Friday, March 27, 2015

The Law of Unintended Consequences made a grisly reappearance over the French Alps [updated]

The Law of Unintended Consequences made a grisly reappearance over the French Alps yesterday. A law passed without thought immediately after 9/11 mandating all cockpit doors be sealed condemned 149 passengers and crew to their death -- as what appears to be their copilot's murder-suicide pact with himself plunged their plane into a mountain with every one of them powerless to enter the cockpit to stop him.

It’s a situation no-one would want to be in.

It’s a situation no human being would want to put another into.


In those terrifying seconds before the impact they knew was going to kill them those poor souls outside the cockpit had their chance at life taken away from them by two mad acts, one by a copilot and the other by legislators. They were given no chance to save their lives when those in the cockpit wanted to take the plane down.

I suspect every one of those poor souls trying to gain access would be able to offer a stunning counter-argument to those calling for secure cockpits, if they were still alive today to make it.

Instead, “the tragic consequences of this unbreakable security have been writ large on the faces of relatives of his 149 victims…”

[Hat tip Julian D.]

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Economics for Real People: “What’s Wrong with Innovation Policy in New Zealand?”

I know you were wondering about tonight’s session at the Auckland Uni Economics Group…

This week we are delighted to be joined by Professor Tony Endres, who will address the question “What’s Wrong with Innovation Policy in New Zealand?”

Tony will apply the ideas of Joseph Schumpeter, Friedrich Hayek, Edmund Phelps and William Baumol to selected aspects of innovation policy in New Zealand, offering a critique of the main developments in NZ government innovation policy in recent years, especially the movement to target new-to-the-world type innovations at the expense of incremental innovation.

He explains that the best government can do is provide a stable intellectual property and tax environment that will foster innovation by creatively intelligent people in the private sector, people who take risks with their own resources.

This discussion is derived from a more comprehensive treatment of innovation issues that was presented with a NYU colleague, Professor David Harper, at a conference on the "The Ends of Capitalism" sponsored by The Classical Liberal Institute, NYU Law School in Feb 2015.

        Date: Tonight, Thursday, March 26
        Time: 6-7pm
        Location: Case Room 1, Level Zero, University of Auckland Business School
                                (plenty of parking in the Business School basement, entrance off Grafton Rd)

PS: Keep up to date with us on our 2015 Facebook page.

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Philosophical certainty

“It was the greatest sensation of
existence: not to trust but to know.”

- Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged 

As they say, one demonstration is worth a thousand syllogisms.

Modern philosophers argue it’s impossible to be certain of anything.1

The designers of Texas Armoring bullet-proof glass disagree. They know their product down to the last molecule. They know it with the complete certainty that allows them to do this:

Your move, modern philosophers.


1. …and, oblivious to the irony, they say that with absolute certainty.


[Hat tip Justin Templer]


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

It’s the Black Caps’ division of labour I really enjoy

More perhaps than in any other sport, a great cricket team represents a great division of labour.

Brendon McCullum’s Black Caps are a great cricket team.

In times past New Zealand cricket teams have had one or two champions, and have at rare times had some pretty good teams.

This team is a great team. A champion team.  And as they say, a champion team will always beat a team of champions.

The gods of chance rarely smile on everyone in a batting or bowling lineup every day, and not everything every player tries will come off. But you do need them all to be trying, all taking necessary risks; and  if the failures do start to mount and pressure begins to impinge, when someone fails, or a whole lineup looks to be struggling, someone in every champion team needs to stand up and say “It’s my day today.”

NZ's internationals haven’t always been good at that, let's be brutally honest, but for me that’s one of the great things about this team moulded in Brendon  McCullum’s image: on any given day when the pressure come on , they all now know that some one of them will stand up manfully to do the job.

  Kane Williamson holding together an innings after his openers and all but one of his batting partners have gone; Martin Guptill carrying his bat and setting records, making it easier for his partners at the other end; Boult or Southee taking wickets when other bowlers aren’t; or, last night, new boy Matt Henry stepping into the breach in a semi-final cauldron to bowl two sorely-needed maidens1; or Corey Anderson and Grant Elliot accumulating runs when things were starting to go pear-shaped allowing Elliot the chance, the slim chance, to hit the match-winning final-entering six to win a semi-final  with just one ball to spare!

And wasn’t that moment just glorious! It’s memory will be savoured for years to come by everyone who cheered the ball’s flight up into the South Stand.

But it’s not just that staunchness that engenders self-belief – essential to any cricket player to achieve his best.  It seems to me it’s the division of labour in this team that means when they are at their best -- something coach Hesson, captain McCullum and assistant coaches Bond and MacMillan have so brilliantly helped make happen almost every game in this tournament – that the skills of every player complements every other player.

MCullum can take risks knocking the top off a run chase, making it less scary for batsmen who follow in his wake, secure in the knowledge there is batting depth to come of his risky hitting doesn’t pay off. Guptill and Williamson can accumulate masterfully, holding up a run-scoring end even if the other is a revolving door. Taylor, Anderson, Elliot, Ronchi and Vettori can pull irons out the fire, even if (as they were last night) faced with the team’s best four batsmen sitting in the shed and a significant mountain to climb.

It’s the same story in the bowling line-up, with speed complementing left-right swing complementing spin meaning for once we have an attack that can actually take wickets (and when have we been able to say that about a NZ team!), and with these gun performers no need for the dibbly-dobblers of old.

It’s not just depth, which this team has in spades, it’s complementary talents being expertly employed.

It’s a champion team led by a champion that every one of them wants to follow.

I’m looking forward, with hope in my heart, to them beating whichever team of champions they face in Melbourne on Sunday.

If it’s anything like the monumental semi-final we watched through our fingers last night, it will be one that’s never forgotten.

To victory!

PS: Just how good does this look:

… and this…

Embedded image permalink

… and this…

View image on Twitter

… and, ahem, this:


1. Rumours he was white-bating earlier in the week have already been discounted, but not extinguished.


Self-infantalising students now finding ideas too scary

It’s the very opposite of what a university is supposed to be about.

Rather than being forums for free expression and the free and open exchange of ideas, a New York Times  article suggests universities are now “encouraging ‘safe spaces’ to protect delicate sensibilities.” Rather than going to college to meet, understand and engage with scary ideas, it says, too many of today’s undergraduates insist on hiding from them – and wanting them to be made to go away.

But the notion that ticklish conversations must be scrubbed clean of controversy has a way of leaking out and spreading. Once you designate some spaces as safe, you imply that the rest are unsafe. It follows that they should be made safer….

It follows too that ideas that challenge students’ world view – the very reason for attending a university in the first place – are also, and very easily, being designated ‘unsafe.’ A chilling trend for free speech.

[But] while keeping college-level discussions “safe” may feel good to the hypersensitive, it’s bad for them and for everyone else. People ought to go to college to sharpen their wits and broaden their field of vision. Shield them from unfamiliar ideas, and they’ll never learn the discipline of seeing the world as other people see it. They’ll be unprepared for the social and intellectual headwinds that will hit them as soon as they step off the campuses whose climates they have so carefully controlled. What will they do when they hear opinions they’ve learned to shrink from? If they want to change the world, how will they learn to persuade people to join them?

A chilling trend for intellectual engagement.

“I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” [one student] said.

What the student is after is not a university, but a daycare centre for one-year olds – which is an insult to the one-year-olds, who want to grow up.

Student newspaper The Undercurrent decries the trend, saying

  increasing numbers of students are purposefully trying to avoid ideas that upset them by establishing “safe-spaces” and trying to keep controversial speakers off campus. Is this trend toward “self-infantalising” making college a place where students do not have to actively consider controversial and important ideas? Will protecting students from disturbing ideas prepare them for the real world?

Being exposed to ideas you disagree with is a good thing, not a bad thing; it requires you to challenge the reasons for your own beliefs and, like in any good debate, if you are wrong then you learn something from it, and if your interlocutor is wrong they learn something from it: in the end you both win.

Not so much of you insist on hiding yourself away from anything  you might find at all disagreeable.

It’s not about being open-minded about all the ideas you might come across. The point, as The Undercurrent itself said in a recent article, is to be active-minded.

Which is what a decent university education is supposed to be about, right?

Here’s Howard Devoto and Magazine:


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Let’s go Black Caps.

Martin Guptill 200 West Indies

Is there any other story around today?

Let’s go Black Caps!

[Pic: Getty. Video: Sky Sport]

PS:’ Here’s a message from a Prime Minister:


Monday, March 23, 2015

Lucretia Seales’s life is not Bob McCoskrie’s to meddle with

So, how in any way is it Bob McCoskrie’s business whether or by what means a woman with terminal cancer chooses to end her own life at the time and in the manner of her choosing?

Lecretia Seales is a very brave woman, a lawyer with an inoperable brain tumour, who says it's a "fundamental human right" to choose to end her life with medical assistance, and she is going to court to assert that right so that a doctor may be legally able to euthanase her without prosecution if she chooses it.

That legal right would allow her to choose the time and manner of her passing, to be able to do it with friends present, and to discuss the ending of her life with her doctor without the usual euphemisms and double-dealing or any fear of prosecution – of for her to choose not to.

After all, whose bloody life is it anyway?

The fact we have laws preventing folk exercising this fundamental right, should they choose to, is appalling. That it means Lucretia might spend her last months wrapped up in court is a painful thought, but perhaps the least of the pain the politicians have inflicted who refuse to remove the legal ban on legally-protected voluntary euthanasia.

Family First’s Bob McCoskrie agrees at least that Ms Seales shouldn’t have to spend her last precious months on earth fighting through the courts, but he cries crocodile tears in a carefully-worded press release saying, “Patients facing death have a fundamental human right to receive the very best palliative care, love and support that we can give to alleviate 'intolerable suffering' that they fear.”

Which sounds to me like a right he’s just this minute made up.  But it makes it necessary to point out that the most fundamental right is the right to your own life – which has as a corollary, the right to be left alone to end it

Which  makes me wonder: who’s this “we,” Bob?

And what business is Ms Seale’s life, or death, of yours?

[Hat tip Paul Litterick]


Co-founder of Greenpeace is a climate sceptic

The co-founder of Greenpeace writes to explain why he’s a “climate sceptic.”

Patrick Moore was co-founder and leader of Greenpeace for 15 years. He says “the IPCC’s followers have given us a vision of a world dying because of carbon-dioxide emissions. I say the Earth would be a lot deader with no carbon dioxide, and more of it will be a very positive factor in feeding the world.”

  At 400 parts per million, all our food crops, forests, and natural ecosystems are still on a starvation diet for carbon dioxide. The optimum level of carbon dioxide for plant growth, given enough water and nutrients, is about 1,500 parts per million, nearly four times higher than today. Greenhouse growers inject carbon-dioxide to increase yields. Farms and forests will produce more if carbon-dioxide keeps rising.

But isn’t carbon dioxide the leading cause of man-made global warming?

In fact, the Earth has been warming very gradually for 300 years, since the Little Ice Age ended, long before heavy use of fossil fuels. Prior to the Little Ice Age, during the Medieval Warm Period, Vikings colonized Greenland and Newfoundland, when it was warmer there than today. And during Roman times, it was warmer, long before fossil fuels revolutionized civilization.
    The idea it would be catastrophic if carbon dioxide were to increase and average global temperature were to rise a few degrees is preposterous.
    Recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced for the umpteenth time we are doomed unless we reduce carbon-dioxide emissions to zero. Effectively this means either reducing the population to zero, or going back 10,000 years before humans began clearing forests for agriculture. This proposed cure is far worse than adapting to a warmer world, if it actually comes about.

The warmist scam is not scientific, it is political. First:

By its constitution, the IPCC has a hopeless conflict of interest. Its mandate is to consider only the human causes of global warming, not the many natural causes changing the climate for billions of years. We don’t understand the natural causes of climate change any more than we know if humans are part of the cause at present. If the IPCC did not find humans were the cause of warming, or if it found warming would be more positive than negative, there would be no need for the IPCC under its present mandate. To survive, it must find on the side of the apocalypse.


There is a powerful convergence of interests among key elites that support the climate “narrative.” Environmentalists spread fear and raise donations; politicians appear to be saving the Earth from doom; the media has a field day with sensation and conflict; science institutions raise billions in grants, create whole new departments, and stoke a feeding frenzy of scary scenarios; business wants to look green, and get huge public subsidies for projects that would otherwise be economic losers, such as wind farms and solar arrays. [Further], the Left sees climate change as a perfect means to redistribute wealth from industrial countries to the developing world and the UN bureaucracy.

Read the whole piece: Why I am a Climate Change Skeptic – Patrick Moore, HEARTLAND


Quote of the morning: What’s a man worth?

[Hat tip Objective Standard]


Another day in a factory school near you

[Hat tip Facebook Maria Montessori page]

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Quotes of the Day: On the ahistorical Jesus

"One would naturally expect that the Lord Jesus Christ would be sufficiently important to receive ample notice in the literature of his time, and that extensive biographical material would be available. He was observed by multitudes of people, and his own followers numbered into the hundreds (1 Cor. 15:6), whose witness was still living in the middle of the first century. As a matter of fact, the amount of information concerning him is comparatively meager. Aside from the four Gospels, and a few scattered allusions in the epistles, contemporary history is almost silent concerning him."

- Dr Merrill C. Tenney, a conservative evangelical Christian who was a professor of Theological Studies and the dean of the school of Theology at Wheaton College. Tenney was also one of the original translators of the NASB and NIV editions of the Bible

"Christian apologists claim as evidence for Jesus that there were at least 40 authors who mention Jesus within 150 years of his life: 9 traditional authors of the New Testament; ... 20 early Christian writers outside the New Testament; ...4 heretical writings; ... 9 secular sources ....

"It's not always just what devotees say that is wrong it can often be what they don't say. For example, not a single one of the '42 authors' ever met Jesus while he was alive. The four canonical Gospel writers were all anonymous until the names Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were added as authors late in the 2nd century. There is no contemporary eyewitness testimony for Jesus at all whatsoever. Nobody ever wrote about Jesus during his lifetime and the canonical gospels didn't exist as we have them today until around 180CE - that is what the literary and historical records show, i.e. evidence that actually exists."

- From Who Was Jesus? Fingerprints of The Christ, by D.M. Murdock

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Morning Ramble, now with added GST

Several things that caught my eye this last while, and haven’t had a chance to post about…


“Too many local retailers focus on the GST issue when the underlying issue is rather more troublesome. New Zealand simply is not large enough to be able to achieve the economies of scale that foreign warehouses enjoy. Even if GST could be applied on foreign imports, today, with zero hassle-cost imposed, the foreign cost advantage is not likely to decline over time.”
Online GST revisited – Eric Crampton, OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR  
GST Online – NOT PC

“In the large scheme of things economic, bugger all unless the costs imposed on entrepreneurs is counted. For starters it is a lawyer protection scheme…”
What exactly does the RMA achieve? – Gravedodger, NO MINISTER

“Need cannot be accurately measured by acceptance of aid.”
Raincoats for kids who already have them – LINDSAY MITCHELL

“Whenever I visit a place like Vietnam, it becomes apparent that the future belongs to the people in such booming, unconstrained economies.”
Communist Vietnam is more capitalist that the West – Kiwi Wit, THOUGHTS FROM 40o SOUTH

“One could save ACC and the government a lot of money, and more importantly save many ‘victims’ from consolidating their victimhood…”
Dodgy industry of trauma counsellors – STEPHEN FRANKS.CO.NZ

Your government has been lying to you again…


“It’s probably easier to get into Fort Knox than it is to break into Britain’s chattering classes… There is, however, a shortcut to this top table of right-thinking folk. There’s one thing that acts as a passport into their world, allowing one to become at least a hanger-on, if not a full member.
”What is it? Hatred for Jeremy Clarkson.”
Hating Jeremy Clarkson: the moral glue of the pseudo-liberal elite – Brendan O’Neill, SPIKED

Well, well, the Herald’s new minority owner isn’t an anti-immigration flog like so many conservatives.


“Just when you think Obama’s absolutely awful foreign policy and pandering to radical Islam couldn’t possibly get any worse, he decides to remove both Iran and Hezbollah off the list of terror threats.”
Obama administration says Iran and Hezbollah no longer terror threats – Michael Cantrell, YOUNG CONS

“It is time to stop our green worship of the electric car. It costs us a fortune, cuts little CO2 and surprisingly kills almost twice the number of people compared with regular gasoline cars.”
Electric car benefits? Just myths. – Bjorn Lomborg, USA TODAY

“There are problems with oil, gas and coal, but their benefits for people—and the planet—are beyond dispute.”
Fossil Fuels Will Save the World (Really) – Matt Ridley, WALL STREET JOURNAL

“Congress tries to intimidate climate skeptics. Read John Allison's awesome reply.”
A Message from Cato’s Center for the Study of Science – CATO

Hockey Stick fraudster Michael Mann – Mr Hide-the-Decline – reckons he’s taking a stand for science. But science is not reciprocating.
The drawn-out Mann lawsuit: Science is not taking a stand for Michael Mann – WATTS UP WITH THAT

The German Solar Revolution


Greece has finally announced the guts of it’s payback plan.
Greece Passes Law To Plunder Pension Funds – ZERO HEDGE

A bit of the history of the minimum wage you didn't know.
The eugenic effects of minimum wage laws – Paul Walker, ANTI DISMAL

“Incentives in the mixed economy: Give politicians control over business, and businesses will then "invest" in politicians.”
For Every Dollar Spent Influencing US Politics, Corporations Get $760 Back – AGAINST CRONY CAPITALISM

“Since the extraordinary easing cycle began in the wake of the Lehman collapse, the only game in town for stock investors has been the one being played so unremittingly by the central banks.” This is not a good thing.
Global M – Sean Corrigan, COBDEN CENTRE

“Earlier this month, McKinsey published a remarkable report on trends in global debt, and concludes that the world’s debt, rather than decreasing,  is in fact increasing worldwide.
”So much for deleveraging.”
Global Debt: A Scary Situation with Limited Solutions – Wesley Gray, ALPHA ARCHITECT

"Depression is just another name for capital destruction, and gold is the only form of capital that is immune to destruction. If you consolidate all balance sheets in a country (including that of the national treasury), then all liquid assets will be wiped out, with the sole exception of gold. Gold is the only [liquid] asset that is not duplicated as a liability in the balance sheet of someone else."
Blowing Up Modern Austrian Economics ... in a Good Way – Antal Fekete, DAILY BELL

“Even Piketty has partially disowned his grand 'r > g' theory of inequality in light of harsh academic critiques.”
The politically convenient but largely bogus Unified Economic Theory of Modern Liberalism – James Pethokoukis, THE WEEK
Piketty backtracks on his inequality thesis – ATLAS NETWORK
Why Thomas Piketty’s Revisions Don’t Fix His Book – Salim Furth, WALL STREET JOURNAL

“Capitalism is not a system advantaging the wealthy. It is a system of competition, innovation, and wealth creation which leads to win-win outcomes and flourishing for all.”
Capitalism Benefits Everyone – Jana Woiceshyn, CAPITALISM MAGAZINE


“What do parents owe children? And, in turn, what do they owe parents? The philosophical analysis is amazingly simple…”
The Rights and Obligations of Children – Robin Craig, SAVVY STREET

“Children and young people use 4-5 times the recommended amount of technology...”
10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12 – HUFFFINGTON POST

“Many children who don’t decode well, learn to read at high levels when they get interested in reading in areas of their own interest. Follow the child!”
Does white matter have anything to do with learning to read for meaning? – Stephen Krashen, SKRASHEN

“In my 20+ years of experience as a Montessori educator, I have found there is often a misunderstanding in the general population of just what discipline means.”
More Choices. Less Discipline. – MONTESSORI ROCKS

"The report highlights several areas where new findings from neuroscience are becoming misinterpreted by education, including brain-related ideas regarding early educational investment, brain plasticity, adolescent brain development, and learning disorders such as dyslexia and ADHD."
Study: Teachers Believe Brain Myths that Hamper Their Lessons – BIG THINK


“Contemporary Islam is not known for its engagement in the modern scientific project. But it is heir to a legendary ‘Golden Age’ of Arabic science, without which the western Enlightenment might never have happened. So what happened?
Why the Arabic World Turned Away from Science – Hillel Ofek
The greatest story (hardly) ever told – NOT PC

“Humanities academics everywhere are challenged to match this level of incomprehensible sociology-speak…”
Beat This! – TIM BLAIR

“Whose dystopia is more realistic -- Brave New World's or Nineteen Eighty-Four's? Huxley writes to Orwell.”
Letters of Note: 1984 v. Brave New World – LETTERS OF NOTE

“Even those not directly involved in the industry – and who have to pay for the music they use in movies, TV, or other creative endeavours – confirmed that they see musicians as the most commercially undervalued artists of the digital era.”
Paying Artists with “Exposure” Only Devalues Music Further – Gordon Platt, GOTHA MEDIA

“Of course some music managers and agents love streaming and piracy! Less revenue from recorded music means their artists must play more and more live shows to make up the difference.  I thought everyone knew this.”
Why Some Managers and Agents Love Streaming and Piracy – David Lowery, THE TRICHORDIST

“While cats ignore our music, they are highly responsive to “music” written especially for them.”
Cats Want Their Own Music – BLAZING CAT FUR

I can tell you first-hand that organising them is like trying to herd cats.
Are cats libertarians? – Rachel Cuncliffe, CAPX

“Time perception matters because it is the experience of time that roots us in our mental reality.”
Why Time Slows Down When We're Afraid, Speeds Up as We Age, and Gets Warped on VacationMaria Popova, BRAIN PICKINGS

“Enjoy it while you can, folks. Because like everything else pleasurable in the 21st century—smoking in a bar, complimenting a lady on her looks, drinking a bucket-size Coke—drunken sex is under attack from that new caste of killjoys who wouldn't recognize fun if it offered to buy them a drink.”
Is It Acceptable to Have Drunken Sex? – Brendan O’Neill, NEWSWEEK

“It may difficult to explain how remarkable Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel series is in the way it expressed concepts of liberty and self-determination to a libertarian who has never read him.”
How Terry Pratchett Made Me a Libertarian – Scott Shackford, REASON

Chuck Jones’s rules for writing the Road Runner cartoons…


Australian researchers offer hope for the future eradication of this devastating illness. As some youngsters say, “I fucking love science.”
New Alzheimer’s treatment fully restores memory function – SCIENCE ALERT

“From childhood, we're taught one central, non-controversial idea about morality: self-sacrifice is a virtue. It is universally accepted that serving the needs of others, rather than our own, is the essence of morality. To be ethical--it is believed--is to be altruistic. Questioning this belief is regarded as tantamount to questioning the self-evident…”
In Defense of Selfishness: Why the Code of Self-Sacrifice is Unjust and Destructive – Peter Schwartz, AMAZON

Clearly philosophically astute vandals.
'Kant is a moron': vandals critique the philosopher's home – TELEGRAPH
Kant Couldn’t – Peter Cresswell, SOLO HQ
Kant Didn’t – Peter Cresswell, SOLO HQ
Dagny Taggart Answers Kant – Peter Cresswell, SOLO

“In the face of never-ending gale-force hot-air wind of anti-Ayn-Rand books, newspaper articles, blog entries, videos, etc. that attempt to paint Ayn Rand as a miserable old grinch, this movie erects an inspiring response.”
Ayn Rand: In Her Own Words  - AMAZON

“Since AlterNet and others keep recycling the same lies & propaganda about Ayn Rand collecting Social Security, I guess that means it's time to recycle the rebuttal.”

““The impressive large-scale roofs designed for the Munich Olympics of 1972, combining lightness and strength, were a building challenge that many said could not be achieved.” - Jury's Citation on 2015 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate, Frei Otto, who died on March 9th.
AD Classics: Munich Olympic Stadium / Frei Otto & Gunther Behnisch – ARCH DAILY


Pics by Wikimedia Commons

"We Don't Like Your House Either: The Architecture of Bruce Goff" is a 1984 BBC documentary now on YouTube. It is by the UK AA School of Architecture. It is wonderful to see and hear Bruce Goff talk about his work, and to see the film footage of his architecture.” [Hat tip Prairie Mod, Friends of Kebyar]

Just to make sure you get the right ones…

And finally…


Thanks for reading,
And have a great Friday!

[Hat tips Jenesa Jeram, Saurabh Jha , Nicholas Wapshott, WSJ Think Tank , Don Watkins, ATHEISTPOWER/Kriz, Max Roser, Billare, Roddy Campbell , Michael R. Strain, Hank Azaria, Australian Centre for Montessori Studies, Montessori Australia, Maria Montessori Education Foundation, Justin Templer, The Ayn Rand Institute, Stephen Hicks, Jessica Milligan Stone, Vinay Kolhatkar, Bevan Webb, Paul McKeever, Michael van der Galien, Olivia Mary Pierson, Michael Neibel, Felix Mueller, Anoop Verma, Rune Kjær Svendsen, William N. Green', Geek Press]


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Don't "Keep it in the Ground"

Alex Epstein from the Center for Industrial Progress writes in his latest newsletter about a co-campaign launched this week by The Guardian and in support of divestment in oil.

[The campaign was launched] with an article and petition urging us to "keep it [fossil fuels] in the ground" by taking our money out of the industry.

Rather than making the case against fossil fuels, they (as so many today do) take their evil for granted, casually agreeing with those who "see divestment from fossil fuels in much the same light as earlier campaigners saw the push to pull money out of tobacco, arms, apartheid South Africa – or even slavery."

Far from being impractical or immoral—let alone comparable to slavery—fossil fuels are one of the biggest benefactors to human flourishing in history. As I wrote in my 2013 open letter to the divestment movement, co-signed by many leading scientists and other scholars:

The fossil fuel industry produces 87 percent of the energy people around the world use to feed, clothe, shelter, heal, comfort, and educate themselves. It has fueled the unprecedented increase in industrial development, life expectancy, and quality of life we have seen over the last 30 years. And despite received wisdom about our environment and climate, our fossil fueled society has experienced a dramatic improvement in all environmental indicators worldwide, including a staggering decline in the number of climate-related deaths.

Divesters might counter that "while fossil fuels might have been good for a while, the technology exists right now to power our lives through the sun and the wind and evil Big Oil is just holding it back." But as I explained in my February column "The Moral Case For Investing, Not Divesting, In Fossil Fuels":

If this was the case, it would accelerate the transition much faster to boycott fossil fuels and live almost entirely off solar and wind, leading by example. When student groups wanted to change Nike’s behavior in its Asian factories, they didn’t focus on telling people to sell their Nike stock—they stopped buying Nikes. When the Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery Alabama wanted to end the racist policy of forcing black Americans to sit on the back of the bus, they stopped using the bus. If solar and wind are indeed competitive with fossil fuels, why not just start living virtually fossil-free lives?

The truth is that fossil fuels are—now and for the foreseeable future—the only power source that can provide the cheap, plentiful, reliable energy we use to flourish. The truth is that keeping fossil fuels in the ground would put us in the ground.

If you know anyone buying into The Guardian's campaign, or who needs ammunition to counter it, be sure to show them the above articles as well as The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, which they can download the first chapter of for free.

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A Necessary Correction in the Oil Industry

Guest post by Peter Wong

Daily article March 18 2015Historically, low oil prices have been perceived by many as an overriding positive for the economy. This has especially been the case in the United States where most households rely on car travel as a primary means of transport. Low oil prices allow households to spend more on economic activities other than petrol and other oil-related expenses. Historically, every time the oil price soared — such as the 1973 oil crisis, the 1991 Gulf War, and in 2008 when oil reached a historical high of US$147 a barrel — public opinion always regarded these events as a serious threat to the economy.

It was often understood that falling oil prices have many benefits both for the economy and for those subject to monetary policy. For example, official price inflation is reduced when oil prices fall, which lowers pressure on the central bank to raise interest rates. And, all things being equal, the economy benefits from the price stability and lessened intervention on the part of the central bank.

Oil Prices and the “New Normal”

However, by the third quarter of last year, falling oil prices were not being hailed as good fortune. Instead, some commentators were saying the economy would suffer as a result. In fact, ever since the global financial crisis of 2008, this counter-intuitive analysis is promoted as a part of the “New Normal” which is widely believed to be kick-started by the Fed’s unprecedented easy-money policies.

Nevertheless, the argument in favour of high oil prices is logically not difficult to grasp: the longer oil prices stay above US$100, the more investment would pour into new oil fields and into new energy alternatives to oil and shale gas. The result is an increase in employment in the oil industry.

The costs of such projects were only justified in the case of high oil prices. So, when oil prices go into decline, many companies — or at least many extraction operations — will consequently lose competitiveness and be forced to shut down. Layoffs will follow and the ripple effect brings more unemployment and an unwanted increase in bad debts.

Will Central Banks Hit the Panic Button?

At this point, Keynesians step in and argue central banks have an important role in “fixing” the problem. That is, they will argue that the central banks should offset the subsequent risk of “deflation” by increasing the money supply.

First of all, note there is a double standard at work here. When oil prices rise, the central bankers claim there is too much volatility in oil prices and so the central bank will exclude energy prices from core inflation and postpone an interest rate hike. But when oil prices fall, the central bank no longer focuses on core inflation, but looks to a broader deflationary view that includes energy prices. Then, the response is to cut interest rates further.

Regardless of whether the oil price is high or low, central banks can come up with a rationale to adopt a loose monetary policy in order to fit the agenda that suits them.

It is important to clarify that falling oil prices that follow massive investment in extraction (causing layoffs, unemployment, and increases in bad debts) may harm a set of individuals or certain industries, but for the long-term development of the overall economy, it is a good thing. We must understand that after the financial crisis of 2008, a variety of resources — including oil prices — experienced a V-shaped rebound because both the US and China, the biggest two economies in the world, undertook a substantial increase in government spending and embarked on unprecedented credit-creation programs.

These government “stimulus” programs inevitably caused overinvestment in many industries (i.e., malinvestment), and, in the most recent cycle, the oil industry is very clearly one such industry.

The Role of China

However, in 2010, the Chinese government became concerned about malinvestments and inflation, and the People’s Bank of China began significantly tightening the money supply (although they again turned to easy money last November). This led to a slowdown in China's economic growth, and falling demand led to a drop in the prices of commodities — first copper and iron, and subsequently energy.

Moreover, the increase in the oil supply (due to the shale gas revolution), and reduced demand, combined for a double attack, until finally a substantial decline in oil prices appeared this year.

A Necessary Correction

The oil industry and related industries are facing the inevitable: companies which miscalculated and predicted ongoing price growth will go bankrupt, and industry resources will be acquired by investors with more insight. The short-term pain the oil industry is currently facing is necessary, and governments and central banks must not stop this natural process through misguided stimulus in an effort to prevent oil company layoffs. Such efforts are likely to only benefit the giant oil companies, as we witnessed in the wake of the 2008 crisis where the biggest banks were the biggest winners.


Peter Wong is a professional investor in Hong Kong and a director in the city’s only non-government-funded free market think-tank. He is also a newspaper columnist, radio host, and commentator on socio-economic and financial issues. Following the Austrian economic principles, his comments are broadcast both in Chinese and English via the top three Hong Kong radio stations. He also expresses his ideas in various major media platforms internationally and in the Greater China Region, such as, BBC News, The South China Morning Post,China Daily and Phoenix Satellite Television.
This post first appeared at the Mises Daily.

Minimum wage rise: they wanted, they demanded it, they marched for, and they got it. Good and hard.

Embedded image permalink

Well, they wanted, they demanded it, they marched for, and they got it. Good and hard.

Seattle’s minimum wage law takes effect April 1st, and it’s already leading to closures and job losses.

Who knew?

More accurately, who didn’t know—which was everyone who wanted it, demanded it, and marched for it and who denied in doing so raising the supply price of employees would have any negative effect on the number of employees demanded.

No wonder they’re so confused now by the closures and job losses, because they’d been told by their intellectual leaders that to wish it were so was sufficient; that to pass a law of the legislature would be enough to overrule a law of economics; that to control the narrative was enough, just do so and everyone would be laughing.

But they’re not laughing now in Seattle, are they.

They’re learning that reality is not to be denied.

That in any contest between reality and “the narrative,” it is always reality that has the final say.

That to raise real wages requires more than just raising a pen to repeal a law of economics, it requires the economic progress their new law has just made much harder.

At least, that’s what they should be learning of they’re not already so crippled by the postmodern economics taught them by their intellectual leaders.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

GST online

This, from 2013, is topical again:

There are arseholes everywhere. One of them runs the Retailers Association.

John Albertson, Retailers Association CEO, wants to add a tariff to every single purchase you make on the internet—to make your books more expensive, your clothes more costly, your boots and shoes and software and music more pricy.

That’s why I call him an arsehole.

Internet retailing has been a boon for every New Zealand buyer. Instead of being restricted to just the few shops in our local area, we now have the whole of the world’s goods available at the click of a mouse, at the lower prices a worldwide market makes possible.

And since everyone at root is a consumer, in a rational world that should have all of us throwing up our hands with joy.

But not John.  John wants to put a stop to that forthwith. You see, purchases made from overseas buyers only attracts GST on amounts over $400. John reckons however you should pay Government Slavery Tax on every purchase made online.  Because by not taxing the buggery out of every New Zealand consumer, says this deluded fool, “we” are “subsidising overseas retailers to the tune of $200 million.”

“Subsidy” in this case meaning “paying them less.” 

What a moron.

John argues “we” should impose GST on every online purchase “so the government can clip the ticket on every sale.” He wants to punish you while, incidentally, helping his association’s members. (Or that’s what he thinks.)

How would this extra imposition be levied when it’s not just iniquitous but almost impossible to apply? PayPal would probably need to face up to its new role as an international tax collector, says The Arsehole. "PayPal are going to come up against this all around the world, so they may as well get used to the idea."

You can almost hear his heels clicking together.  Or the GCSB tapping your broadband connection.

Local retailers need to realise the world has changed—and maybe they should get in on it too. After all, if it’s now just as easy for a buyer in Ashburton to buy goods from Kiev, Khartoum or Kaliningrad, then it’s just as easy for an Ashburton retailers to send goods to those places as well. 

The internet revolution makes the whole world a NZ retailer’s online oyster, yet too many are too busy complaining their shot glasses are are half empty.

Maybe it’s because they’re taking advice from arseholes like John.

As someone commented at Kiwiblog. GST simply doesn’t work in a modern economy. Time to scrap it and run a smaller government.


Economics for Real People: The role of beliefs in economics


So you were wondering what our friends at the Auckland Uni Economics Group would be presenting for you tomorrow night? Then here you go:

The role of culture on economic performance has been largely swept aside by economists. Indeed, those who study the fictitious species of homo economicus, the (ideal) economic human, assume away the very possibility of such a role for culture. Is this approach justified?

About the Seminar:

This week we are excited to be joined by Professor Robert MacCulloch, who will present on the topic: The role that beliefs of economic agents plays in economic decision and policy making.
In the seminar, Professor MacCulloch will argue that the prevailing view regarding economic beliefs is erroneous. A leading thinker on the topic, Robert discusses how economic beliefs of agents do impact on economic outcomes. Robert also discusses how cultural histories and past economic experiences can inform these beliefs of market participants. Further, he will explain the implications of such beliefs, and how beliefs can help to explain why certain economic beliefs are incompatible with certain institutions.

    Date: Thursday, March 19
    Time: 6-7pm
    Location: Case Room One, Level Zero, Auckland Uni Business School, Owen G. Glenn Building
                         (plenty of parking in the basement, entrance off Grafton Rd)

We look forward to seeing you there!

About the Speaker:
Robert is widely published, with his papers are ranked as being in the top 1% of most highly cited papers ever in economics worldwide. Robert received a BSc in maths and MCom from the University of Auckland. He then worked at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand before completing a PhD in Economics at Oxford University where he was awarded a Royal Economic Society Junior Fellowship. He taught at Oxford University and then pursued research interests at the London School of Economics and Princeton University before joining Imperial College London Business School as Director of its doctoral programme. Robert was awarded the Rector’s Award for Distinguished Research Excellence at Imperial College London Business School and won their Prize for top overall teacher in consecutive years.
He returned to New Zealand in 2013 to take up the MSA Charitable Trust Chair of Macroeconomics at The University of Auckland Business School.


PS: Don’t forget to keep up to date with us on our 2015 Facebook page.

So who needs economic growth, eh?

Some days Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn really earns his sobriquet.

This morning for example he’s chuntering away about “out-of-touch elites only talking about things voters don't care about” – things like quantitative easing and deficits and GDP.

Instead, he reckons, “when it comes down to it, voters don't care about GDP or quantitative easing - they care about whether they have a job and a roof over their heads…”

Which is all very well but, well, guess what: they may not want to think about them, but maybe they should.

And maybe they should, because it’s things like economic growth – or economic progress as I like to call it -- a general rise in production and consequently in living standards and real wages that makes more jobs possible and pays for more things like more roofs over more heads and more food and comfort within.

And while GDP is certainly a very imperfect concept indeed, when used as a proxy for economic progress then it certainly is a way for Idiot/Savant’s voters to understand that many more jobs and roofs over heads are generally available  when this figure is going up rather than down.

And when understood properly, Idiot/Savant’s voters might also take a real interest in deficits and quantitative easing, both of which make jobs and roofs over heads less likely, rather than more.

In short, Idiot/Savant and his idiot voters might care to understand that economic growth is good, and then perhaps they might like to vote more for those who make it possible, and less for those who don’t.

Instead of having things arse-backwards.


X Factor: The nadir of naturalism

Is X Factor the nadir of reality television? Hell no. It’s just one low point out of many. (Try Google for evidence. It won’t take long.) But the on-air snit that’s got everyone talking does demonstrate the nadir of a particular school of literature.

Before I go there, listen to a comedienne. Take it away Michele A’Court:

imageThe problem with sticking real people on television is that we get to see all that when really we were hoping for something else. You're hoping to see a nice bloke having a crack at singing stardom and instead meet a dude who was involved in a fatal stabbing. You think you're getting to know a lady looking for love and find out she's a convicted fraudster. You're hoping to watch talent being discovered and nurtured, and instead you're confronted with bullying and rabid narcissism. The stuff you'd cross the street or leave the party to avoid, or openly confront on your better days. Yet there it is, in your living room. Ew….
    Really, we should stop putting real people on TV to entertain us. I'm not suggesting filling it up with cats (they've already got the internet) but instead of real people, how about fake people?  Let's get some writers – people who know about flaws and redemption and dramatic arcs  – and get them to invent some characters and make up stories for them. Put words in their mouths that offer insight and wisdom, and take us on a carefully mapped journey that entertains and edifies. What, back in the old days, we called a "plot" with a "theme". And we could train people to pretend to be people acting out these satisfying stories. We could call them "actors." …
    There's an art to imitating life. If you want a show about music, let's hear some and take a vote. If you want something else – real drama through conflict and resolution involving  complex human dynamics – you might need a team of people with something more in their skill set than a hair-do and an excess of self-confidence. You'd want people capable of  consciously creating entertainment.

Hard to argue with.

But maybe there’s a reason so many shows moved away from things like a "plot" with a "theme," with people acting out these satisfying stories – and it wasn’t just because “real people” are cheaper than actors. (Although hard to believe when you look at some actors’ pay, or examine the morals of, say, the girls from the Jersey Shore.)

Maybe the reason was a school of literature called “Naturalism,” that extolled the virtues of exposing the “real lives” of “real people” and claimed this constituted an art form. But if you’re going to present “slice-of-life stories” and “kitchen sink dramas” and “fly-on-the-wall” theatre with the argument that you’re presenting “real life,” then how much more real to present actual real people being themselves.

Which means (if you can’t find your off switch in time) you end up with stuff in your living room you'd either cross the street or leave the party to avoid, or would openly confront on your better days.

It’s not just an argument about bad aesthetics. Because it’s the bad aesthetics that lead directly to teams of people with nothing more in their skill set than a hair-do and an excess of self-confidence infesting your television screen – and your newspaper.

As usual (ahem) Ayn Rand skewered the problem and pointed to the solution:

The Naturalists object that the events of men’s lives are inconclusive, diffuse and seldom fall into the clear-cut, dramatic situations required by a plot structure. This is predominantly true—and this is the chief aesthetic argument against the Naturalist position. Art is a selective recreation of reality, its means are evaluative abstractions, its task is the concretization of metaphysical essentials. To isolate and bring into clear focus, into a single issue or a single scene, the essence of a conflict which, in “real life,” might be atomized and scattered over a lifetime in the form of meaningless clashes, to condense a long, steady drizzle of buckshot into the explosion of a blockbuster—that is the highest, hardest and most demanding function of art. To default on that function is to default on the essence of art and to engage in child’s play along its periphery.

The end result of that default is the meaningless child’s play it’s been impossible to avoid for the last few days. The antidote is to essentialise the state of things, to condense otherwise meaningless conflicts (like those our headlines have recently been exposed to) into something meaningful by means of drama. Or, as comedienne Michele A-Court says “take us on a carefully mapped journey that entertains and edifies.”

It’s funny how so much so true can be condensed by comedians too.

[Pic by Stuff]


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Entitle-itis starts at the top

There are few things all MPs can agree on. Keeping up their taxpaid international travel perks for life is one of them.


Tau Henare and Trevor Mallard might punch each other out in their spare time, but when it comes to full wallets out and the threat their pork might stop flowing they’re like blood brothers.


The sense of entitlement of the country’s most highly-paid beneficiaries crosses all parts of what passes for a political spectrum -- Ministers are 'entitled' to dip into tax purse, said Rodney Hide when taking his then mistress to London; “It's something I'm entitled to,” wailed Roger Douglas when sprung milking the taxpayer for multiple trips abroad to see grandchildren.

So what did the Greens do to upset the apple-sauce cart?

Did they suggest this plunder should go? Did they propose it be stopped altogether? Or be limited only to those currently in parliament

No, they agreed taxpayers should pick up MPs tab for life; they merely suggested the amounts be somewhat limited not be increased.

Because there’s one thing all MPs can agree on, both past, present and future – and that’s that the trough is there for their snouts.

For life.

And face with an opportunity to cut the crap, or even make a stand on principle, newish MP and new Labour leader Andrew Little, who could have argued he hadn’t been responsible for the rort, instead elected to blow whatever chance he had of taking some moral high ground this morning with a fumbling, mumbling defence of the iniquitous status quo.

Because there’s one thing on which all MPs can agree: they’re entitled.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The night Beethoven made me cry


Guest post by Terry Verhoeven

I am not one to profit from the misfortunes of others. Saturday night however I made an exception, filling the seat for PC at pianist Freddy Kempf's last NZ performance because he most regrettably could not make it and did not want his ticket to go to waste

It didn't.

What. A. Night. To. Remember.

This Wellington concert was the last in Freddy’s sell-out tour of Beethoven piano concertos which he conducted from the piano, this last night being concerto numbers four and five. Freddy was outstanding in every possible respect. I sat in awe as the maestro demonstrated to me, a concerti virgin, Beethoven's presence. And with what aplomb! The young maestro did The Gracious Mouth Through Which Music Spoke proud.

Conducting while playing was a masterstroke by the composer-pianist. A musician in our group observed later that  playing involves introversion, while conducting involves extroversion, so to be able change between the two modes as often as beautifully and as seamlessly as Freddy did was an amazing feat in itself. And one of the most invigorating and exhilarating things I have ever watched.

The hour and half long extravaganza of magnificence began with the Egmont overture, a stunningly beautiful piece in its own right. It centred the mind for what was about to come.

And then it came. The first movement of number four. How to describe it? No words can do it justice. The only words that come close to describing what I heard are the words attributed to Beethoven himself:

From the glow of enthusiasm I let the melody escape. I pursue it. Breathless I catch up with it. It flies again, I seize it. I embrace it with delight. I multiply it then by modulations, and at last I triumph in the first theme. There is the whole symphony.

I felt and saw the butterflies; in my stomach, from the excitement and exhilaration, and floating over the keys of the piano at a rhythmic pace I never would have believed was humanly possible (we were seated just behind the orchestra so only the orchestra had a better view of hands at work).

If music were honey, then Kempf's fingers were the bees. And boy did they make the honey trickle. By the end of the first movement I had reached cloud nine and the sweetness even drew a tear from me. Not an easy thing to do!

And that was just the first movement. The second was the most sublime thing I have ever heard. So contrasting to the first, yet so complementary. One simply cannot beat a live performance.

After the beauty of the fourth and the anticipation created by the intermission, the fifth was as professionally executed, but my own mind and heart had reached their crescendo during the second movement of the fourth. Still, my heart raced as  I joined in the round and well-deserved standing ovation from a packed house after all three movements of the fifth.

Freddy Kempf and the NZSO were first class. There is no praise too high I can give their performance. I honestly cannot imagine attending another that could beat it. But then again, I am a guy who has just popped his concerti cherry.


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Farewell Terry Pratchett (1948-2015)

Terry Pratchett

Guest post by Julian Pistorius

I was saddened to hear of writer Terry Pratchett’s passing, because as a child and teenager I devoured the Discworld series he created. I reread the old ones while waiting for the new one to hit the shelves. Fortunately Terry Pratchett scoffed at the idea of writer's block, so new books came out often. I spent hours reading on the toilet - my favourite reading spot. My family knew I was reading Pratchett because of the intermittent peals of laughter coming from behind the toilet door. (Fortunately we had two bathrooms.)

I discovered Terry Pratchett at the age when I started questioning everything. His no-bullshit writing, his clear stance on right and wrong, his irreverent poking of fun at authority, his scoffing at mysticism and religious dogma, all of these resonated with me at a time when I was trying to make sense of the world.

For me Terry Pratchett's fantasy world was a lens into the way the real world works. He used fantasy settings as a way to strip an issue down to its essentials. His writing was relentlessly reality-focused and clear, never 'preachy' or mushy, but with a benevolence and generosity that pervaded every page. Oh and his wry and wicked sense of humour! His books were a refreshing breeze of joy, rationality and individualism.

His stories reinforced for me that you should judge people as individuals, regardless of their race, gender, orientation or species - and yes, even the undead. His protagonists were often reluctant anti-heroes - cranky, grumpy, recalcitrant, quirky individuals who just want to be left alone to get on with their own lives. He had a soft-spot for the lovable, fallible rogue, as opposed to the goody-two-shoes white knight. He never made fun of people who didn't deserve it. We always laughed with the protagonists, not at them. He skewered people who put on airs and graces and he made fun of those who think they know how everybody else should live - even when they claimed to have the best of intentions. He had no patience for wilful stupidity, superstition and cruelty.

From his books I learnt to distrust anybody who claims to have special knowledge which will make all my problems go away if only I suspended my own judgment. I learnt that life can be tough, but I have to figure it out myself, and that it's better to be clever and resourceful than strong (though in a pinch being strong is pretty useful); that one should face up to evil, and stand up for innocent victims. I learnt that people make mistakes, that the real world is messy (not unlike Ankh-Morpork and Discworld), and that it's OK - in fact that's part of its charm.

Terry Pratchett is gone, but his books, and the lessons they taught me, live on.

NB: Some excellent Pratchett quotes here, including:

    “Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom.”
    Terry Pratchett

    “It's not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren't doing it.”
    Terry Pratchett

    “If you have enough book space, I don't want to talk to you.”
    Terry Pratchett

    “There is a rumour going around that I have found God. I think this is unlikely because I have enough difficulty finding my keys, and there is empirical evidence that they exist.”
    Terry Pratchett

    “Just erotic. Nothing kinky. It's the difference between using a feather and using a chicken.”
    Terry Pratchett, Eric

    “The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it's as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues.”
    Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures

Julian Pistorius

Julian Pistorius turn ideas into reality through the medium of software. He holds to the philosophy of individualism and promotes individual rights. And bacon.

[Pratchett Pic by Dave M. Bennett, Getty Images]