Friday, 18 February 2011

A house designer by any other name …

As you might have seen, the Architects Registration Board has been going off recently at real estate agents who describe houses as having been designed by architects when instead those houses have just been designed by, well, by people who design houses.

The difference is immense, and it amounts to this: One group of people have paid a lot of money to join the Boys Club with the name “Architects” on the door, and the other haven’t. 

That’s about the size of it.

It’s therefore quite appropriate then that those who have paid the money to join the club (which club, as anyone knows, has been set up to protect its members) should be entitled to exclude the riff raff who haven’t. (Because if paying a lot money and knowing the right people doesn’t entitle you to set barriers to entering your profession, I don’t know what would!)

And it’s quite appropriate that they should be able to throw around threats of fines and jail time should anyone, especially real estate agents, confuse the low life riff raff who design houses with the real toffs who have paid to join the Boys Club.

And the Real Estate Institute’s members are now running scared. So much so that an Advisory Note sent out yesterday to members warns to tread very carefully indeed “if you are intending to describe a building in terms involving use of the word ‘architect’ in any form.”

This all just protectionist nonsense.

There is no justification for laws protecting the use of the word “architect” in any form except with the word “registered” in front of it.

House-buyers are buying houses, not names. They visit houses and walk around them—they judge them for themselves, by their own standards—they don’t just rely on an agents’ blurb. And having inspected them, if buyers decide that houses designed by registered architects are so much better than those designed by others, then those houses will attract a premium.

And if they don’t, they won’t.

No more protection is needed then than to allow buyers to see what they’re buying before they buy it. And which buyer wouldn’t?

There is no argument in justice for law protecting the members of this particular cartel.

If the houses they design do attract a premium that will be because, on the judgement of those who buy them, they deserve to—and if so the members of the Boys Club won’t need a special piece of protectionist law to protect them.

If however they don’t attract a premium that will be because, on the judgement of those who buy them, they don’t deserve to—and if so there is no justification in law for protecting people  who the market has decided are no better than their competitors.

And that fact is, whatever nonsense the various heads of the Boys Club over the years have maintained—former NZRAB chairman Ron Pynenburg for example, who says claiming a property was designed by an architect can push up its price—or his successor Paul Jackman  who claims “these false references add lustre and market value to the properties being sold”—there are no figures in existence indicating that the mere claim that an architect has designed a house is enough to push up its price. This is just self-serving nonsense.

Indeed, when challenged by Mary Wilson the other evening, Mr Jackman couldn’t even produce figures showing that houses designed by his members attracted any premium at all.

Damning evidence, I would have thought, that not even the barriers to entry created by Mr Jackman and his organisation are enough to jack up the prices the market is prepared to pay for what his members produce.

The fact is, there is no honest argument to protect the word “architect,” and five years ago when the Architects Act was rewritten the Select Committee agreed unanimously with the half-dozen of us who pointed that out.

We pointed out that all that needs protection are the words “registered architect,” since to say one is registered when one isn’t would be fraud—and if registered architects transpire to be so much better than unregistered ones, why then the market would beat a path to their door.

Our half-dozen did our best--we had persuaded every one on the Select Committee--but when it came to the final vote in Parliament, it transpired the Boys Club under Gordon Moller had paid Mai Chen thousands of dollars to whisper protectionist nonsense in the MPs’ shell-like. And I’m afraid, my friends, that that was that.

Which is why we end up where we are today with threats of fines and jail time hanging around folk for the inadvertent use of the words “architect,” and Advice Notes being sent around the country to real estate agents about the use of the aforementioned word—and about future meetings on the matter thereon.

Be aware however that words and phrases like "architecture," "architectural," and "architecturally designed" are still legal...

PS: Here’s an interesting and related fact for you to ponder: One in four Americans now needs the state’s permission to work, either in the form of a state license or being on some sort of register—which means one out of every four workers is not permitted to work without begging permission from a bureaucrat.

What proportion do you think we might “enjoy” here in NZ?

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A retiring Roger Douglas

Roger Douglas is retiring from politics. Again.

At the age of 74, this time it’s probably for good.

His record isn’t anywhere near as good as his supporters would seem to believe—and because the reforms for which he was responsible were done in part by stealth, and the architects of the Rogernomics revolution never bothered to foster a parallel revolution inside people’s heads, it was a record which led many to believe that the free market itself operated on stealth—and it poisoned a generation on the very idea of free-market reforms.

In that respect, he and his colleagues helped bring the ACT Party’s ever-worsening fortunes on themselves.

But on the other hand, his record is nothing like as bad as his critics would have you believe.  The structure of political economy in which we live today is still the house that Douglas built, and even his harshest critics did nothing to alter his floor plan. And without his reconstruction, there would be many more grandparents than there are now around New Zealand mourning the loss of their children and grandchildren to richer pastures overseas.

New Zealand is a richer place today than it would have been without him. For that he deserves thanks.

As a politician he really only had four years in the sun, four years when he found the courage to admit to himself all he had previously thought was wrong—four years when, for all the blundering, he and his reforms (let’s admit it ourselves) rescued New Zealand from becoming the Polish shipyard it had almost become. Whatever else he did before or since, it will be those four years of crisis on which history will judge him. (And the best judge of that history in my estimation was not written by a bitter David Lange, but by the man who as the country’s “go-to” interviewer at the time saw it all up close: Lindsay Perigo.)

There are two great tragedies in Douglas’s late career.

The first is that a National Government facing another economic crisis and with no answers to meet it could not find it in their embittered souls to make use of his ability. There he sat for the last two years doing almost nothing while his coalition partner fiddled. What a waste.

The second tragedy is that he didn’t just sit quietly and do nothing for those last two years.  Instead he was jetting off round the world to see his grandchildren, and charging to to the taxpayer’s tab—and when he was sprung for it he compounded his error by telling us to our face that he is “entitled” to dip into our pockets.

A sad final act for a man whose performance in his short time in the sun makes him a once-legendary player.

The irony now is that he plans in his final retirement to spend more time with his grandchildren.

My worry is that it will be us picking up the tab for all the frequent trips to see them.

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Nothing ‘Super’ about winter in February

Here’s a serious philosophical question for a Friday morning:

Isn’t February too frickin’ early to be interested in Super Rugby?

True, it’s not like we have a cricket team competing for our interest. But I was under the impression rugby was supposed to be a winter sport. And it’s fricken February fer chrissake.


The Great Upheaval at The Guggenheim!


Check out Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in New York, all set up ready for a new exhibition. “Our ramps are now covered,” says the museum, “with over 100 works by 48 artists, including Marc Chagall, Robert Delaunay, Vasily Kandinsky, Fernand Léger, Kazimir Malevich, and Pablo Picasso.”

What do you think: Does the building overpower the exhibits?


More photos here.

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Thursday, 17 February 2011

Who’s getting richer? The poor, or the rich?

Hayek Prize winner Steve Horwitz peers behind American figures to examine the notion that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.  The key concepts on which to focus are “income mobility,” and the total size of your pizza …

Of course, these statistics occurred before the arse fell out of the world economy—although this Op Ed explaining everything more succinctly did not.

PS: For an extra point, see if you can work out any statistical errors he’s made. You know, the sort to which journalists and Gordon Campbell are often prone. Fortunately, they’re being offered the chance to get schooled.


KRIS SAYCE: Why Flood Levy isn’t a Drop in the Ocean

Since we're family, and families care about what’s being done to each other, Kris Sayce puts into perspective for us the Flood Levy imposed on all our Australian brothers and sisters by that nice Julia Gillard.

_Kris_Sayce But first up, last week I gave you a link to Murray Rothbard’s “A History of Money and Banking in the United States: The Colonial Era to World War II”.

Over the weekend your editor managed to get half-way through the book.

If you haven’t bought it or read it online yet, I strongly recommend you do.

In our opinion it provides concrete proof of how government and central bank interference in markets distorts the economy.

And furthermore how it is the same interference that creates inflation – rewarding those with power and influence, and punishing those without power or influence.

It also bangs on the head the argument that the gold standard caused the Great Depression.

That’s a fairly popular argument made by the statists and interventionists.  They claim the Gold Standard not only caused the Great Depression, but made it worse because governments couldn’t print money to spend the economy out of depression.

Of course that’s nonsense.

The reality is that it was manipulation of the Gold Standard by governments and banks that caused a mispricing of gold and silver, along with the determination of the banks to print more paper notes than they hold gold to back them.

This caused the credit boom thanks to the misallocation of capital.  The bust (depression) was simply the consequence of the boom.

But not only that, it highlights how government and bankers are in cahoots to line their own pockets at the expense of the general population.  As Rothbard notes:

_Quote This provision deliberately tied banks and bank credit expansion to the public debt; it meant that the more public debt the banks purchased, the more they could create and lend out new money. 
    Banks, in short, were encouraged to monetize the public debt, state governments were thereby encouraged to go into debt, and hence, government and bank inflation were intimately linked.

Ah, monetizing the public debt.  That rings a few bells.  The new Basel banking rules ensure government debt is institutionalised even further by requiring banks to hold a certain amount of government debt as capital.

The more government debt held by the banks, the more money the banks can create from thin air.

It’s a similar reason to why banks are keen to lend for residential mortgages.  These are considered to be lower risk than business mortgages and therefore the bank is able to carry less capital on its books.

The upshot is that bank capital requirements are just as much about syphoning money from the individual into the hands of the government as it is about supposedly keeping banks strong.

The fact is, the requirements weaken the banks as it allows them to create more money, while at the same time weakening the private individual as more money is taken from them and given to the government.  Plus the inflationary consequences of money creation impoverishes the individual further.

On a similar subject we noted a neat little graphic put together by one of the guys over at


There you go.  What’s all the fuss about?  $1.8 billion is barely a drop in the GDP.

Of course, comparing the size of the flood levy to GDP by itself isn’t relevant.  GDP is supposedly the economic output of the economy, whereas the flood levy is a cost to the economy – taxpayers.

So what you really need to do is compare GDP to the amount government steals from taxpayers.

In that case, based on the 2009-10 budget, the Federal Government spent $339 billion of taxpayer money.

That’s compared to the 2009 Australian GDP of USD$924 billion (roughly the same in Aussie dollars):

Source: Google

Or to put it another way, 36 cents of every dollar spent in the economy is spent by the Australian federal government.  Another way of looking at it is that for every dollar earned by private individuals or enterprise, 36 cents is taken by the government.

Add on State and local government taxes and you’re looking at north of 40 cents in every dollar earned ending up in government hands… which it then dishes out to its buddies.

So heck, what’s another $1.8 billion?  Who cares?  You should care.

$1.8 billion by itself may not seem much, but it’s $1.8 billion on top of the $339 billion the government already takes.

By the same argument, if $1.8 billion is fine, what about another $1.8 billion after that… and then another $1.8 billion… and so on until you figure out all the money is in the hands of the political despots in Canberra and none remains in your pocket.

So if you take that into account, the same graphic would look something like this:


The red area comprises the amount of tax the federal government steals in taxes.  The green area is our guess at the taxes paid to State and local governments.  And the yellow area is the approximate cost for the national broadband network… that’s “only” $43 billion after all.

If you look at the graphic now you’ll see that private enterprise – including you – has a much smaller amount of blue area remaining.  That tiny blue rectangle doesn’t look so tiny in comparison now does it?

Next add in our old favourite, mortgage debt.  According to the latest numbers from the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), at the end of December 2010, residential housing debt stood at $999,668,904,000… or simply $999.6 billion…

Or, $331 million short of the magic trillion.

So if we say the average interest rate is 7%, that equals around $70 billion each year paid in interest by households.  Let’s colour it purple and add that to the graphic to see what it now looks like:


Wow!  The blue area is getting smaller by the second.

Now take out groceries, fuel, heating… and heaven forbid some entertainment expenses so that you can actually enjoy yourself, what are you left with?

Well, let’s work that out.  According to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA), a retired couple who want a modest lifestyle – not including housing costs – will spend about $530.75 per week.

That works out as $27,599 per year.

If we multiply that across the roughly eight million households in Australia it equals $220 billion.  Now, granted that figure isn’t entirely accurate, in fact our guess is it’s an underestimate seeing as most households would earn more and spend more than the typical retiree.

And by the way, these aren’t extravagant items.  It includes fuel, travel, and leisure expenses.

Let’s add these living expenses to the graphic in a kind of browny colour:


Oops, we seem to have overshot there!  I don’t know about you, but there doesn’t seem to be any blue left… apart from that tiny little rectangle that is the $1.8 billion flood levy.

Now perhaps the folks who say the flood levy is nothing to the economy may care to think again.

Sure, on its own $1.8 billion is nothing, it’s just a drop in the ocean.  But it’s $1.8 billion in addition to the $339 billion in federal government taxes, the $43 billion to be spent on the national broadband network, the $70 billion spent on mortgage repayments…

And the $220 billion that Australians need to spend just to live a moderate lifestyle.

It all makes us think the Egyptians had the right idea.


Kris Sayce
for Money Morning Australia


Customs union, common market and a common currency

It’s not every day I feel the need to congratulate a politician—even a retired one.

But the Australian award presented by Julia Gillard yesterday to retired Muldoon-era cabinet minister Hugh Templeton deserves respect, since the positive effects of what he did are still being felt, and still need to go further.

CER In Muldoon’s nine-year reign, there were only two real forward steps his tyrannised cabinet ever made.* The greatest of these was the Closer Economic Relations deal with Australia, which liberalised trade relations between the two countries, increased the prosperity of both countries, and began the process of moving us closer together.

That deal was driven by Hugh Templeton, who said yesterday the deal was necessary and the process he began really needs to continue.

_Quote"It was strategically the number one issue for New Zealand," Mr Templeton said.
    "We had to get it. We had to do it ... we had to get this as the basis for broadening the basis of our economy and giving our manufacturing sector a decent market."
    Without it, our fate would have been to become "a little New Zealand getting littler in the South Pacific."

In his thank you speech yesterday,

_QuoteMr Templeton called on Ms Gillard to use the Anzac centennial in 2015 to complete "unfinished history" by creating a customs union, a common market and a common currency.**

It makes sense, he said. And as he said it I thought, “He’s right.” “It does.”

_Quote ... if we had a full-scale economic union with a common currency etc with Australia we would be much better protected from the rather vulnerable position in which New Zealand is. It's as simple as that."
    But a decade of economic good times had encouraged governments to put off hard decisions and fail to make the most of opportunities that CER presented. Both countries should have moved towards a common market in the 1990s and economic and currency union in the 2000s.

And why can’t we?

It’s somewhat astonishing to contemplate the irony that European enemies who have been shooting, bombing and barbarising each other for centuries can now enjoy open borders with each other, and share a common market and a common currency,*** but Australia and New Zealand—who are family—can not.

Are we really that provincial?

Are we?

PS: Hugh Templeton spoke to Mary Wilson on Checkpoint last night about his award, and the importance of further progress on the project he started. LISTEN HERE.

PPS: Incidentally, Hugh Templeton is now involved with a group called the Foundation for Economic Growth who are unflinching in supporting free markets, sound money and REAL Economics.  I thoroughly recommend them, and would suggest you sign up for their weekly newsletters.

* The other forward step was taken by George Gair, who removed the arcane restriction on transporting things more than 100km by road. This ridiculous piece of protectionism was supposed to protect failed rail from competition. Instead it strangled local industry, and left their goods hostage to the inefficiencies and thieving of rail “workers.”.
Of course, the Muldoon government did also scrap Labour’s government superannuation scheme, a forerunner to Kiwisaver. But that was an election pledge, and driven by Muldoon. It didn’t involve the cabinet.

** Yes, Virginia, a common free banking system would be preferable.  But there are too many hurdles presently lying lying that road. There is only one lying along the road to a common currency: New Zealand’s provincialism.

*** Not without problems, I’ll grant you. But none that couldn’t be solved by throwing out the statism.

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The making of ‘Denouement,’ by Michael Newberry

denoument Denouement, 1987, oil on linen, 54×78 inches.

Denouement is one of artist Michael Newberry’s masterpieces. He began it when he was twenty-seven.  Of it he says, “There is a beacon of love, light, and color that excites my whole being. Denouement is the expression of that existence.”

Go “backstage” with Michael and discover how he gave birth to this masterpiece.

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Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Debunking welfare myths

Scoop’s Gordon Campbell just posted an article purporting to debunk what he calls “right wing welfare myths” that are commonly trotted out by “beneficiary bashers.”

Quick as a flash, welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell debunks his debunking. Sample:

CAMPBELL: “The vast majority of people want to work. The history of the last ten years in particular shows that when jobs exist, people work.”
MITCHELL: “The ‘history of the last ten years’ shows almost the opposite. During the economic boom numbers on the DPB dropped by a maximum of 15 percent and numbers on the sickness and invalid benefits continued to grow. Only the dole total dropped significantly.”

Sadly, in this first debunking of Campbell’s ten “myths,” neither mention either the minimum wage or the level of welfare payments themselves, which between them set a “floor” for wage payments above the market-clearing price that virtually ensures that labour markets will never clear. (Price any product above what the market will bear and you’re going to have truckloads left on the shelf.)

And in their fuller pieces neither Mitchell nor Campbell mention the three biggest welfare myths embraced by left-wing and right-wing welfare enthusiasts alike: i.e,

  1. the notion that the economics of welfare states is sustainable; and
  2. the idea we can all vote to make ourselves rich; and
  3. the immoral assertion that you and I are our brother’s keepers.

It isn’t, we can’t, and we aren’t.

The sovereign debt crisis faced by virtually every western nation should demonstrate to anyone with eyes to see that welfare-state economics is unsustainable.  “The chronic economic stagnation produced by a system that subsidizes idleness while punishing work has thrown young people into a hellish economic dead-end”—and thrown governments into a crisis from which there is not enough money in the world from which to bail themselves out.

The debt of the failed welfare state experiment is drowning every nation that has tried it. From Ireland to Portugal, from Scotland to Wales, from Greece to Spain to the US—all now confront the simple truth that the welfare state and its debts is simply unaffordable.

The experiment itself was founded on the “practical” notion that people could somehow vote themselves rich—and governments could get themselves elected on that promise. But not even Keynesian economics can make this impossibility happen for more than a few political cycles—not even Keynes himself could turn stones into bread and debt into real produce, not without the sleight-of-hand of taking that bread out of someone else’s mouth first.

And the experiment would never even have been tried without the utterly immoral notion that we are all our brother’s keepers—and, having legally and morally disarmed those who have to pay for the promises, that the economic security of hundreds of thousands of people can be guaranteed by nothing more than the ability of a government to put its hands into other people’s pockets. It is an impossibility. And more:

Morally, the promise of an impossible “right” to economic security is an infamous attempt to abrogate the concept of rights. It can and does mean only one thing: a promise to enslave the men who produce, for the benefit of those who don’t.

The very concept of the welfare state is both  morally insupportable and practically unsustainable.

That its supporters are now on the back foot, and having to debunk those who point this out, is perhaps the first sign of hope in a generation.


DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Public servants and pine trees

_McGRath Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath ransacks the newspapers for headlines and stories on issues affecting our freedom—giving a firm jab in the posterior to pustalunt state-worshippers everywhere.

This week: Public servants and pine trees

THE DOCTOR SAYS: So, career bureaucrat Michael Mason, 50, of Mirimar, who spent two thirds of his life slurping at the public trough, was rumbled accepting bribes which included a $160k backhander and seats at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. His squealing face was quite rightly pulled away from the trough last March and he could be looking at three and a half years of porridge.
    It is important that no-one in public service be put in the position in which Michael Mason of Mirimar found himself, open to the temptation of bribes from unscrupulous contractors and private businessmen. Just another reason why ACC should be opened up to competition. Currently we, the productive, are forced to fund the excessive remuneration of recidivist troughers like Michael Mason of Mirimar. If we had the option of being able to choose our accident insurer, we would be able to show our disdain for corrupt state officials (or private insurance companies, for that matter) by shifting our dollars elsewhere.
    But we still can’t do this. Another problem John-Boy and Billy Bob have failed to address in the two years since their Blue Labour Party were swept into office by a public full of high hopes. A public that must be disappointed with the lack of any meaningful change in the way they are governed
    And does anyone out there really think that Michael Mason of Mirimar is an isolated rogue bureaucrat in a public service stacked with altruistic angels?
    Incidentally, the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, attended by Michael Mason of Mirimar, was historic in many ways – the 800th Formula One World Championship race was the first held at night, and the first F1 race held in the Lion City.

THE DOCTOR SAYS: Oh, the humanity! No, wait, it’s only a tree. Hot on the heels of revelations of a $317,000 pumpkin in the Far North, news of a $31,000 (so far) Norfolk pine in Khandallah. On a property that is privately owned. And that the owners want to remove. But can’t, because of the property-rights-destroying Resource Management Abomination.
    Another absurd chapter in the Orwellian nightmare that is land “ownership” in New Zealand. Another problem that the Smiling Assassin and Dipton Double-Dipper have had two years to address, and about which they have done squat.
    Are you really any better off than you were two and a bit years ago during the long years of the Clark junta? No? Then why would you even consider voting for Blue Labour this coming November? There is, after all, a party of principled New Zealanders who want to roll back fascist legislation such as the RMA and revert back to common law solutions to civil disputes. In the case of the Norfolk pine, the question of who owns it and therefore has control over its fate would not even be an issue. If bleeding hearts, the sort who value vegetation above human life, really want to save the tree, they should put their own money on the table and buy it off the owners, who would be happy to see it go. Win-win.

Corruptisima republica plurimae leges.
(The more corrupt the state, the more it legislates.)
- Tacitus


Legislate in haste, repent at leisure

RUSHED LEGISLATION HAS CAUSED much damage over many years. Rodney Hide’s rushed super-sized council legislation—whose lack of clarity is now giving cockroaches space in which to feed—is only the latest, and a particularly egregious, example.

As an eager new local government minister, Rodney Hide wanted to get things done. What he was told to do was to super-size Auckland’s councils—and he took to the job like a new puppy with his first bone. A puppy whose eyes had yet to form.

_RodneyHood Dear Rodney was so violently opposed to any idea of an elected race-based Board on his new super-sized Auckland Council that he threatened to resign on the issue.   But since he so desperately wanted to get things done, the excited minister rushed through his first piece of legislation in all of his fifteen years in parliament … which called for his new council to set up an appointed race-based Board.

What a dickhead.

That’s a change from bad to f’ing awful.

Nearly half-a-million ratepayer dollars to be paid to a Browntable full of racially-appointed troughers, simply to give effect to an idea of race-based political “partnership” that is both disgusting and historically indefensible.

And it was this local government minister and ACT Party leader that made it possible.

Yes, Virginia, I did say historically indefensible.

No, Virginia, there is nothing in the Treaty mandating any kind of political “partnership” or racial power-sharing.

Yes, Virginia, as both local government minister and ACT Party leader Rodney is responsible.Treaty_Principles (1)

AUCKLAND’S STATUTORY MAORI BOARD would not even exist were it not for Rodney’s legislation and the destructive ideas of “biculturalism” and race-based political “partnership”—and where these notions came from was the result of rushed legislation several years ago by yet another ACT Party luminary.

Take a bow Richard Prebble.

Like Hide, Prebble was excited to get his feet around the cabinet table.  And so excited was he to “get things done” that when he wrote his legislation allowing the streamlining and easy sale of state assets (i.e., the State-Owned Enterprises Act), to quieten down the race-based dissent the sales caused he and his colleague Geoffrey Palmer simply inserted into their legislation the phrase “principles of Treaty of Waitangi,” insisting that “decision-makers” must have regard to these without ever defining what these principles were.

So much for the political acumen of these two. (“In the course of a relatively few years,” said a woefully misguided Palmer for example, “most of the outstanding issues in this area will be settled. Most of the claims now are known…” )

Because problem was, to this day no-one knows with any kind of clarity what these “principles” are supposed to be.  They were a legal fiction waiting for litigants to quarry in an attempt to make their fortune—which they did, in their droves—and a poison that soon infected every piece of legislation written since.

What that poison did—as subsequent court cases quietly morphed these “principles” into something even more lucrative for the lawyers—was to transfer the Treaty’s clear promise of protection of ownership into the sort of vague, indefinable stuff that lawyers love and other cockroaches can feed off.

In evoking “principles” that didn’t exist, it created a Treaty that never did.

It set the platform for a whole generation of young people to join the Grievance Industry and become, as virtually their sole occupation, professional Maoris. (Which is the the only “profession” the new occupants of Rodney’s race-based Board actually have.)

Even more damaging, it quietly transformed the idea of self-ownership of one’s own resources (as promised by the Treaty) into the idea of shared political management, by race, of everyone’s resources (which was never countenanced in the Treaty at all).  This was the notion of race-based “partnership” that over the last few decades has become the fuel of fully-fledged legal separatism—and the legal fuel on which Auckland’s new Statutory Board will rely when they get to the High Court.

Just a few years after the gravy train was well and truly rolling, then Minister of Injustice Doug Graham mellifluously opined that  “The sooner we realise there are laws for one and laws for another, the better.”

Richard Prebble certainly got things done. What he should have done however is get things right.

How ironic that it will be his blunder as minister that will hasten the demise of his successor as party leader.

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Tuesday, 15 February 2011

‘Slave Ship,’ by J.M.W. Turner

tursla J.M.W. Turner, “The Slave Ship (1840),
a.k.a. “Slavers Throwing overboard the Dead and Dying—Typhoon coming on."
Oil on canvas. 90.8 × 122.6 cm

Turner saw an inhospitable malevolent universe, and he painted it. Like no-one before or since.

Give Simon Schama sixty minutes, and he’ll explain why the crusty old geezer could muster so much power.


People power? [update 2]

I’m struggling to understand why everyone’s so happy about the outcome in Egypt.

For nearly sixty years—ever since Lieutenant-Colonel Nasser’s nationalist “Association of Free Officers” overthrew the monarchy promising to establish a parliamentary democracy—Egypt has been ruled by military strongmen in Nasser’s nationalist anti-Islamist image.

DeFreedom For three weeks Egyptians protested in Tahrir Square, demanding a change in that succession. They called for the dictator of the last twenty years to step down. And after three weeks of getting his money out of the country, he complied.

To be replaced by another military strongmen aping the long line already preceding him: to whit, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the former Minister of Defense, Military Production, Deputy Prime Minister, Commander of the Presidential Guard, and chief of the Operations Authority of the Armed Forces. A man who is “aged and change resistant,” and “committed to the status quo.”

Is this really the “new-found freedom” people died for?

Now they’ve begin to disperse, courageous protestors still mopping up after their victory might still insist they

_Quote will not give up on Egypt as a civilian state, not a military state. If things move away from our demands, we will go into the street again, even if we have to die as martyrs.

But they have just cheered the coming to power of a military ruler who will have quite specific ideas about how to use that desire for martyrdom.

And I’ll wager good money it won’t be to set up a constitutional republic and then resign—any more than his predecessor some dictators ago did.

So this is not a victory for individual freedom—more’s the pity.

And neither is it a victory for democracy.  And thank goodness for that. Because by contrast to a constitutional republic, a democracy (i.e., majority rule; i.e., a counting of head regardless of content) would not have delivered freedom and individual rights to Egyptians, but instead a government responding to the the one-out-of-every-five Egyptians who thinks suicide bombing can be justified; and the four-out-of-every-five Egyptians who would stone people who commit adultery, cut limbs off people who steal, and put to death those who leave the Muslim religion. [See Pew survey here.]

Muslim Egypt is not secular Turkey—where they understand the dangers of Islam playing a large part in politics, and have at least begun to put some rights beyond the vote. It’s a place where nineteen-out-of-every-twenty people think it would be a good thing for Islam to play a much larger role in politics, with everything that implies for individual freedom—or lack thereof.

No wonder the Muslim Brotherhood are coming round to the idea of democracy. For one election, anyway.

And the Brotherhood’s own statement about the “historic victory” gives a clue to where exactly they would like an Egyptian democracy to go, were such a thing ever to be allowed:

_Quote_Idiot The victory scored by this revolution is in the first place directed against the United States, which so far sponsored the toppled regime, and wanted it as a strong ally and defender of the Zionist entity, and an enemy of the Arab jihad and resistance movements.

So should they ever get near the seats of power (something both Egyptian monarchists and nationalists have been trying for over eighty years to avoid) that would mean big ticks by the Brotherhood to Egypt being a strong enemy both of Israel and the U.S. (and presumably pretty much everywhere else in the west who trades, supports or visits these places), and a strong ally and defender of jihad.

So much then for the cry for freedom.

UPDATE 1: Quoting Olivier Roy, Matthew Iglesias argues that people in Tahrir Square were marching for real freedom,

_Quote“This new generation isn’t interested in ideology, their slogans are all pragmatic and
concrete; they don’t speak of Islam the way their predecessors did in Algeria in the late
    1980s. Above all they reject corrupt dictators and demand democracy. That’s not to say
    that the demonstrators are secular, but simply that they don’t see Islam as a political
    ideology to be used to create a better order, they’re well inside a secular political space.”
    This [says Yglesias] is a continuation of Roy’s work over the past several years on “the failure of political Islam.”
    The basic idea here is that in part thanks to the example of Iran, you just don’t have a mass constituency that’s prepared to believe that Islam or Islamic rule offers answers to the concrete problems of poverty, corruption, and slow economic growth.
    People may be religiously observant or culturally conservative in ways that western liberals (or even western cultural conservatives) would find alarming, but the Egyptian people are asking “where are the jobs?” and don’t think the answer is going to be found in the Koran.

Hat tip Dim Post, who points out that “revolutions do have a tendency to get derailed…”

UPDATE 2: Historian Niall Ferguson explains some uncomfortable truths about the outcome of the Egyptian revolution—and of the Obama Administration’s handling of it. [Hat tip reader Michael]

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Welcome Great Pumpkin


How much would you pay for one pumpkin?

The question is academic: you’ve already paid for it. It cost you $317,278.

A Community Max scheme for a Far North vegetable garden [set up by Paula Bennett’s ministry]reaped only one pumpkin, it was alleged last night. The four-acre project – pitched as employing eight unskilled young workers with two supervisors – was … given a $317,278 subsidy to employ 24 workers… The ministry had said the garden was providing food to the elderly but, when 3News visited, there was only one pumpkin.

It gets better.  There are hundreds of these make-work projects around the country, from a sewing circle in Kawerau allegedly repairing clothes for second-hand clothes shops (of which none could be produced), to a bunch of mobile phone users in Wellington allegedly texting defendants remind them to show up in court (of which no texts .

All up, around 4500 folk around the country “employed” in hundreds of programmes like these were paid $38 million dollars to do things that nobody ever checked were done.

paula-bennett-600But why should anyone even bother to check? The intent of the multi-million dollar scheme was not to get things done, Minister Paula Bennett told 3News last night, it was to get unemployed people learning about “getting up every morning,” about “showing up to work on time,” about getting a regular pay cheque. 

It was, in short, to teach them a “work ethic”—an “ethic” based on getting a pay cheque for producing nothing, paid for by duping naive politicians.

These are the “outcomes” this programme is buying, according to Minister Bennett.

Minister Bennett is happy with the scheme—just as Sir Humphrey Appleby’s administrators were with their award-winning hospital that served no patients.

So too of course will Keynesians be happy, those advocates of big-spending who measure industry not by how much it produces by how much it consumes. (“Pyramid-building, earthquakes, even wars may serve to increase wealth” said Keynes, if nothing better comes along. Like pumpkins.) The only beef these alleged economists would have with these schemes would be they haven’t consumed enough.

Taxpayers however won’t be so happy. There are things they could have produced with that money, including jobs, if it hadn’t been taken instead to give to non-workers to produce nothing.

Someone should hollow out that pumpkin and put it on Bennett’s desk to help remind her whose money she’s spending, and on what.

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Racism doesn’t come cheap

The Auckland Council's new race-based Independent Maori Statutory Board, set up under Rodney Hide's super-sized city council legislation to "advise" the new Council, is instead going to take it to court—demonstrating concisely the role it plans for itself in the new structure: as an expensive race-based thorn in the side of Auckland’s new body politic.

Board chairman David Taipari—who had clearly been looking forward to disposing of of $5.4 million over twenty months will instead have to manage on only $3 million—insists that Rodney Hide’s law requires that ratepayers “meet the board's reasonable costs.” The first cost ratepayers will begin meeting is the cost of the board’s lawyers.

Marvellous, don’t you think?

But it gets better.

An outraged John Tamihere, who’s scored himself the lucrative role of Funding and Planning Committee Chairman for the new super-sized Council, told Morning Report this morning this was “the first time Maori had the right to participate in a council,” and it would brook no dissent—saying the Maori Board was determined if necessary to “relitigate” the legislation setting it up.

Tamihere is a self-serving fuckwit.

This is not the first time Maori have been given racial preference in law to interfere with a council’s business. The Hamilton and Porirua City Councils and the Marlborough District Council all have set up mechanisms by which racial interference can be effected, and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council has since 2001 reserved three race-based council seats for Maori.

And the sorts of threats Tamihere and Taipari are throwing around make it clear the sort of role they see for the un-elected Board.

And that’s not simply to issue “advice,” is it. No, this is, for them, a real race-based power grab. One for which money (yours) is no object. Mike Lee explains the issue, in case you’ve missed it:

_Quote_Idiot Mike Lee … said what happened would influence the constitutional development of the country.

This issue is that important.

Yes it is.

He does mean it.

So let us pause for a moment to thank the legislators, politicians and intellectuals over many years who have so naively made it all possible.

And thank especially those braindead morons who wrote this recent legislation.

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Monday, 14 February 2011

‘Perpetual Blue, by Horacio Cardozo


by Horacio Cardozo, an Argentine artist now resident in Sydney. Check out more of his work at his website—including this cunning wee canvas. [Hat tip Julian D.]


History’s biggest bastard

maofaminebook I don’t know about you, but  I’m constantly amazed at the frequency with which Chinese friends and acquaintances use words to describe Mao ZeDong like “great,” “heroic,” and “he saved China”—when you and I would be more inclined to use words like “murderer,” “thug,” “butcher,” or “history’s biggest bastard.”

Frank Dikötter [via Bryan Caplan] reminds us that instead of all those pictures of Mao that are still hung up around China, the fat genocidal megalomaniac should instead have been hung himself by the nearest lamp post, and at the earliest opportunity.

Mao enslaved hundreds of millions, and killed by the tens of millions.  At least 45 million by forced starvation. At least 2.5 million beaten or tortured to death.  That’s death both by direct order and by depraved indifference.

That people still call this stain on the twentieth-century a hero some thirty-four years after his death is a tragic indication of how well state indoctrination does its job.

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Global warming quips. Get acclimatised!

That’s the way to treat those skeptics.

Hat tip Prodos.

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“The planet is fine … ”

Hippy wisdom from George Carlin.  He sure has his moments.

Oh, don’t turn it up too loud if your boss is around. She might get a few surprises.