Friday, 11 January 2013

Peter Schiff: Inflation propaganda exposed

“The CPI is no longer a tool to accurately measure inflation,” says Peter Schiff in his latest video blog, “but an instrument of propaganda the government uses to hide accelerating inflation from the public and financial markets. Modest CPI increases over the past several years do not reflect an absence of inflation, but a design flaw in the index that fails to fully capture the magnitude of price increases. Central bankers drawing economic conclusions regarding inflation and monetary policy based on this highly flawed data point are making a major policy error.”

Have prices been inflating in recent years? While they do their best to ignore the effect of monetary expansion on house and stock prices, if alleged economists like Paul Krugman bought their own damned groceries sometimes they might better appreciate that they have been.

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SUMMER REPRISE: Fiji: Just scratching a living in paradise

I wrote this post back in 2008, with some hope for Fiji’s future—hope not (so far) borne out by developments, as even this morning’s news demonstrates.
One wonders how it might have been otherwise  if New Zealand and Australian politicians had helped instead of hindered Fiji’s necessary constitutional reform over the last half-dozen years since Bainimarama’s coup—or even if they understood the purpose of a constitution at all.

It was the hand plough that got to me most.  There on the main road between two of Fiji's main cities, just minutes from a major town in an area locals proudly call 'Fiji's Salad Bowl,' a man was scratching a living -- or trying to -- on a small handkerchief of land, putting his body through exertions for which it was never intended simply to keep himself and his family somewhat fed, partially clothed and trying to pay the rent on this field and the tiny shack that occupied one corner.

It was like something out of the Middle Ages, which is a pretty fair description of the near-feudal system of land tenure that governs nearly ninety percent of Fiji's land, and which keeps most of the population in poverty -- from the 'squatters' themselves who struggle to survive, to the indigineous squattocracy who can take only pennies from their tenants, to the ten-percent of the population who've been driven from their short-term leases (the only form of ownership allowed to Indo-Fijians) and who now live in shameful conditions in Fiji's cities, excluded as they are from the "mainstream" of Fijian economic life by racist laws, and a racist constitution.

Ironically, the "system" so described was put in place by the paternalistic first colonial governor, Arthur Gordon, who wished to ensure that Fiji didn't turn into New Zealand.  Contrast that man with his hand plough barely deeding his own family with our own machanised agriculture feeding the world, and you can see  just how well he succeeded.

What Gordon wanted was to protect native Fijians from the winds of the modern world. What he did however was to remove any possibility of Fiji itself  ever growing up and being part of that world.  What he introduced was a racially-based constitution dominated by an hereditary based Great Council of Chiefs, and a system of land tenure for most of the country that ensures no one has any genuine rights, and no possibility of economic improvement.  In 1913, US Justice Joseph McKenna declared,

The conception of property is exclusive possession, enjoyment and disposition [by which is meant to include the right to sell].  Take away these rights and you take all that there is of property.  Take away any of them and you take property to that extent. 

Three decades earlier, Gordon set in place a system of property in Fiji that ensured real property was taken away from everyone. One lot was given just the shadow of ownership, and the other was given just the shadow of possession and occupation.  Of real property rights, no-one got either.  If public ownership leads to no public accountability, then how about no real ownership at all.

squatter03Imagine if secure title to land existed only in 8.2% of this country, New Zealand.  Imagine if most of the balance was Maori land, with the same system of collective 'ownership' that Maori landholdings have; with all the restrictions on individual ownership that make it impossible to sell, borrow against or develop the land-- with all the false pride that the ruling chiefs like to demand for themselves -- and with the added hindrance that all this land is 'administered' by bureaucrats from a Native Trust Lands Board, who lease small plots out short-term to smallholders like my friend above who make barely enough to keep their own bellies fed, let alone having enough left over to sustain a landlord, and who distribute these meagre 'earnings' to tribal chiefs to distribute it as alms.

It makes the sort of impoverished shanties you see on Northland Maori land look positively luxurious -- and if the same mad land law had been effected over nearly ninety percent of the country here, as it was in Fiji, then those same shanties would be here too over most of the land, and the Maori Browntable here would be as violently opposed to reform of the system as are Fiji’s tribal chiefs.

But then add something else as well to the Fijian picture: these small short-lease-holders are primarily the descendants of "girmit" indentured workers brought over from India at the behest of colonial governors from Gordon on, with few rights either electorally or in property, and the holders of their leases are primarily natives, resentful of the low rents the Native Trust Lands Board distributes, and of the immigrant population who occupies 'their' land with so little to show for it.

One side is barred from decent access to their own land, while the other is refused secure rights and barred from any means of securing the capital or landholdings that might allow properly industrialised agriculture to develop. (You can read here something of the history and details of Fiji's feudal land tenure system, if system it can be called.)

No wonder everyone is resentful.  No wonder there's a 'coup culture.'  No wonder there's so little prosperity, and we witness -- if our eyes are open to it -- the tragic existence of Fiji's squatters, mostly dispossessed Indo-Fijians who racist law has barred from owning land, and who previous governments have left at the mercy of shifting racial, economic and political tides, and of the indigenous Fijians who aren't politically connected, for whom a lifetime of poverty is the only expectation.

No wonder one of the main Fijian exports is people -- whether sportsmen or soldiers or as emigrants just getting  the hell out -- and one of the main imports is tourists -- who avert their eyes from the poverty on the way to resorts on (mostly) freehold land all along the beautiful coastline, gifted to regime donors and well away from the poverty elsewhere.

Despite the condemnations of Pacific leaders like Helen Clark, who has her own racist laws and shifting racial, economic and political tides to navigate, all the evidence I've seen suggests Fiji's interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama might be on the right track, and much of the country seems to understand that.  Writing last year in January's Time magazine, Elizabeth Keenan argued::

   When military commander Frank Bainimarama seized power in Suva on Dec. 5, he was instantly denounced by Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., the E.U., the U.N. and the Commonwealth. Exiled Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase continues to vent outrage by phone from his island village, but his countrymen don't seem to be rallying. Soldiers at checkpoints receive abuse, but also smiles, handshakes, food and flowers. Some staunch democrats who condemned George Speight's botched coup in 2000 find themselves endorsing the aims of this takeover, if not the assault rifles that made it possible. The Methodist Church and the Great Council of Chiefs, bastions of indigenous society, have urged Fijians—including Qarase—to support the multiracial interim government "for the betterment of the nation." Writing in the Fiji Times, Catholic Archbishop Peter Mataca called Australia and New Zealand's shunning of the Bainimarama administration "regrettable and shallow." Some Fijians, he wrote, believe democracy and the rule of law "were abused and circumvented long before the military ousted the Qarase government."
In Fiji, it seems, not all coups are equally offensive...
    Qarase's elected government was seen as caring most about the happiness of indigenous Fijians. Bainimarama's force-backed government aims to make Fijians of all races happy. If—and it's a huge if—he can implement his idealistic program, he might just have pulled off the coup to end all Fiji coups.

From what I've seen, that's his explicit intention.  Sure, progress hasn't been as fast as anyone would have hoped -- allowing Clark and Australia's Kevin Rudd to posture as 'democrats' by berating Bainimarama for not yet holding free elections -- but progress has been made, even as measured by 'Fiji Time,' and a 'Draft People's Charter' that's not all bad news is now touring the country gathering support.

The Charter is backed by some hard-headed analysis, underpinned by recognition, for example, that "The economic growth rate in Fiji has been in long term decline since Independence – and the rate of decline is getting faster."

    There are [many] factors that weakened the pace of economic growth... The key among these other factors include a major property rights problem relating to the availability of leasehold land, the lack of investment in infrastructure, incompatible and inconsistent policies in some areas, and a weak legal environment for business.
    Many of these latter issues raise questions about the role of the Government in the economy. In the view of many people, the Government is over-dominant in the economy; i.e. it should reconsider its role if it wishes to achieve stronger growth, greater equity, and sustainability.

I am one of those people.  Government administers most of the land, most of the business and gets to allow or disallow most of the enterprise.  No wonder there isn't much.  Bureaucratic management works as badly in Fiji as everywhere else, and enterprise is further stifled by the lack of secure property rights removing one of the primary means by which feudalism is transformed into capitalism.

Property rights are more important than democracy.  No question.  What's crucial in Fiji is not democracy per se, but real secure property rights that will allow real capital to transform the lives of both squatters and squattocracy. Fijian-Indian activist Thakur Ranjit Singh argues that "democracies that are devoid of or lacking in granting freedom, rights and equality to all its citizens and those without social justice are not worth defending. Qarase's regime that Bainimarama removed was an epitome of such a democracy..."  Singh argues that military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama had saved Fiji from becoming "another Zimbabwe" with serious abuses of human rights and social justice.  Yes, there's been beatings and violations of free speech, which we must all deplore, but it's worth making the point that if he's to be believed (and the more I've seen of him the more I do believe him) then Bainimarama is genuinely if bumblingly trying to right a real wrong: the wrong of corruption in Government, and of a racist Fijian Government system that has in the past favoured indigenous, well-connected Fijians over other citizens -- and it's worth noting that at least some of the resistance to him is along racist lines. This post and comment by a native Fijian writing at The Rotten State of Fiji blog gives some idea:

    Frank has gone completely mad! ...
    A lot of stupid Indians here continue to support Frank and his cronies. This isn't helped by the vengeful mob of Indians settled overseas in Australia and NZ. In the media, they continue to support Frank. In fact, I reckon, Australia and NZ should send those lot back to Fiji and ban them from returning. (Comment: I am with you...this coup was pro Indians and these stupid lot should be sent back to their motherland ... just like Butadroka said, quote Indians will always be Indians...unquote.)
Tim Wikiriwhi argued in The Free Radical last year that Bainimarama's coup wasn't just another power grab, that it had a point in principle:
    Bainimarama’s coup is the complete opposite of the previous three coups, each of which attempted to establish absolutely the UN’s apartheid agenda for "indigenous rights." Whereas Rabuka and Speight were acting to cement the racist laws that raised indigenous Fijians over other Fijians, Bainimarama is a defender of the principle of equality.
Bainimarama said he was compelled to act against the government because corruption had flourished under Qarase, whom he himself appointed after the 2000 coup, and because of proposed laws that would grant pardons to plotters in a 2000 coup and hand lucrative land rights to indigenous Fijians at the expense of the large ethnic Indian minority

Wikiriwhi points to words such as these from the Commodore: “We want to rid the constitution of provisions that facilitate and exacerbate the politics of race,” arguing that

    In seeking to put a permanent end to the racist Fijian electoral system and to permanently abolish laws that grant favouritism to indigenous racists, he is in my estimation worthy of praise and support...
In seeking to permanently abolish laws that grant favouritism to indigenous racists, you're unlikely however to attract the support of the racists themselves.

And what point is democracy anyway without individual rights?  As author Tom Bethell points out, property rights and the rule of law must come first.  What you need first is the rule of law as it was developed in England -- and then denied to England's new subjects in places like Fiji by governors like Gordon.

    If you can get that without democracy, as the Hong Kong Chinese did, maybe you are in business. Democracy, especially at the early stages of development, will only mess things up.  You don't need full liberty of speech either--they certainly didn't have it in Adam Smith's England ...
    To get the political architecture right, you must do things in the right order. It is not hard to understand that to build a house, you have to bring in and assemble the parts in the right sequence. Something like that applies politically as well. I once heard Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto point out that when the correct laws are not in place (as is true all over the Third World), and the people cannot get clear title to land, the construction of informal housing will take place in reverse order. Squatters bring furniture with them; then they put up a makeshift roof, then walls, finally if they're lucky they may get a utility hookup. Foundations are probably never built. In the same way, instant democracy disorders the political economy. Democracy is something that should come later rather than earlier.
    What is needed first is a system of law that treats everyone equally, penalizes wrongdoers, and gives security to property and its exchange by contract. This will foster a sense of justice and encourage people to be productive.

fijiWhile imperfect, it looks to me like Fiji's 'Draft People's Charter' is a step down that necessary track.  Sure, prosperity has its own problems, but as we flew back to New Zealand on Tuesday and looked down on the prosperous New Zealand landscape, it should have been clear even to the most jaundiced green eye that a land with industrialised agriculture and houses derided as "McMansions" offers a lot more comfortable existence than one -- no matter how good the coast looks in the travel brochures -- whose interior is filled with shanties and squats, and is scratched over by people with hand ploughs.


On becoming a Maori

A friend highly recommends this doco:

It's gold … an Inside NZ doco that got shuttered into daytime death slot while Inside NZ re-runs took to primetime. So perhaps it contains some too-close-to-home truths. 
Oh, it's on becoming a Maori to get funding. Hilarious.

[Hat tip Michael D.]

Gerald Melling, architect (1943-2012)

Wellington architect Gerald Melling died over the summer break.

These two gems, posted before here at NOT PC, are two of my favourites of his work.

'Split Box' House - Melling:Morse Architects

House by Gerard Melling and Allan Morse on a secluded site in Tuateawa Bay, Coromandel.

Two mezzanine rooms looking over a double-height living space – and an outside toilet.  Of course.

Simple, yet effective.

The Modern Residential Design blog calls it “seaside loft style living.”  It doesn’t mention the quality of the seaside.

  The reasons for the house's name should be obvious enough.

'Samurai' House – Melling:Morse Architects

The 'Samurai' House by Melling Morse Architects, a "small, simple house amongst the trees of a tiny suburban forest" in Silverstream, for a "celebrated martial arts exponent." [2003]

Small, yet perfectly formed.  Like a small well-crafted jewel box, don’t you think?

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Thursday, 10 January 2013

The Victorian Bushfires: How Environmentalism Leads to Disaster

Photo of Ben    O'NeillAfter the 2009 Victorian bushfires, which killed 209 people, Ben O’Neill (right) wrote this piece for the Mises Daily, where it first appeared. Nothing he describes has changed since, either politically or environmentally.

On February 7, 2009, and in the week that followed, bushfires ignited across Victoria, in Australia.[1] The fires raged through many towns, destroying at least 1,834 homes,[2] and killing at least 209 people,[3]more fatalities than any bushfire in Australian history.[4]

Let's compare: in the 1983 "Ash Wednesday" bushfires, seventy-five people died; in the 1939 "Black Friday" bushfires, seventy-one died; in all previous bushfires in Australia, back to data on bushfires in the 17th century, there were a total of 642 fatalities.[5] In short, Australia has just experienced what is far and away the most devastating bushfire in its history.

Victorian Bush FireWhile the immediate causes of the various bushfires are thought to include arson, discarded cigarette butts, faulty power lines, or lightning strikes, these initial fires transformed into huge infernos and spread uncontrollably across Victoria only because of extremely high fuel loads throughout the state's bushland. The reason? For years, local governments have neglected to manage fire hazards on their land in order to be faithful to the principles of environmentalism — a philosophy that contends that nature has intrinsic value that must be preserved, regardless of any use it has to man.[6] The result has been that people have sacrificed their prosperity and even survival in an attempt to preserve the unspoiled sanctity of nature.

In the case of land management, environmentalists have invoked the alleged intrinsic value of nature to oppose the controlled burning of bushland, the clearing of vegetation and the prevention of excessive fire hazards in government-controlled land and adjacent private property. They have lobbied governments to prohibit the clearing of trees and shrubs and have been eternally hostile to all attempts to reduce the "bounty of nature" that has stoked the deadly fires that have spread across Victoria.

How Environmentalism Contributed to the Bushfires

Under the influence of the philosophy of environmentalism, as well as political pressure from environmentalist groups and an "environmentally conscious" electorate, local councils have refused for years to clear the vegetation that has now served as fuel for lethal infernos. The modus operandi of these bureaucrats and their ecosupporters has been to insist on "rigorous" environmental assessments, which in envirospeak means, assessments that continue until reasons have been found to prevent any interference with the natural state of public land. In addition to perpetually stalling any clearing of trees or vegetation, government councils have also prohibited people from clearing trees and vegetation from their own property, aggressively pursuing those who break environmental-protection laws that place the "welfare" of trees above the property rights and safety of people.

imageIn 2002, Liam Sheahan, a resident of Reedy Creek in Victoria, was prosecuted for disregarding local laws and bulldozing approximately 250 trees on his own property to make a fire break next to his home.[7] Council laws prohibited Mr. Sheahan from clearing trees further than six meters away from his house, but he went ahead with his decision to create a 100 meter fire break. During the resulting prosecution, bushfire expert Dr. Kevin Tolhurst testified on Mr. Sheahan's behalf, telling the court that the clearing had reduced the fire risk to Mr. Sheahan's home from extreme to moderate. According to Mr. Sheahan, "The council stood up in court and made us to look like the worst, wanton environmental vandals on the earth. We've got thousands of trees on our property. We cleared about 247." Mr. Sheahan's prosecution cost him $100,000 in fines and legal fees, but when the bushfires swept through his town in February 2009, his actions were vindicated — his home was the only property left standing in a two-kilometer area, while neighboring properties were destroyed. His disregard for environmental laws saved his home and the lives of his family.

Warwick Spooner was not so lucky. His mother and brother were killed as the bushfires consumed their home in Strathewen in Victoria.[8] He was in no doubt as to why the tragedy had occurred, telling the Nillumbik council, "We've lost two people in my family because you dickheads won't cut trees down.… We wanted trees cut down on the side of the road, … and you can't even cut the grass for God's sake."[9] He was not the only one to express such frustrations, with another resident complaining to the council that her repeated requests to reduce vegetation growth on public land had been ignored.

In 2003, bushfire experts Rod Incoll and David Packham argued against planning regulations proposed to the council by environmentalist groups. These regulations, which were passed by the council, included restrictions against the removal of vegetation "and worse still, the requirement for planting vegetation around and almost over houses, as part of any planning permit to build a house in the shire of Nillumbik, so it gave the appearance from the outside of being a forest."[10]

Two weeks before the bushfires, Mr. Packham alerted Victorian residents to the critical fire conditions in the Victorian bush, warning them that bushfires could destroy between 1,000 and 2,000 homes and kill 100 people.[11] This frightening prediction may have sounded alarmist until hundreds were burned to death weeks later. During the fires, Mr. Packham followed up his predictions with an explanation of the carnage. He explained that fuel levels in public land had been allowed to reach dangerous levels due to environmentalist hostility to vegetation removal and controlled burning.

It has been a difficult lesson for me to accept that despite the severe damage to our forests and even a fatal fire in our nation's capital [the Canberra bushfires in 2003], the political decision has been to do nothing that will change the extreme threat to which our forests and rural lands are exposed.… It is hard for me to see this perversion of public policy and to accept that the folk of the bush have lost their battle to live a safe life in a cared-for rural and forest environment, all because of the environmental fantasies of outraged extremists and latte conservationists.[12]

Mr. Packham later branded environmentalists as "eco-terrorists waging a jihad" against prescribed burning, explaining that "[t]he green movement is directly responsible for the severity of these fires through their opposition to prescribed burning."[13]

As these incidents make clear, the negligent and authoritarian actions of local councils have contributed substantially to the severity of the Victorian bushfires. But they are the predictable consequence of a political atmosphere saturated with environmentalist philosophy, environmentalist lobby groups, and an electorate that views the Green party (Australia's third-largest political party) as a benign protest vote, ideal for showing their disaffection with the major political parties. Under such pressure, local councils are faithfully implementing the philosophy of environmentalism, which requires them to reduce humanity's "footprint" on nature, and tells them that the inherent value of non-conscious entities like trees and shrubs is more important than the desires of those rapacious human beings who plunder nature for their own selfish gain.

Response to The Bushfires by Government and Environmentalist Groups

Having failed to achieve damage control in the bushfires through proper land management, the response from government officials has been a predictable game of public-relations damage control. Councils have responded to fierce criticism of their aversion to land clearance and controlled burning with promises that they will reassess their planning and environmental policies. Such promises would sound more genuine if not for the fact that problems of insufficient fuel reduction and controlled burning on public land have been well known for decades. These problems having been highlighted extensively in previous bushfire inquiries, which are a recurring event in a country as prone to bushfires as Australia.[14] For Warwick Spooner, this latest promise of review was little comfort. He told Nillumbik Mayor Bo Bendtsen, "It's too late now mate. We've lost families, we've lost people."[15]

imageAny attempts to increase land clearing and controlled burning to prevent bushfire damage may also face greater constraints from federal environmental laws in the near future. The Department of Environment confirmed that they have received a public submission calling for controlled burning to be listed under federal law as a "key threatening process,"[16] defined as a process that "threatens, or may threaten, the survival, abundance or evolutionary development of a native species or ecological community."[17] Listing would require the minister to consider a threat-abatement plan for controlled burning, to find the most "feasible, effective and efficient way to abate the process."[18] Already listed as a key threatening process is land clearance, including "clearance of native vegetation for crops, improved, [sic] pasture, plantations, gardens, houses, mines, buildings and roads."[19]

Meanwhile, there is no sign of any self-examination by environmentalist groups. Rather than reconsider their cherished environmental-preservation laws, which have helped fuel the fires, environmentalists have taken the bushfires as an opportunity to selectively find evidence of human-induced global warming.[20]

Proponents of this theory have been eagerly pointing out that the bushfires occurred during a heat wave across southeast Australia that has caused record-high temperatures during the summer.

Referring to Australia's especially hot weather in the last twelve years, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong assured the public that "[a]ll of this is consistent with climate change, and all of this is consistent with what scientists told us would happen."[21] For obvious reasons, she did not comment on whether the simultaneous record low temperatures in other parts of the world — such as the United States,[22],[23] Canada,[24] England,[25] France, Italy, Germany,[26] and India[27] — are also "what scientists told us would happen."

Rather than simply removing coercive restrictions that have prevented private landowners from clearing trees on their own property, the government is set to respond to the bushfires by imposing new coercive restrictions. This time, private landowners will be prevented from having trees too close to their property.[28] Thus, having already seized sole power to remove trees and vegetation on private property (on the assumption that property owners are too evil or stupid to be trusted with these decisions) and having thereby forced Victorian residents into a disastrous inferno through their previous regulations, the government is convinced that it is the proper decision-making body to decide when property owners can plant trees.

While this kind of thinking demonstrates the government's boundless arrogance and insatiable desire for control, the danger posed to human life from public-land mismanagement runs much deeper than the specific environmental laws and policies currently in place, or even the laws to come. The root of the problem is the philosophy of environmentalism, which permeates all land-management decisions, guaranteeing hostility to any attempts to interfere with "the balance of nature." Despite having the legal power to undertake controlled burning on its land, the Yarra Ranges Shire in Victoria refused to do this for years before it was hit by the bushfires, instead calling for "rigorous" environmental assessments to determine the breeding seasons of local flora and fauna and the effect on endangered Leadbeater's possums.[29] So long as such considerations remain above concern for human life and liberty, there is little prospect of reducing the impact of natural disasters.

How Private Land Ownership Would Reduce Bushfire Risk

Because private ownership entails the right to control one's own property, and because some people may not wish to sacrifice their lives to prevent interference with local possums, environmentalists seek to achieve their goals through government ownership of land — land socialism. In this endeavor, they have been very successful. State forests, national parks, and other Crown land in Victoria make up approximately one third of the state but contributed four-fifths of the February 2009 bushfires.[30] And as with all examples of land socialism, the situation in Victoria has created an incentive structure that has destroyed accountability, thereby exacerbating the disaster.

As mere caretakers of public land, bureaucrats and local politicians are not liable for any loss caused by their mismanagement. Nor do they have any personal stake in its capital value. When property is destroyed due to their ineptitude and their enslavement to the philosophy of environmentalism, their savings are not in danger. If anyone is required to pay for compensation, it is taxpayers who have had nothing to do with the whole mess. For the local councilor or the state or federal politician, what matters is getting the green vote, showing how "environmentally conscious" they are, and placating all those green lobby groups and media darlings that might say nasty things about them if they don't toe the line.

Had the bushland areas in Victoria been private property, the owner of the land would be subject to a duty of care to his neighbors under tort laws and would be liable for any damage caused to his neighbors' properties by his own negligence. He certainly would not be able to claim as a defense the fact that his own environmental policies make it difficult for him clear vegetation or conduct controlled burning. And as a result, he would have a strong incentive to ensure that the land is properly managed, neither plundered of vegetation to the point that it loses its capital value, nor allowed to overgrow into a dangerous fire hazard.

Had these bushland areas been regarded as unowned land, ripe for homesteading, then adjacent property owners would have been able to clear fire breaks to their hearts' content, homesteading as much land as necessary for a safe buffer between themselves and the bushlands beyond.

imageHad the areas of private property adjacent to these bushlands been treated as genuine private property — unconstrained by coercive regulation — then adjacent property owners would have been able to clear trees and vegetation on their own land, and build facilities to cope with bushfires, without groveling for permission from their political masters. They would not have been inhibited by mountains of regulations and armies of bureaucrats who frustrated their attempts at safety. They certainly would not have been prohibited from clearing vegetation before the fire has burned them out and then prohibited from planting trees after the damage had already been done.

The danger of bushfires and other natural disasters is ever present, but it is not a danger that we must accept passively as an immutable act of nature. It is a danger that can be managed or exacerbated. And it is a danger that is currently exacerbated by the philosophy of environmentalism and the land socialism that is used to implement this philosophy. In describing the California bushfires in 2003, Lew Rockwell diagnoses the problem:

What went wrong? The problem is in the theory of environmentalism. Under it, ownership is the enemy. Nature is an end in itself. So it must be owned publicly, that is, by the state. The state, in its management of this land, must not do anything to it. There must not be controlled burning, brush clearing, clear cutting, or even tourism. We can admire it from afar, but the work of human hands must never intervene.
Then the brush begins to gather. It piles higher and higher. Old growth rots. Uncontrolled growing leads to crowding. When the weather gets hot the stuff combusts. Then the winds blow and the fires spread. It's been the same story for several decades now, ever since the loony theory that nature should be left alone took hold.[31]

So long as governments remain under the sway of environmentalist philosophy and arrogate massive tracts of land to their own inept control, no amount of legal tinkering will prevent the next bushfire. How many more will die then?

Ben O'Neill is a lecturer in statistics at the University of New South Wales (ADFA) in Canberra, Australia. He has formerly practiced as a lawyer and as a political adviser in Canberra. He is a Templeton Fellow at the Independent Institute.

[1] The temperature in Melbourne reached 46.4°C (115.5°F), the highest temperature since records began 150 years ago. Other cities across Victoria also reached record temperatures. See Townsend, H. "City swelters, records tumble in heat," The Age, February 7, 2009.
[2] "Fair trial for accused arsonist," SBS World News Australia, February 14, 2009.
[3] "Victoria bushfire toll rises to 209," The Australian, February 20, 2009.
[4] Huxley, J. "Horrific, but not the worst we've suffered," Sydney Morning Herald, February 11, 2009.
[5] Ibid, Huxley (2009)
[6] See Berliner, M.S. (2007) "Against Environmentalism," Ayn Rand Institute.
[7] Baker, R. and McKensie, M. "Fined for illegal clearing, family now feel vindicated," The Age, February 12, 2009.
[8] Petrie, A. "Angry survivors blame council 'green' policy," The Age, February 11, 2009.
[9] Ibid, Petrie (2009).
[10] "Council ignored warning over trees before Victoria bushfires," The Australian, February 11, 2009
[11] Packham, D. "Victoria bushfires stoked by green vote," The Australian, February 10, 2009.
[12] Ibid, Packham (2009).
[13] Ibid, Ryan (2009).
[14] Less than six years prior to the Victoria bushfires, the McLeod Inquiry, which investigated the 2003 bushfires in Canberra, Australia, found that management of fuel loads in public forests was lacking. This finding was echoed in the subsequent coroner's report on the fires in 2006, which found that the ACT government had failed to follow recommendations for a rigorous back-burning process, and this resulted in heavy fuel loads, which fueled the fires. See Doogan, M. The Canberra Firestorm. ACT Coroner's Report, December 19, 2006, pp. 65–70.
[15] Ibid, Petrie (2009).
[16] Ryan, S. "Burnoffs following Victoria bushfires a 'threat to biodiversity'," The Australian, February 12, 2009.
[17] Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth), s 188(3).
[18] Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.
[19] Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.
[20] This is a familiar pattern. For discussion of global-warming claims during the 2007 California fires, see Anderson, W. "Fires of the Feds: How the Government has Destroyed Forests," Mises Daily, October 25, 2007.
[21] "Heatwave a sign of climate change: Wong," ABC News, January 29, 2009.
[22] Gunter, L. "Forget global warming: Welcome to the new Ice Age," National Post, February 25, 2008.
[23] Evans, C. "Baby, it's cold outside," Daily Camera, January 6, 2009.
[24] Cold weather records shattered in 6 Manitoba towns. CBC News, January 13, 2009.
[25] Record cold weather payouts triggered as temperature hits -11C. Times Online, January 6, 2009.
[26] Donahue, P. and Viscusi, G. "Central Europe, France, U.K., Italy Hit by Cold Air," Bloomberg, January 6, 2009.
[27] "Poor burn books to stay warm in chilly India, 55 dead," Reuters India, January 5, 2009.
[28] Rolfe, P. "Building standards to be lifted," The Herald Sun, February 15, 2009.
[29] Ibid, Ryan (2009).
[30] Ibid, Ryan (2009).
[31] Rockwell Jr, L.H. "Land Socialism: Playing with Fire," Mises Daily, October 24, 2007

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If you’re like most people, the summer break is an ideal chance to catch up on your reading. And if you’re like me (for which you have the sympathies of my friends), you like to highlight parts of books as you read them for later use. Here’s a few selections I read over the holiday break from Richard Toye’s Churchill’s Empire: The World That Made Him and the World He Made :

  • [Churchill] showed much hostility to Islam in his early writings, this died away and was replaced in the inter-war years with a near-fanatical hatred of Hinduism. In 1943 he remarked, “I’m pro-Moslem—the only quality of the Hindus is that there’s a lot of them and that is a vice.”
  • [Churchill] was a great admirer of Rudyard Kipling’s writing … but, although they met on a number of occasions, he never reciprocated Churchill’s respect for him. During the latter's period as a Liberal [after Churchill had party-hopped for the first time] Kipling remarked of him that “it is impossible to cure a political prostitute from whoring” … and wrote in 1935 , “The only point at which, I personally, in would draw the line in present politics would be in following Mr. Winston W. Churchill.” Churchill was a man who “very many praise but dam-few follow.”
  • “He [Churchill] cared little for the improvement of the human race,” reported the Birmingham Daily Post [in 1899]. “The supremacy of our own race was good enough for him.”
  • Throughout his career, Churchill argued that the Crown was fundamental to the Empire, serving as the mystical link that held it together, in spite of the weakness of its formal constitutional structure.  This was, perhaps, a way of reconciling his strong emotional attachment to the monarchy with his recognition that it had little formal power. (Such that it had withered further during the course of his lifetime.) These early comments however [“The natives of India,” he argued, “would be impressed by the Imperial… In India these things count”] should alert us to the fact there was an instrumental, even cynical, aspect to his championship of titles and ceremony.  If the pomp associated with the Crown could be used to impress “the natives,” then so too, as the years went on, could it be used as a rhetorical fig leaf to disguise the increasingly naked decline of British power.
  • In the final article [of an 1897 series on Britain’s “forward strategy” on India’s North-West Frontier], Churchill argued that the gains from trade in the pacified valleys would never repay the cost of military expenditure, but that it was impossible to retreat. He also remarked that “morally it was unfortunate for the tribesmen that our spheres of influence clash with their spheres of existence.” When he reproduced this observation in his book, the United Service Gazette commented that it was not a bad epigram, “though to our duller comprehension it would seem as if the moral misfortune did not attach to the tribesmen.”
  • In 1906 Abudullah Abduraman, a Cape Malay doctor trained in Glasgow who was president of the nascent African Political Organisation [observed] … the Coloured people [of South Africa] had been told [in order to enlist their support against the Boers] that the resolution of the injustices they faced [including the lack of the vote] depended on British victory in the Boer War, he said: ‘[Colonial Secretary Joseph] Chamberlain promised the franchise clearly clearly and plainly in the name of the Imperial Government.” But after exploiting their grievances the British [in the form of then-Colonial Minister Winston Churchill] had cast them aside..
  • “… for Churchill it was England, and not the wider Empire, that was “the starting point and the ultimate object of policy” … To quote the Wellington Evening Post [of 1913]: “It becomes increasingly clear that if we do not ourselves attend to what is primarily our own [defence], we cannot expect our friends on the other side of the world to do it for us.” This was a lesson that the Australasians would have to learn again, rather painfully, during World War II [and might again].
  • The journalist H.W. Nevinson, who arrived [at Gallipoli in the early days of the military debacle] found “depression and loss of heart, bitter criticism of GHQ, and savage rage against Mr Winston Churchill, who ‘ought to be publicly hanged’ for having suggested the campaign.” In private, Churchill admitted some culpability. When Wilfrid Scawen Blunt visited him in August he found him painting—a new hobby which helped alleviate his gloom.  “There is more blood than paint upon these hands,” Churchill said…
  • In the autumn of 1915 the true state of affairs at Gallipoli started to filter back to the British and Empire publics. In September the London representative of the Sydney Sun wrote that Churchill, in his predictions of victory, had been “talking hot air.  The ferment of his own imagination betrayed him into gross and inexcusable exaggeration.”
  • [After military retribution in Amritsar for violent challenge to British rule in which soldiers were ordered to shoot into a crowd of Sikhs, firing 1,650 rounds and killing 379 people] Gandhi called off his campaign, confessing to a “Himalayan miscalculation” in having launched it before his supporters were spiritually ready for the practice of non-violence.
  • [After unilaterally declaring in 1920 that it was “the duty of the wartime allies” (including NZ, Australia and Canada) to defend, by force, of need be, the neutral “Zone of the Straits” against Turkish aggression] the Toronto Star observed, “Winston Churchill, being colonial secretary, is overlord of Mesopotamia. He can’t divorce the idea that he is also the overlord of Australia and Canada, South Africa and New Zealand—the one statesman to whom continents are bailiwicks.”
  • In general, though, [by 1923] Churchill was increasingly thought of as a diehard. Gandhi, for instance, said that he understood “only the gospel of force.”
  • [When Churchill “re-ratted” and party-hopped back to the Conservatives] Viscount Wolmer … complained that Churchill discredited the campaigns [against protectionism and Indian Home Rule]: “we are acting from conviction but everybody knows Winston has no convictions; he has only joined us for what he can get out of it.”

That’s probably enough for now. More tomorrow if you’re interested.

PS: Feel free to post in the comments your own favourite snippets from your holiday reading. I’ll re-post the better ones.

PPS: For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t recommend the book. Toye writes a whole book on empire and imperialism without ever once bothering to discuss whether or why or in what respects empire and imperialism was or could be good or bad. That’s only the first problem with the screed. 
Still, it was a useful follow-up for me to my controversial post last year arguing Churchill was a grandiloquent self-promoter with a knack for taking the wrong side on every important issue and both sides of those he considered unimportant.

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SUMMER REPRISE: Where Jesus goes, so goes Brian Tamaki

In this post that appeared here in July, I wonder why Brian Tamaki is treated like a nut when he’s only going where Jesus and all the mainstream religious cults churches went before him…

Mainstream reaction to Brian Tamaki’s church continues to amuse me. Stuff reports Brian Tamaki’s latest “revelation”:

Bishop Brian Tamaki has raised the stakes with his Destiny Church followers, exhorting them to leave behind houses, jobs – even family members – to join him at a "City of God" he is building in South Auckland.
At the church's annual conference in Rotorua on Friday night, Tamaki spent his entire two-hour sermon talking about how God had told him to build the city and why his followers had to lose their "parochialism" towards their home areas, even if it meant leaving behind loved ones.

Keeping Stock quotes “an expert in cults” who  sees this as sinister:

Cult expert Mark Vrankovich said the speech was designed to "soften up" Tamaki's followers and the real pressure to move to South Auckland would come with one-on-one sessions with local pastors.
"Saying that the church family is more important than your physical family, that you must go with the spiritual family, is a classic cult idea…”

With the help of the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible’s “family values” page, I feel obliged to point out that it is also classic Christianity. To whit:

  • Jesus says that his disciples must hate their families (mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, children) and themselves. Luke 14:26
  • Families will be torn apart because of Jesus. Matthew 10:21 Luke 12:52-53
  • Jesus says that he has come to destroy families by making family members hate each other. Matthew 10:34
  • If you want to be a disciple of Jesus, you must abandon everything, including your family. Luke 14:33
  • Jesus will reward men who abandon their wives and families. Matthew 19:29 Mark 10:29-30 Luke 18:29-30 Luke 21:16

It’s true that cults are destructive, dangerous and sometimes suicidal.

And it’s also true that the line between a “cult” and a religion is nothing more than the number of your supporters.

So the basic question is: why is it only Brian who is treated like a nut?

UPDATE: But there’s more:

[Cult expert Mark] Vrankovich was also concerned that Tamaki appeared to be encouraging people to sell their homes. “They’ll be pressured to give the money from the house sale to the church, and they’ll never see it again.”

Pressure!? I’ll bet they don’t experience anywhere near as much pressure as Ananias and his wife, both of whom the Bible says Peter and his god literally scared to death for not forking over all of the money they made when selling their land.  Acts 5:1-10

This sort of bloodthirsty, disgusting nonsense to which all Christians subscribe, makes Brian look like a piker. Or a copycat.

Or is that Christians don’t actually care to follow their own rules because they know they’re bollocks…

[Head to the original post for the debate that ensued.]


Black Craps


I’ve just been catching up on the full extent of our national cricket team’s embarrassing capitulation in South Africa a fortnight ago. Blunt’s cartoon is apposite:



Wednesday, 9 January 2013

SUMMER READING: Unaffordable housing? No wonder!

For your summer reading this part of January, some posts from this year’s archives you might have missed but are still relevant.

_HickeyONCE AGAIN BERNARD HICKEY offers the insalubrious example of a commentator who knows something is wrong, yet knows nothing about how to fix it. Nothing that is beyond yelling “Something Must be Done!” And by “something he means “someone.” And by someone, he means the government.

First, the problem:

Auckland and Christchurch now have massive shortages of waterproof and undamaged homes that regular families can afford to own…
    The Department of Building and Housing forecast this month that New Zealand needs to build around 20,000 to 23,000 housing units a year over the next five years to keep pace with population growth. Meanwhile New Zealand has been building at a rate below 15,000 a year for the last three years…
    The crisis has intensified since 1999 with the introduction of the Metropolitan Urban Limit and the revelations that an entire generation of homes is leaky and will have to be either reclad or rebuilt…
    This crisis is playing out in a variety of ways.
    There is, of course, a rise in homeless numbers. But the more obvious increase is simply in the price of homes and rents. Both are rising quicker than the wider inflation rate and price rises outside of Auckland and Christchurch. There is an inevitable reaction to this, which is for young Auckland and Christchurch workers and families, those who are not property owners, to simply give up.

He is right that rents are rocketing and new homes are becoming less and less affordable.  The annual Demographia study has shown for years that even during this Great Recession house prices as a proportion of income in New Zealand’s cities are among the highest in the developed world—and increasing*. And the Productivity Commission (from whom Hickey got his figures) point out that “for younger people and those on lower incomes there is a missing step on the property ladder, particularly in Auckland. The chances of them ever purchasing their first home are decreasing.”

He is right, too, that while would-be home-owners burn, governments in Auckland and Wellington continue to fiddle—with train sets in Auckland, and with a pathetic, partial, poorly-done privatisation programme in Wellington.

The problem then is this: what is to be done? And the problem with Hickey is, he has no bloody idea.

So like every simple statist who Wants Something Done, he simply cries that Gummint Should Do Something!

“Government-owned land would need to be opened up and town planners overruled,” says Hickey, getting it half right, before heading down the route of statists immemorial in calling for “taxpayer money … to be invested and lots of it.” Presumably building those affordable houses that the government has made it unprofitable for private builders to build, using resources that will cost more than the sale price.

imageIt’s the same “solution” put forward by Fran O’Sullivan (left) a few months back when she called for private land to be nationalised—expropriated outright by the grey ones—newly stolen land on which the Gummint Should Do Something.

Like O’Sullivan, Hickey is a business columnist. Yet just like her he has no idea how business works.

And they both write and talk about politics. But neither apparently have any conception of how politicians have caused the very “market failure” they describe. Because while calling for government to fix the problem by doing more, they never even bothered to ask themselves this fundamental question: whether it is government activity itself that has largely caused the problem.

And it has.

IN A NUTSHELL, THE big problem is that government has gone beyond right: it has passed laws giving the Reserve Bank the power to print money, bureaucrats the power to prescribe the methods and materials by which houses are built, and  planners the power to control and restrict people’s land.

Let’s look at these one at a time.

In recent years, the new money printed by the Reserve Bank (i.e., monetary inflation) has spilled over into the housing market, producing one housing “bubble” and thousands of NZers deluded into thinking their wealth has increased.

Meanwhile, the Department of Building and Housing were given the power to tell builders how to build houses. Rather than deregulation, which never happened here, builders have endured a flood of new regulation: producing pages and pages of gold-plated building regulations and a rise in the cost to build a house that has out-paced even the rate of house price rises.

And while the printing presses were going overtime printing new regulations and new money, the town planners were busy strangling land-owners and ring-fencing cities under the new powers given them by the Resource Management: the power, essentially, to restrict development of  new, affordable housing while charging builders and developers more for the “privilege” of trying to build something on their own land.

THE NET RESULT OF this three-pronged attack on property was to pump up demand with all those freshly-printed dollars while restricting the supply of the stuff they wanted to spend them on.

No wonder we saw a housing bubble.

No wonder price inflation on housing (which is all those price really increases were) went through the roof.

No wonder so many people were deluded by the price inflation into thinking they were becoming rich-instead of just seeing their dollars devalued.

No wonder land prices now account for up to 60% of the cost of a house in Auckland.

No wonder new homes tend to be at the top-end of the market.

No wonder things began to become insane, with the cost to build a house beginning to outstrip even the cost people were prepared to pay for it—meaning the model for speculative housing** (which has for decades been building the means by the vast majority of new affordable homes was built) is now permanently broken.

And as a simple measure of when affordable housing will be built again, it will be when the model for speculative house building returns.

How do we do that?

Simple. We stop what should never have been started.

We get rid of fiat money; we get rid of zoning; we shut planners up and put a stake through the heart of their Resource Management Act; we stop fighting so-called “sprawl” with “Urban Walls” and instead leave people free to develop their own land according to demand—according to people’s choices about how they actually want to live.***

In short, we give power back to builders and property owners to do what they do best, to properly service house buyers’ demand, while taking power away from those who only get in their way.

Yes, government could do more. It could do a whole lot more by doing a whole heck of a lot less.

And Bernard Hickey could either write less, or learn more.

* * * * *

* As the Annual Demographia Surveys ( ) clearly illustrate - households should not be paying any more than 3 times their annual household income to house themselves - with mortgage loads around 2.5 times.  Unfortunately in NZ’s major cities home-owners are now paying from 6 to 8 times their annual household income to house themselves , a figure that increases ever year.

** What is speculative house building? It’s when Joe Builder buys a site, builds a house on it, and sells it to Mr and Mrs New-Home-Owner for more than he’s shelled out—giving him a small profit which he can use to build his next one. This is how “spec” houses have been built since Adam was a lad—but now can’t be.

** The Productivity Commission in its recent report on affordable housing is only half-way there with its own solution, which would at least be a start. The Commission’s key recommendations include:

  • The urgent need for more land to be opened up for housing, especially in urban areas, because sections now average about 40% to 60% of the cost of a house.

  • Reconsideration of Auckland’s draft spatial plan. Auckland faces significant housing affordability challenges and the Commission found its current plan, with a target of accommodating 75% of new homes within existing urban boundaries, will be difficult to reconcile with affordable housing.

  • Improved processes for consenting, to speed up the service and lower costs.

  • Improving how local council development charges for infrastructure are calculated and applied, including making them reviewable. The Commission found the current model has too much regional variation and is not transparent.

Perhaps Mr Hickey and Ms O’Sullivan could read them?

(First posted Feb 20, 2012)

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Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Summer Ramble, #001


I can’t claim to have been on top of very much news at all over the last few weeks (been too busy chilling out on the beach), but somehow these websites persist in staying open in my tabs. Maybe you should take a look at them too.

Five breakthrough technologies reshaping the economy – CASEY RESEARCH (30-min video)

The era of wearable computers may begin to dawn in 2013.
Will Your Next Computer Be In Your Car, On Your Face, On You Wrist Or In Your Ear? – FORBES

“Robots, high speed trains, electric cars, and cutting edge electronics; you know what country I’m talking about, right? Japan. But, move away from the bright, hi-tech lights of Tokyo, and you will find none of the above anywhere to be seen. Shocked? This is Japan’s low tech reality.”
‘Japan: high tech image, low tech reality’ – E.N.O.

The southern hemisphere’s tallest residential skyscraper is about to begin construction in Melbourne, leapfrogging the existing title-holder the Eureka Tower, also in Melbourne.
The new tower that has tensions rising – THE AGE
Highrise construction in Australia, skyscrapers 100m+ – SKYSCRAPER CITY

“Skyscrapers typically take a long time to build. The top 20 tallest (currently completed) towers in the world took, on average, 5.3 years to construct. But a company in China called Broad Sustainable Building, with a track record of putting up buildings in a jiffy, is now planning to construct the world’s tallest building—838 metres—in just 90 days.”
On top of the world in 90 days: Building the world's tallest skyscrapers – ECONOMIST

From the it’s-not-all-going-to-hell-in-a-handcart files… “This generation of young people is the best behaved in decades.”
British society:  Not so broken – Daniel Knowles, ECONOMIST

“There were many really big moments in science this year. From finding a long, long sought subatomic particle to pushing the limits of extraterrestrial exploration to righting an ethical wrong, science took some big steps in 2012. While they may not all be discoveries exactly, they all will have a major, lasting impact on science and the world. Here are Wired Science's picks for the biggest discoveries, breakthroughs and moments in science this year.
Top Scientific Discoveries of 2012 – WIRED

“Many parents do a form of St. Augustine’s prayer, hoping that
their child will be strong-willed and persistent—just not yet.”

- Daniel Wahl

Egypt still seems heading for sharia.
Muslim Brothers Face Off With the Liberal Street – DAILY BEAST

“Ever since the first intifada erupted in 1987…’things have steadily declined in Gaza.’” Guess who’s responsible.
How the World Enabled 25 Years of Palestinian Decline – Evelyn Gordon, COMMENTARY

“Shinzo Abe, Japan’s new prime minister, has some exciting new ideas about how to make Japan’s economy grow. How about the government borrows a lot of money, prints some more, and spends it on building bridges and roads all over the country?” If that doesn’t sound so new, it is because it isn’t. It is what Japan has been doing for 20 years. With no success. At all.
It’s a mad mad mad mad world – Detlev Schlicter, COBDEN CENTRE

And in France, “success, creation, talent—difference, in fact—must be punished.” Says the world’s most well-known Frenchman.
Depardieu Justly Condemns France’s Theft by Taxation – Ari Armstrong, OBJECTIVE STANDARD

Pragmatic environmentalism? Or the beginning of the movement’s philosophical capitulation.
The Great Schism in the Environmental Movement – SLATE

Enjoy your $100 million of oil money, Al Gore!
Big Oil pays Fat Al. – TIM BLAIR

Wow! Apple paid "1 out of every 40 dollars in corporate income taxes collected by the U.S. government last year.”
Inquiry Into Tech Giants’ Tax Strategies Nears End – NEW YORK TIMES

America’s most illuminating economic charts?
The 7 most illuminating economic charts of 2012 – James Pethokoukis, A.E.I.

“Economic theory had been rejecting this conclusion for generations, but it was suddenly made respectable by Keynes.”
Thoughts on Capital-Based Macroeconomics – John Cochran, MISES DAILY

The fiscal cliff: “Two months of arguing over 10 hours of savings.”
- Mark Steyn

“When it comes to serious, lasting budget constraints, our leaders in Washington have the escape talents of Houdini. The ominous approach of the fiscal cliff put Democrats in a position to extract a lot more revenue and Republicans to force real spending cuts. That prospect drove the two sides to agree that the only reasonable option was neither. They fixed the budget the same way they always fix it: wrapping it up with a big red bow and shipping it to the taxpayers of the future.”
An Exercise in Fiscal Evasion – Steve Chapman, REASON

“Washington proves again it’s incapable of course correction.”
Two months of arguing over 10 hours of savings – Mark Steyn, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

“Congress avoided the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ only bypassing tax hikes and leaving out-of-control federal spending practically untouched. But, to those with friends in political places, Congress rewarded special tax breaks.”
Nascar and Rum Makers Got Tax Cuts; You Should Have, Too – T.O.S. BLOG

“And now left-progressives are aghast as they witness first-hand the Santa Claus principle liquidating itself on their own pay stubs and find themselves holding the bag, following the payroll tax hike Obama recently signed into law.”
The Santa Claus Principle in Action – Daniel Sanchez, CIRCLE BASTIAT

“In a Country where Clamour always intimidates and faction often
oppresses the Government, the regulations of Commerce are commonly
dictated by those who are most interested to deceive and impose upon the Public.”

- Adam Smith, in a 1785 letter, quoted as Cafe Hayek’s Quotation of the Day

Like reading early New Zealand history first-hand? Then as long as you have a tablet and an internet connection you can. Free.  If you want a good story to start you off, start with one of my favourites:  John Logan Campbell’s Poenamo.

Here’s a good New Year’s Message to take on board:
Charity Begins With Wealth Creation – John Stossel, CREATORS.COM

Climate sensitivity will out.
Man-Made Global Warming Likely Benign, Reports WSJ Columnist Matt Ridley – Ronald Bailey, REASON

However, "it no longer seems that truth is the ultimate goal in the climate change debate"
Climate of Doubt - Amanda Maxham, VOICES FOR REASON

Front Cover

“Suppose you saw a building on fire. Would you seek counsel from the arsonist who set it ablaze for advice on how to put it out? You say, "Williams, you'd have to be a lunatic to do that!" But that's precisely what we've done: turned to the people who created our fiscal crisis to fix it. I have never read a better account of our doing just that than in John Allison's new book, The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure."
Our Government-Created Financial Crisis – Walter Williams, TOWN HALL

Oh yes, Fergus Hodgson from the Stateless Man interviewed me for his online radio show in December last year about NZ as a haven for liberty-minded folk from around the world—especially for those disturbed by the sorry state of freedom in the United States. Scroll down to the 12 December show if you want to hear me demonstrating they shouldn’t come here if they expect a good telephone line.
12/12/2012 Show Topic: New Zealand as a Liberty Haven – OVERSEAS RADIO

You're being lied to about fracking! Follow the evidence.
Dishonest Land: Hollywood’s Promised Land Slanders the Fracking Revolution – Alex Epstein, MASTER RESOURCE

Historian Niall Ferguson takes the long-term view of China’s future in this fascinating recent documentary:

“Claims of an “Islamic Golden Age,” from roughly the 8th to the 12th centuries, are not politically correct propaganda; such a Golden Age was real. During that period, numerous thinkers of the Arab-Islamic world—many of them committed Muslims—wrought significant advances in mathematics, astronomy, medicine, literature, and other fields. Sadly, that era came to an end; tragically, for the past eight hundred years, it has not been revitalized; terrifyingly, during those centuries—and continuing today—religious fervor has superseded reason and crushed intellectual culture under Islam. For fully eight centuries, the Islamic world first coasted on its past glories and, then, collapsed into a cultural Dark Age, where it remains.
”Who were these great thinkers? What were their accomplishments? Who influenced them? And why did Islamic culture ultimately reject reason and fully embrace faith?”
Great Islamic Thinkers Versus Islam – Andrew Bernstein, OBJECTIVE STANDARD

Just in case you haven’t seen 2012’s finest autocorrect disasters - here they are. Stephen Fry personally guarantees squeals of laughter.
The 25 Funniest AutoCorrects Of 2012 – BUZZFEED

Students get to ask questions regarding Leonard Peikoff's new book The DIM Hypothesis: Why the Lights in the West are Going Out:

Watch Yaron Brook & David Callahan Debate: Is Capitalism Moral?

You can learn from this:
An FBI Hostage Negotiator Buys A Car – NPR

Not sure if you saw NZ’s musical year like this. Some of the commenters certainly didn’t.
The Corner’s 2012 Year In Review: Top 10 Moments In New Zealand Music – THE CORNER

Music writer Graham Reid picks his best albums of 2012.
Best of Elswehere 2012: The Editor's Top 40 – Graham Reid, ELSEWHERE

“High culture was concerned with truth. Now it propagates nonsense. From pickled sharks to compositions in silence, fake ideas and fake emotions have elbowed out truth and beauty. Fake ideas have replaced real ones.”
The Great Swindle – Roger Scruton, AEON

The Psychedelic Furs before that Molly Ringwald film, those Billy Idol haircuts, that long slow dive into mediocrity. Live 1981.
The Psychedelic Furs before that Molly Ringwald film... – DANGEROUS MINDS

Good news: There’s a new Graham Parker album. With The Rumour! Bad news: You still can’t buy it in EnZed. Or even listen to it on Spotify. Still there’s always YouTube.

And the song we voted our favourite song this summer at our house:

And my second-favourite in that vote:

[Hat tips to Robert Tracinski, Andrew B., Russell W., Geek Press, Stephen Hicks, Dangerous Minds, Stephen Fry, Kelly Elmore, Paul Hsieh, Zac, Mark Steyn, Gloria Hanna, Manny Montes, Rohit Gupta, Arts & Letters Daily, Seeby Woodhouse ‏, Martin Kramer]

Thanks for reading.
And always remember: the pub is for life, not just for Christmas.