Thursday, July 14, 2011

NOT PJ: The Labour of Subdivision

_BernardDarntonThis week Bernard Darnton looks for a new house and discovers that Christchurch is a handyman's dream.

People think I’m mad to be looking for a house in Christchurch at the moment. But the entire property market’s just been thrown up in the air - literally - and it might be possible to grab a bargain from a “motivated vendor.”

We looked at a property that may meet that criterion over the weekend. It has large rooms, plenty of outside space, and fields either side. It’s zoned “Rural 5” and the barbeque area has a serene country outlook, populated by a few happy lambs.

CaptureCloser inspection of the District Plan reveals that “Rural 5” is whimsically nicknamed “Airport Influences”. If there’s one thing I like more than serenity it’s being on the final approach for lumbering military transports returning from Antarctica.

I reckon it’s a reminder of man’s ability to build lumbering military transports that return from Antarctica.

I have nothing but gobsmacked admiration for the extraordinary, distorted-reality world-view of real estate agents. I cannot imagine matching the incredible heights of optimism they reach, where it’s always sunny and the air’s a bit thin. One place we looked at fronted onto State Highway 1. When I expressed some concern about ever being able to get in or out of the driveway, the agent told me that the good news was that the road was being widened from two lanes to four, which would make access easier because I’d have more lanes to choose from.
Apparently there has never been a better time to buy. In fact, we should buy every property we look at - right now. According to one agent, I absolutely have to buy a place in the next month because after that all the houses in the red zone are going to be demolished and the government is going to tip hundreds of millions of dollars into the property market. I’ll be competing with ten thousand other people for every sale.

Fortunately, I am also counter-assured by Christchurch’s silky-tongued mayor Bob Parker that there’s nothing to worry about because there are 20,000 sections around Christchurch ready to be built on. Well, almost 20,000. Almost ready. By “20,000” he means maybe up to 10,000. At a push. And by “almost ready” he means stuck in an endless loop of consents, notifications, objections, consultations, hearings, and reports.

Even where development is almost certain to occur there are still conditions to be met. And often those conditions are conditions the developers can’t meet because they’re waiting for - guess who - the council. The Prestons Road development can’t go ahead until a new sewer main is built - a council job. Part of Wigram Skies is waiting on the completion of the Western Interceptor (another sewer line) and the Southern Corridor (a road). These last two are at least under construction. Other developments are frozen in similar states.

Even when the critical infrastructure eventually comes into existence, the council forces developers to develop things that nobody wants. Zoning rules set a minimum density for new developments meaning that, for every 600 square metre section that somebody wants, developers also have to provide a 300 square metre section that’s much harder to sell. It’s deeply unfashionable for chickens to live too close together but allowing humans free range in the suburbs is a no-no.

The question of whether my house-buying plans are thwarted by displaced hordes from the Eastern suburbs probably comes down to two things. First: who has the slower bureaucracy? Central government, with it’s red zone payout? Or the city council, with its tortuous consents process? And second, will Roger Sutton, CEO of CERA, use his awesome powers to slash through Christchurch’s Gordian knot of red tape and open up new lands?

We know the demand is coming. Will there be any supply?

Read Bernard Darnton’s column every week here at NOT PC. Except when you can’t.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

GUEST POST: Stateless Standards

Regular readers will have noticed that I’ve been a bit distracted recently, the reason for which is mostly that I’ve been moving into a new office in Dominion Road (about which more in due course), and partly because local politics is presently so lack-lustre it’s barely worth commenting on. 

But rather than disappoint both of you regulars by having just spartan offerings scattered across the blog, I’ve decided instead to seize the opportunity to post a few of the more provocative pieces from the earlier pages of Not PC and The Free Radical magazine. So here, from the 1996 pages of what was then Lindsay Perigo’s Free Radical, is a classic by the curmudgeonly Bob Jones.

main-resized-6130029559-bobjonesStateless Standards

The debate following publication of my book Prosperity Denied* has exposed the real beliefs of those who support the Reserve Bank Act while purporting to be market adherents.  What in fact they believe in is nothing more than private ownership. But ownership is meaningless if subject to controls and taxation.

As I explained in my book, true market believers recognise that all economic laws impede the market’s functioning** and ultimately result in the opposite outcome of that intended.

For example, let us imagine there were no health and hygiene laws applying to restaurants or no building standards***, and consider the possible outcome.

The socialist, with his inherent contempt for individuals capability of making their own judgements, would claim the outcome would be mass poisoning.  Indeed, it goes without saying by inference, that anyone who supports the current regime of restaurant health standards has that view, otherwise he would not see the need for such regulations.  But is he correct?

If there were no standards regime, undoubtedly and inevitably some customers would be poisoned and some even die.

But mindful of that possibility, people would simply not eat out—at least in theory.

Yet, as is evident, people do want to eat out—and it’s here the market would swing into play, filling the void of people’s desires.

What would eventuate would be Moody’s or Standard & Poors type rating organisations establishing their own hygiene codes****, which would probably be similar to the existing ones currently monitored by local government inspectors.

So why bother, you ask?

Well, the answer is the same as always when it comes to comparing the relative performance of private and public ownership.

A private standards setting and policing organisation, unlike the current public one, would be more efficient and therefore cheaper, and more effective.

The public health inspector will always be more lenient on offenders for a variety of reasons.  Currently a non-compliant kitchen owner is issued a notice allowing him a period of time to correct the problem, but still allowing him to carry on business.  A private entity could not afford that risk.  Non-compliance would mean the immediate withdrawal of the rating certificate, perhaps in the form of a colourful sign displayed in the door just like credit card signs.  If it wasn’t there then customers would shy away.

The net result: higher standards and lower policing costs, and also a fairer user-pay cost burden.  The cost of the current inspector system falls on all rate payers.  This way, the cost would be incurred by restaurant owners and be borne, albeit indirectly, by restaurant patrons.

A lax inspectorate would risk their entire business and additionally, given a poisoning occurrence, could open up the ratings entity to a damages action.

And what of restaurants not participating?  I doubt if any would survive but should they, well, the customers accepted the risk with open eyes and any consequence would be their problem alone.  The market economy is all about individuals making their own uninterfered-with decisions, weighing risks, and bearing the consequences of their judgements.

Frankly, I doubt any restaurants would survive if they didn’t buy a rating company’s services.

Exactly the same thing can be said about building standards, like restaurants, administered at great cost***** and generally inefficiently with only a marginal (and therefore unfair) user-pay aspect.

Who would buy a high-rise apartment, or even an ordinary bungalow, if it didn’t comply with an established ratings organisation’s standards?

Who would rent a factory, apartment or office if it didn’t have a compliance certificate?

The answer is: nobody.

Yet building controls and the permit and inspection system unnecessarily remain in public control, are notoriously inefficient and, in not being user-pays, are inequitable.

There’s a general belief that New Zealand enjoys a market economy, yet nothing could be further from the truth.  On a scale of one to ten, we’re probably only on the second rung at best.

Currently, all that can be said about the New Zealand economy is that it’s a private ownership, private enterprise system, but a market economy it ain’t.  Basically, it’s fascist, with its private ownership structure subject to a mass of directions, licensing and other control factors vested in central and local government.

* * * * *

* The book was a full-blooded attack on what was then Don Brash’s Reserve Bank, and the Reserve Bank Act that set it up (partly, it must be said, because as a developer-as-was Bob fancied a bit of inflation). A decade-and-a-half after publication, sitting midst the wreckage that the Reserve Bank’s meddling with the money supply created, you’d have to say Bob is at least partially vindicated.

** Especially those that set up a Banking Czar to dictate market rates!

*** A situation contemplated by at least a few intelligent types in the Department of Building and Housing. (And it’s not often I’ll use words like “intelligent” and “Department of Building and Housing” in the same sentence.)

**** That is to say, Moody’s or Standard & Poors type rating organisations without the sort of govt monopoly that  Moody’s and Standard & Poors enjoy, and without which their incompetence in the financial crisis would have been duly punished by the market—if indeed they had not already been punished for manifest prior incompetence.

***** And, as the leaky homes fiasco proved, at great (and unnecessary) financial risk to ratepayers.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

PERIGO!

Here’s the Perigo! TV show’s interview with staunch freedom fighter and retiring Business Roundtable head Roger Kerr, from last week’s show. 

An intelligent discussion of revolution, reform and Capitalism Derangement Syndrome, all topped off with some beautiful music.

In short, just exactly the sort of show that the likes of Martin Bradbury could never begin to understand—or appreciate.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: On non-“Maorification” and beyond

_McGRathLibertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath invites you to come on down to his surgery for an inoculation against this week’s stories and headlines on issues affecting our freedom.
This week: A tale of two Ansells

  • NZ HERALD: “Act ad man quits after blasting 'apartheid'”:  Former ACT marketing 'guru' John Ansell has been sent packing by Don Brash following his airing of outspoken views on pre- and post-European Maori and the government's attitude to Maori cultural values…

THE DOCTOR SAYS: John Ansell is perfectly entitled to hold opinions of any kind. Whether he should have shared these in his previous capacity as a representative of the ACT Party is a matter for ACT leader Don Brash to decide - which he did. Rightly.So, what does the Libertarianz Party think about Ansell's comments? Initially, Mr Ansell's name rang a bell, and a quick online search reminded me that one Colin Ansell (formerly King-Ansell) had been the leader at various times of the NZ version of Britain's National Front.

John Ansell has no connection to Colin Ansell beyond his name. But in perusing the websites of the haters while pursuing the bell-ringing, I noticed a few interesting things that strongly distinguish intelligent libertarians from the shaven-headed race-baiters.  A perusal of the NZ National Front's policies, for instance, as outlined on Wikipedia, reveals just how different far-right parties are from the libertarian ethos of small government and maximum freedom:

    • There are a few area of commonality - the fascists want abolition of the Waitangi Treaty; Libertarianz would respect the Treaty as a historical but outdated document which should not be the basis for assigning rights and responsibilities. These should be based on a constitution that champions individual rights and does not allow for race-based legislation.
    • And they claim to want the abolition of institutionalised political correctness - as does Libertarianz - but I wonder if instead the fascists want to replace the current multicultural form of PC with their own white Anglo-Saxon nationalist version.
    • The fascists want a ban on foreign ownership and control of New Zealand assets. In this, they would of course have the support of Jane Kelsey, John Minto and the other CAFCA xenophobes. The Libertarianz Party believes in free trade and would welcome investment from overseas, just as it would push for New Zealanders to be able to invest in foreign markets.
    • The fascists want government to enforce the maintenance of Western Judeo-Christian morality and values; Libertarianz believes Government should not be endorsing any particular cultural values, and just as it would not promote "Westernisation" neither would it promote "Maorification."
    • The fascists are opposed to the immigration of people with non-Western values, and advocate the deportation of Asians, Africans and people from the Middle East (which would no doubt include Jews). Libertarianz would welcome the arrival of anyone willing to obey the laws of the land. In a society with a privatised welfare system, immigrants would not pose the sort of threat to the economy that currently exists when the newly arrived are corrupted by the availability of unconditional money obtained from other New Zealanders by force.
    • The fascists want an apartheid arrangement where "Maori" and "white" cultures enjoy separate governance. Impossible without a partitioning of races/cultures. The Libertarianz Party want the opposite - a blending together of all New Zealanders with mutual respect by all for the (individual) rights of others.
    • The fascists want State acquisition of the Reserve Bank - Libertarianz utterly oppose state ownership of any banks, believing in free banking independent of political interference. The Reserve Bank would be shut down by a Libertarianz government under which there would be no such entity as a central bank. Interest rates and money supply would be determined by allowing a free market in banking and by prosecuting counterfeiting of the type practiced by our Reserve Bank.
    • The fascists want a withdrawal from free trade agreements - in fact from all international trade! Yes,a fortress New Zealand, as favoured by Jim Anderton. A recipe for stagnation, poverty, starvation, famine and death.
    • The fascists want organic farming supported by state subsidies - the Greens would love them. Libertarianz would call a halt to political interference in the farming sector and in research and development. Organic farming would have to stand or fall on its own merits. There would be no favouritism toward any particular business model.
    • The fascists, in line with the Catholic church and conservative lobbyists, oppose women having control over their bodies and being able to procure safe, legal abortions. The Libertarianz Party believe a woman's body is her own and as such should have total ownership and control over everything within it.  
    • The fascists, like the left wing of the Labour Party, Minto, Kelsey et al, want New Zealand to withdraw from ANZUS. Actually, that may not be a bad thing given President Obama's past links to communists and racists, and signs that Julia Gillard's premiership may be brief due to her abandonment of rational thought.
    • The fascists want to reintroduce capital punishment - the Libertarianz Party opposes capital punishment, believing that governments should not violate the individual rights of their citizens by killing them, instead enforcing restorative justice.
    • And of course the fascists want compulsory military training, as trumpeted by the Winston Peters Party. Lots of young people marching around in brown shorts carrying huge flags and saluting The Leader. Fortunately, because it opposes slavery of any sort, there would be no CMT under a Libertarianz government. The army would be small during peacetime and made up of volunteers.
    • I would wager the fascists would also advocate the prosecution of anyone self-medicating without Nanny's permission, just like National, Labour, the Greens, Maori Party, the Anderton and Peters Parties, Peter Dunne-Nothing and even ACT. They would probably want homosexuality recriminalised. Libertarianz believes the sovereign is individuals and thus that adults should be able to make decisions for themselves about such things as medication and sexual preference. The other parties don't trust New Zealanders and want to treat them like children.
      Only the Libertarianz Party believes in treating New Zealanders aged over 18 years as adults. Under a Libertarianz administration, the only activities that would be banned are those that cause harm to others. Anyone got a problem with that?

John Ansell did get two things dead right.

First, Prime Minister John Key is an incompetent economic manager - Bill English is still borrowing a billion dollars every three weeks.

Second, the National Party have abandoned - betrayed - their stated values. Key, English and most, if not all, of the National Party caucus are quislings, interested only in the retention of power at any price. Disgusting specimens of humanity, corrupted by the baubles of office. Why anyone would waste their vote on these cockroaches is beyond me.

The alternative to choking down the bile as one ticks the box next to your local National drone this November is to vote for a Libertarianz candidate. There is a candidate in Epsom who left Auckland ratepayers with a debt equal to what Bill English borrows every fortnight, and he may just find himself reminded of this as election day draws closer by someone from Libertarianz. Watch this space.

And, before anyone takes umbrage, I don't believe John Ansell is related in any way to the former leader of the far-right lunatic fringe National Front head cases.  But what I found when I confirmed the lack of connection was interesting enough to comment.

See you next wwek
Doc McGrath

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