neglects to mention to its members? Taken from the “Mission Statement and Core Values” of the prominent national group Tea Party Patriots, here’s an indication of what the movement stands for:

— The “Declaration of Independence” and our other “founding documents,” which means the unalienable rights of the individual to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.

— A “constitutionally limited government,” which means a government that serves as the protector of the individual rights of everyone, and not as the provider of the needs and wants of some groups at the expense of others.

— “Free markets” and “freedom of the individual to spend the money that is the fruit of their labor,” which means the right to private property and freedom in the economic affairs of life.

— “Fiscal responsibility by government.”

These issues encompass the most pressing moral and political questions of our day. Does a person have control over his own person and property, or does the government hold a superior claim to someone’s life and possessions? What is the proper structure of government—freedom or controls, capitalism or socialism, private property or government redistribution? This is the debate that the Tea Party has launched, and the fate of all of our lives and those of future generations rests on the answer.

Instead of hurling baseless smears and stirring racial animus, the NAACP needs to carefully examine the ideas driving the tea party and hold its own opposition up to scrutiny.

— The Tea Party stands for an individual’s right to be the master of his own person and property. Does the NAACP stand for an individual’s not being his own master, but of some other entity having control over a person’s life and possessions? How is that an advancement of colored people or anyone else?

— The Tea Party stands for limited government. Is the NAACP for unlimited government? How would that be an advancement of colored people or anyone else?

— The Tea Party upholds a person’s right to keep the fruits of his labor. Does the NAACP instead want its members to have the fruits of their labor seized from them? How would that constitute an advancement of colored people or anyone else?

— The Tea Party calls for fiscal responsibility of government. Is the NAACP for fiscal irresponsibility? Wouldn’t that lead to higher taxes and a lower standard of living? How would that foster the advancement of colored people or anyone else?

If the NAACP doesn’t stand for the advancement of the individual—for the pursuit and enjoyment of one’s life, with the full exercise of one’s liberty and the protection of one’s property—then it must stand for the only other alternative, i.e., the advancement of government as the provider, regulator, intruder, and controller of the individual’s life. If the NAACP doesn’t stand with the Tea Party in upholding individual rights—the bedrock of our country and of any civilized, free society—then it does not stand for the advancement of its members or anyone else, but for the regression of all of us to a state of servitude.

Gen LaGreca is the author of Noble Vision, a ForeWord Magazine Book-of-the-Year award-winning novel about the struggle for liberty in health care today.  This post originally appeared at The Daily Caller, and is re-posted here by permission.

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Architectural Mini-Tutorial: Rhythm!

Rhythm9 Here was me about to prepare a mini-tutorial on rhythm in architecture, and I stumble across this perfectly written explanation of the why and the how of it all in this perfectly written explanation.  We all know what rhythm does for in music (“I got rhythm…. Who could ask for anything more”), well …

“We experience architecture [too] with all our senses in both time and space. So, in architecture, rhythm can be seen not only in the surface patterns and decoration, but [also] in the pace of interior spatial progressions….”


I heartily recommend this wonderful piece on rhythm in architecture, with examples from all the right people, from Louis Sullivan to Frank Lloyd Wright to Bruce Goff.


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Tuesday, 20 July 2010

QUOTE[S] OF THE DAY: Pragmatism

Since “pragmatism” is John Key’s word of the week, a triumph of spinelessness over any principle whatever, it’s appropriate then that “pragmatism” also be the subject of the Quote of the Day.

So then, pragmatists--what the hell are they about?

_Quote [The Pragmatists] declared that philosophy must be practical and that practicality consists of dispensing with all absolute principles and standards—that there is no such thing as objective reality or permanent truth—that truth is that which works, and its validity can be judged only by its consequences…”
                             - Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual

Which means…

_QuotePragmatism … is a rationalization for the concrete-bound, range-of-the-moment, anti-conceptual mentalities that long for liberation from principles and future.”
        - Ayn Rand, “Philosophic Detection”

Sounds destructive. So what are  the implications of that …
… for politics:

_QuoteThe two points central to the pragmatist ethics are: a formal rejection of all fixed standards—and an unquestioning absorption of the prevailing standards. The same two points constitute the pragmatist approach to politics, which, developed most influentially by Dewey, became the philosophy of the Progressive movement in this country (and of most of its liberal descendants down to the present day).”
                              - Leonard Peikoff, “Pragmatism Versus America”

… for education:

_QuoteRarely, if ever, has a free nation capitulated to [a destructive new philosophy] as rapidly, as extensively, as abjectly, as America did [to pragmatism] . When the country surrendered its educational institutions—in countless forms, direct and indirect, public and private, from nursery school on up—to the legion of Progressive educators spawned, above all, by Dewey, it formally delivered its youth into the hands of the philosophy of pragmatism, to be ‘reconstructed’ according to the pragmatist image of man. It was a development which, in a few decades, created a new intellectual establishment in America…
    The goal of the Progressive indoctrinators was not, however, to impose a specific system of ideas on the student, but to destroy his capacity to hold any firm ideas, on any subject…”
                            - Leonard Peikoff, “Pragmatism Versus America”

_QuotePsychologically, Pragmatism lobotomized the country's intellectuals: John Dewey's theory of ‘Progressive’ education (which has dominated the schools for close to half a century), established a method of crippling a child's conceptual faculty and replacing cognition with ‘social adjustment.’ It was and is a systematic attempt to manufacture tribal mentalities.”
        - Ayn Rand, “The Missing Link”

… for actual problem-solving?

_QuoteWhat, then, is left to man? The sensation, the wish, the whim, the range and the concrete of the moment. Since no solution to any problem is possible, anyone's suggestion, guess or edict is as valid as anyone else's—provided it is narrow enough.
     To give you an example: if a building were threatened with collapse and you declared that the crumbling foundation has to be rebuilt, a pragmatist would answer that your solution is too abstract, extreme, unprovable, and that immediate priority must be given to the need of putting ornaments on the balcony railings, because it would make the tenants feel better.
     There was a time when a man would not utter arguments of this sort, for fear of being rightly considered a fool. Today, Pragmatism has not merely given him permission to do it and liberated him from the necessity of thought, but has elevated his mental default into an intellectual virtue, has given him the right to dismiss thinkers (or construction engineers) as naive, and has endowed him with that typically modern quality: the arrogance of the concrete-bound, who takes pride in not seeing the  forest fire, or the forest, or the trees, while he is studying one inch of bark on a rotted tree stump…”
        - Ayn Rand, “How To Read (And Not To Write)”

… and for morality:

_QuoteBy itself, as a distinctive theory, the pragmatist ethics is contentless. It urges men to pursue “practicality,” but refrains from specifying any “rigid” set of values that could serve to define the concept. As a result, pragmatists—despite their repudiation of all systems of morality—are compelled, if they are to implement their ethical approach at all, to rely on value codes formulated by other, non-pragmatist moralists. As a rule the pragmatist appropriates these codes without acknowledging them; he accepts them by a process of osmosis, eclectically absorbing the cultural deposits left by the moral theories of his predecessors—and protesting all the while the futility of these theories.
        - Leonard Peikoff, The Ominous Parallels

_QuotePragmatism wedded to "right and wrong" (i.e., to morality) is a philosophical contradiction in terms, as bad a contradiction as, for instance, an attempt to preach an atheism wedded to God. Morality is a code of principles; Pragmatism denies the validity of any principles, moral or epistemological. Pragmatism holds expediency as the only criterion of human values and actions. Truth or falsehood, it claims, cannot be known in advance of action: truth is "that which works" in a particular situation. According to this standard, the only way [a politician would] know that they were doing wrong in their particular situation, was by getting caught.”
        - Leonard Peikoff, “Pragmatism Versus America”

(Come in Len Brown, Shane Jones, Chris Carter, Uncle Tom Cobley and all.)

…and so, to the partial explanation for today’s political culture:

_QuoteAs a rule, it is an accident whether the smart young intellectual wheeler-dealers emitted by the colleges turn to the Left or to the Right. More often than not, those who turn to the Right do so because the Left is overcrowded and they see less competition for opportunities to climb, on the intellectually arid rocks of the Right. It is not a matter of political principles. What principles? Pragmatism has taught them that there are no such things.
But the big dilemma for all the pragmatists of the Right, is: what are they to fight and by what means, if principles are inoperative? Politics is a field in which one deals with ideas and it requires the ability to argue, to discuss, to persuade. What does one do in politics if one has discarded the whole realm of ideas? One fights men.
        - Ayn Rand, “Brother, You Asked For It”

(Welcome to the politics of the blogosphere.  And of the parliament.)

…and finally, what’s the actual “cash value” of a philosophy that itself boasts of ifs practicality?  It’s that “truth” is what’s asserted by public polls.

_QuoteIf you doubt the power of philosophy to set the course and shape the destiny of human societies, observe that our mixed economy is the literal, faithfully carried-out product of Pragmatism—and of the generation brought up under its influence. Pragmatism is the philosophy which holds that there is no objective reality or permanent truth, that there are no absolute principles, no valid abstractions, no firm concepts, that anything may be tried by rule-of-thumb, that objectivity consists of collective subjectivism, that whatever people wish to be true, is true, whatever people wish to exist, does exist—provided a consensus says so.
        - Ayn Rand, “The New Fascism: Rule By Consensus”

---and so, in summary:

_QuoteAbove all, the pragmatists stress ‘practicality’—which, according to their teachings, consists in action divorced from thought and reality.
     The pragmatists stress the "cash value" of ideas. But the Americans did not know the "cash value" of the pragmatist ideas they were buying. They did not know that pragmatism could not deliver on its promise of this-worldly success because, at root, it is a philosophy which does not believe in this—or any—world.”
                            - Leonard Peikoff, “Pragmatism Versus America”

Which is what the most famous modern practitioner of pragmatism once demonstrated for all the world to see.

On that, more tomorrow.

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Death of a warmist.

Liar and warmist propagandist Stephen Schneider has died.

You might think it disrespectful to call him a liar, but in amongst some really dreadful science, that’s what he really called himself—talking in 1989 about activists like him having “to decide the right balance between being effective, and being honest.”

And it’s clear enough from the record which side of the balance he was always on.

In the words of film-maker Phelim McAleer, whose no-holds-barred obituary of this anti-industrial whack-job you really have to read, “it has to be said that Professor Schneider died as he had lived—a completely unrepentant hypocrite."

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Pragmatism & Mr Key

This morning I want to take you an a brief philosophical journey around John Key’s new favourite word.

That word, as you might have noticed after the weekend, is “Pragmatic.” Or, if you prefer the proper noun, “Pragmatism.”  In recent months, for example, if you’d been paying attention you would have heard:

  • Tax breaks to encourage investors and fund managers down to New Zealand? “In theory it sounds like a good idea but in practice the time and cost involved - you would have to take a pragmatic view…”
  • “…not selling Kiwibank shows the govt is now taking a far more practical and pragmatic approach to state asset sales…”
  • Key said today the compromise is a ‘pragmatic solution…’”
  • Key’s reign is marked by his pragmatism and optimism…”
  • And over the weekend, “The word ‘pragmatic’ was also on high-rotate in the Prime Minister's vocabulary. In Key's dictionary, ‘pragmatic’ is not a dirty word.”

How, you might ask yourself, did an obscure word invented by a now largely unknown pair of nineteenth-century philosophers come to so thoroughly litter political discourse. Because it’s not only not a dirty word, it was used three times in John Key’s keynote speech at the National Party conference, hardly the place to present a philosophical treatise! Said Key:

  • [This] package of amendments to New Zealand's labour laws … contains pragmatic solutions to real issues facing real businesses and employees;
  • “…a package of changes that I believe is pragmatic, credible and effective”;
  • “… we will [govern] in a pragmatic and balanced way… guided by the values and principles that have underpinned this great Party for so many decades…”

Clearly an important idea, then, since as recent experience would tell you it has clearly done something important to those very Values and Principles that, as Fran O’Sullivan pointed out on the weekend, used to encompass “the principles of personal freedom, individual responsibility, a competitive economy and support for families and communities,” but now encompass … well, based on recent experience, what they encompass is Backflips, Backdowns and Doing Just What Labour Did.

And if you understand what pragmatism really means, why would anyone be at all surprised at that outcome? 

Bear with me a moment as I explain why. But first,  let’s check a real dictionary—or, since pragmatism is a philosophical term, a philosophical dictionary—to see what kind of a word ‘pragmatism’ is, because what you’ll find out there about pragmatism is highly illuminating.

The philosophical doctrine of pragmatism was really invented in the nineteenth century by Americans C.S. Pierce and William James to do away with what they understood to be obscure metaphysical speculation, (they’d been reading a lot of heavy Germanic philosophy, you understand, in which obscure metaphysical speculation has never been more weighty).  In Baldwin’s Dictionary of Philosophy, they described, in the language that nineteenth-century gentlemen used, how their new philosophy would (they hoped) clear away the metaphysical tickets. First, James:


Pragmatism: The doctrine that the whole ‘meaning’ of a conception expresses itself in practical consequences…”

And now Pierce:


Pragmatism: The opinion that [the abstruse speculations of] metaphysics are to be largely cleared up by the application of the following maxim for attaining clearness of apprehension: ‘Consider what effects, that might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then our conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the object.’”

What they’re saying is that their new philosophy is not a search for truth, but for something they call “practicality.”  But observe that since truth has been dispensed with (“truth” is just another name for what you think you can get away with), this is a very unusual view of “practicality,” because their “conception” of reality is not about the stuff of reality itself, but only of the “conception” of the “effects” that some stuff may or may not make on other stuff (“perception is reality”).

In other words,* it is a “practicality” that consists of dispensing with all absolute principles and standards, and treating reality as so much malleable stuff that may (or may not) allow itself it be tricked into helping one’s goals.  

But if you dispense with absolute principles and standards, then what’s left?  Not truth; not honesty; and sure as hell not “the values and principles that have underpinned a great Party for so many decades.” All you’re left with instead is something called “practicality”—but a very fluid kind of practicality, in a strange and complicated world, in the service of some unnamed and undefined goals.

Because, if you think about it carefully, ethics is simply the science of goal-setting, and this is a philosophy entirely without an ethics. No wonder it proved so attractive to politicians  (Q: “How do you know a politician is lying?” A: “Their lips are moving.”)

These are the sorts of reasons more honest philosophers talk about “The Menace of Pragmatism,” because:


Pragmatism is not a substantive set of doctrines so much as a way of thinking, a unifying approach that helps to sustain an array of doctrines that are, in their content, irrational. Because it is a method, however, and informs the way that a practitioner tackles any issue, it proves much more difficult to unroot than an erroneous conclusion. Moreover, thanks to its positive image, pragmatism tends to give harmful ideas a good name, bestowing them with the misplaced aura of reason. It thereby makes people who wish to be rational all the more susceptible to those ideas.

The menace is a live one.

Now, I don’t suggest that every politician goes to bed with the dusty tomes of Messrs Pierce and James. But the teachings of these two have certainly got into the culture, (not least because their apprentice Pragmatist, a young John Dewey, was the founder of the Progressive school system in which the west’s education system is still enmired).  No, in Key’s dictionary—and the dictionary of very working politician, I suspect—being “pragmatic” simply means ignoring principle and doing what you can get away with. But if by this reasoning principles are taken off the decision-making table, and they have been, then what’s left?  If principles are off the table, then how on earth do you decide what to do?

The answer is that you’re left being blown around by whatever ideological wind more principled people can whip up. As they do.

No wonder this pragmatic Prime Minister always seems to find himself simply Doing Just What Labour Did.


I’ll discuss the single most important, eloquent and disastrous, expression of Pragmatism in modern political history.

Can you guess what it was?

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