Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Govt’s top-down plan “hangs in the balance”–Treasury

“Maybe stop calling them "anchor projects" if they haven't been built after 
five years, and have obstructed Christchurch recovery more than helped.”

~ Francis McRae

The reality of government’s’ top-down numb fumbling in Christchurch has been measured in a Treasury Report that concludes the Key Government’s Central City Recovery Plan for the city “hangs in the balance” and the governments so-called “anchor projects” that were supposed to, ahem, anchor the whole frickin’ mess are, and I quote, “unachievable.”

The Christchurch Central Development Unit's Don Miskell was the co-lead of the city's blueprint's design team.Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has dismissed the report as “utter tripe.” He doesn’t bother to show any working.

He says the findings show the "arrogant bureaucratic attitude" the Wellington-based department has towards Christchurch.

Which is ironic, not to say imbecilic, because the government’s entire plan for the city since Day One of the first earthquake has been arrogant, bureaucratic and dictatorial. The army out on on the streets stopping people entering their own buildings. Government agencies refusing to let land-owners make plans for their own land and buildings. Several layers of government planners—in total defiance of all commercial reality--telling everyone how, when and where things will happen, doing all but prohibit things happening in any other way, and seeking to shut down anyone attempting (and succeeding) doing things in a way or in a place that hasn’t been previously approved by the planners.

An earthquake is one disaster. It’s a major. But the government and bureaucratic disaster of top-down dictatorial ‘planning’ since has been worse all round.  (Just compare how two almost identical cities fared under similar circumstances: ‘The Triumph of Ethics over Practicality: A Tale of Two Cities.’)image

The balance in which the plan should be weighed is one in which land-owners, investors and entrepreneurs should have been free to make their own evaluations and back them—which could (and should) have happened from Day Two. Weigh that ‘plan’ first, And then maybe we should get on and deal with the hangings.

UPDATE: Hugh Pavletich comments:

The much touted ‘100-day’ blueprint is now only useful as bog paper. The sooner it is guillotined into strips and deposited in National cabinet minister's loos the better -- so they can feel just a trifle of the pain felt by many in Chch still battling with Southern No-Response, EQC, and daily interactions of CCDU and the soon to be forgotten CERA…
    The Blueprint lunacy was simply an extension of the paintbrush planning fantasies of the local CCC bureaucrats …

Quotes of the Day: On those alleged fossil-fuel ‘subsidies’

“…a tax reduction is NOT a subsidy.”
~ Bob Shapiro, ‘Toward a Sane US Energy Policy

“Does it makes sense to refer to our failure to enact carbon taxes and the like as a ‘subsidy’? … When headlines claim that ‘The world is spending $5.3 trillion on fossil fuel subsidies,’ many people might think that this money is somehow going directly to oil, gas, and coal companies. I suspect they don't read that sentence as ‘The world should raise energy taxes by $5.3 trillion to account for the [alleged] damages caused by fossil fuels.’ But the latter is basically what is meant.”
~ Brad Plumer, The IMF says we spend $5.3 trillion a year on fossil fuel subsidies. How is that possible?

“But as pointed out by less gullible and self-interested commentators, the “subsidy” is not what it seems – 40 per cent is due to road accidents and the like, which oil is said to cause; 25 per cent is due to fossil fuels causing global warming; another swag is due to the authors’ view that taxes are too low anyway!”
~ Alan Moran, ‘Anti-fossil fuels agitprop may harm Australia

“The reason subsidies persist is that people don’t understand the sorts of things that are classified as subsidies. They think of them as cash payments from the government to oil companies. In reality, most are things like assistance for low income households so they don’t freeze to death in the winter…. ‘The ‘subsidies’ we give fossil energy companies are a rounding error relative to the subsidies fossil energy give to society’.”
~ Robert Rapier & Nate Hagens, ‘How Fossil Fuels Subsidise Us

We get large value in return for [these mis-named] fossil fuel subsidies, whereas for solar and wind subsidies we get almost nothing. Per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of energy produced from solar and wind, there is a[an actual] subsidy to the producers of about two cents/kWh. Since base electric price in the US is around 8-10 cents per kilowatt-hour, that’s about a 20% subsidy.
    “The [alleged] subsidy for oil, on the other hand, is about a hundredth of one cent per kWh, coal is about two hundredths of a cent per kWh, and nuclear is about eight hundredths of a cent per kWh.
    “Why the huge disparity? It’s because solar and wind don’t produce economically, so they have to be artificially propped up…”
~ Willis Eschenbach, ‘The Hood Robin Syndrome

“Many Australians enjoy receiving their annual tax refund. Having over-paid tax during the year, the Australian Tax Office sends them a cheque. Nobody thinks this is a subsidy; if the government were to propose to simply pocket that money, everyone would clearly see this as constituting an increase in taxation.”
~ Sinclair Davidson, ‘Diesel rebate is not a subsidy

“Not all of what they describe as subsidies is a subsidy in the normal meaning of the word. Nor is everything they do count a subsidy even in their expansive sense to the energy system. And almost all of what they describe is in fact a subsidy to energy consumers, not to energy producers. And finally it’s most certainly not all a subsidy to fossil fuels or fossil fuels use. The way they’re counting things the renewables industry is also getting a very much larger subsidy than we normally calculate it does.”
~ Tim Worstall, ‘IMF Report On $5.3 Trillion In Energy Subsidies; Careful, It's Not Quite What You Think

Blog stats: November, 2015

I haven’t posted my blog stats here for some time (well, apart from that permanent Google App down there on the left-hand sidebar you can consult anytime you feel like it, just above those automatically Google-generated ‘popular posts), and after another month with the new blog setup here I wanted to see what my Statcounter says about my stats. And here’s the news for the month just finished:

Unique visitors [from Statcounter]: 37, 485
Page Views [from Statcounter]: 50, 619

As you might notice that looks a bit different to the Google figures, which is a little perplexing:

Page Views [from Google]: 218, 879

This sort of suggests that counting stats is far from exact science, one reason I’d stopped posting them. Still, there’s a clear upward trend here since the blog platform was updated, for which I’m grateful:


And even the much (lower) Statcounter figures would put me fourth in Open Parachute blog’s occasional Top 5 NZ Political Blog Rankings (just ahead of Dim Post, and  well behind the Daily Blog.) But that blog-ranking system uses SiteMeter, which I don’t use – so who knows.

Anyway, for what it’s worth Google says these are the Top Ten Most-Read Posts from November 2015:

  1. Lest we forget
  2. Little thought given to Labour’s buy-local lunacy
  3. Christmas Island, rape, and other random questions...
  4. Quote of the day: On Christmas Island
  5. Vertigo?
  6. “Bill Gate’s Solution to Climate Change Reveals His Misunderstanding of Capitalism and Free Markets”
  7. Auckland: The mongrel now has momentum.
  8. Quote of the day: On NZers being deported from Aus...
  9. “Modern Educayhsun”
  10. Free trade is fair trade

Although, confusingly, StatCounter makes a case for these as well:

  1. Jonah Lomu, 1975-2015
  2. For ‘living wage’ campaigners to be right, economic theory has to be wrong
  3. Friday Morning Ramble, after a bad week …
  4. Susan Devoy fails to fight for chance to teach new immigrants
  5. Quote of the day: Why are there so few Muslim terrorists?
  6. Fixing those fragile campus kids

And from both sources I count these as the Top-ten sites referring sites:

Small Dead Animals, Facebook, Reddit (odd, since I can’t even post a Reddit widget here), Twitter, No Minister, Kiwiblog, Lindsay Mitchell, Gus Van Horn, NZ Conservative, and Life Behind the IRon Drape. (Thank you all.)

Now, for the geeks …

they’re reading Not PC here:


Paris: It’s all about climate. Apparently.

Several thousand people have consumed many tons of fossil fuels flying to Paris to tell us to stop using fossil fuels. They are likely to issue a document, in Paris, saying the biggest problem facing the world is global warming. Caused by burning fossil fuels.

Lauded at the conference already is Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, for his statement that China will “take action” to help stop the onset of bad weather. Here,in context, is the action already planned in China for the immediate future:

Coal Fired plants, World Reources Institute, China

Consistency is not their strongest suit.

Is there any wonder folk look askance at the claims made by alleged climate scientists – when even the claim of a 97% consensus among climate scientists is “not only false, but its presence in the debate is an insult to science”? (In fact, '97% Of Climate Scientists Agree' Is 100% Wrong.)

So how many thousand very important egos descended on Paris for this particular political bunfest? Answer: 40,000 delegates (40 fricking thousand of them!) and 140 world leaders with apparently nothing better to do.

It was the largest single-day gathering of heads of state or government in history, the UN said.

Discussing, in Paris, the most important issue facing us all. Which is not terrorism. (That was last week’s thing. Apparently.)

“Never have the stakes of an international meeting been so high because it concerns the future of the planet, the future of life,” French President Francois Hollande said in an opening speech. “The hope of all of humanity rests on all of your shoulders.” 

Wow. It’s like we’ve never heard any of this before:

So why are these very important persons so convinced that they should be in Paris discussing climate, instead of terrorism?

    It cannot be what is happening to world temperatures, because they have gone up only very slowly, less than half as fast as the scientific consensus predicted in 1990 when the global-warming scare began in earnest…
    Nor can it be the consequences of this recent slight temperature increase that worries world leaders. On a global scale, as scientists keep confirming, there has been no increase in frequency or intensity of storms, floods or droughts, while deaths attributed to such natural disasters have never been fewer, thanks to modern technology and infrastructure.
    Nor can it be the consequences of this recent slight temperature increase that worries world leaders. On a global scale, as scientists keep confirming, there has been no increase in frequency or intensity of storms, floods or droughts, while deaths attributed to such natural disasters have never been fewer, thanks to modern technology and infrastructure.

So, what “action” do they intend to make us take, all these 40,140 very important persons, to stop what appears on its face to be a non-problem? Why, they intend to make it harder and more expensive to use the very fossil fuels that sustain human life. 

What would be the effect of that, were they successful? Energy advocate Alex Epstein explains:

Anyone who says "keep fossil fuels in the ground" is also saying "put more people in the ground."

Blunt. But fair.

But apart from flying to one of the world’s great cities for a week in Parisian restaurants, just how seriously do these thousands actually take all their talk themselves?

If all the world’s leading nations stick to the carbon-reduction commitments they will make in Paris this week, then they will stave off “global warming” by the end of this century by 0.170 degrees C.

Shackling western energy production, which means shackling and diminishing human life, simply to lower temperatures by by 0.170 degrees C by century’s end. Is this really about science?

Oh – and that’s the optimistic scenario, calculated by Bjorn Lomborg, assuming that countries like, say, China don’t lie or cheat about how much CO2 they’re burning secretly.
    His more pessimistic – i.e., more realistic – scenario is that the best we can hope for is a reduction in global warming by the end of the century of 0.048 degrees C.
    This temperature reduction – five hundredths of one degree – is so small as to be almost immeasurable. But if you want to know what it feels like,
Willis Eschenbach has done the calculations. It’s the equivalent of walking five metres higher up a mountain. Or, if you prefer, climbing two flights of stairs.
    And there you have it: the lunacy of the Paris climate conference in one sentence: $1.5 trillion every year till the end of the century to effect the equivalent of walking to your bedroom.

So while the “action” aimed for will be utterly ineffective in their stated goals (of ending alleged catastrophic global warming), they would be effective in shackling western energy production. Which gives you a clue about what’s going on here. As economist George Reisman often says, observe how all the “action” they talk about taking is government action to ban private actions. Which gives you a clue to some of the political motivation here. As a commenter says on this thread “Funny how the ‘cure’ is the re-distribution of wealth.”

[Cartoon by Josh]

Met Police v Chris Cairns

It’s hard to understand why the Metropolitan Police brought the case of perjury against Chris Cairns, in which they sought to prove that he had previously lied in court when he said he had never, ever cheated in cricket, when they apparently had no evidence to show he had ever cheated.

They had no clear evidence of Cairns fixing matches.

They had nothing to show he had ever cheated in a match.

They had no evidence he had ever even profited by having cheated in a match.

They sought to prove no causal chain from paymaster to play to being paid. None at all.

In short, they had nothing to show in court beyond the he-said-she-said testimony given by good people which, on its own, may have supported an actual case but which on its own was no more a was a case than one beer constitutes a good night out.

But it seems that is all the prosecution had to bring to their case. He said she said. And when he said he had “never, ever cheated in cricket” they had a whole lifetime in games to select from to take a case.

So it’s hard to understand why the Metropolitan Police brought their case at all, the decision on which was entirely and one-hundred percent theirs, when they apparently had no evidence at all to show he had ever cheated.


Friday, 27 November 2015

'I want to go back there and live': Eagles of Death Metal vow Bataclan return

The band targeted by barbarians at Bataclan say they want to go back there and finish the show.

“Our friends went there to see rock and roll and died. I want to go back there and live,” Eagles of Death Metal co-founder and vocalist Jesse Hughes said in this powerful interview:

[Hat tip Julian D.]

Quote of the Day: For our American friends …

“Thanksgiving is a typically American holiday. In spite of its religious form (giving thanks to God for a good harvest), its essential, secular meaning is a celebration of successful production. It is a producers’ holiday. The lavish meal is a symbol of the fact that abundant consumption is the result and reward of production. Abundance is (or was and ought to be) America’s pride—just as it is the pride of American parents that their children need never know starvation."
~ Ayn Rand

BONUS POST: The true but little-told story of how Thanksgiving very nearly didn’t happen . . .

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Nice line, sir.

“With Colin Craig asking for a fee of $3000 a month for the display of his poem ‘Two of Me’ on a blog, it begs the question - is it really that good?
”New Zealand's inaugural Poet Laureate, Bill Manhire says the poetry - penned by the former Conservative Party leader, which was allegedly written for his ex-press secretary Rachel MacGregor - is not the worst he's ever seen.
"’It's certainly better than
David Cunliffe's Harvard poem.’"

~ Bill Manhire in the Herald’s article, ‘NZ poet Bill Manhire on Colin Craig's poem: 'It's not the worst'

PS: Suzuki Samurai’s line immediately after the last election wasn’t bad either and, as it turns out, right on the button on a number of things…

Colin Craig: Still that school prefect who dobs in smokers. A wanker who doesn't wank. Showers in his 'Y Fronts'. He reminds me of the teeth-only smile one gets from the minister outside church after a funeral...makes me shudder. I am not at all sorry for his loss.

Housing market a regulatory disaster

Guest post by Affordable Auckland’s mayoral candidate Stephen Berry

With Auckland’s housing market becoming an international sensation following the sale of a state-house hovel in Devonport for over $1 million [read Bloomberg’s ‘London House Prices Have Nothing on Auckland’], it’s clear young people and low-income families are paying the price for the Council’s regulatory disaster.

Nosey NIMBYs, heritage preservation and zone rigidity are all contributors to the insane hyper-inflation that has afflicted Auckland’s housing market. Resource consent costs averaging fifteen- to thirty-thousand dollars per site don’t help.  However the biggest elephant in the room, which the left-wing council refuses to recognise, is that what is causing the artificial land shortage sending values skyrocketing are their very own policies.”

I refuse to accept the usual scapegoat of ‘foreign speculation’ as the cause of Auckland’s heated house market. Speculation is just a symptom of our problems, not the cause. In order to slow price inflation the city needs to abolish the urban boundary and allow the city to spread out, as well as intensifying.

High school economics textbooks are not the only place you can find the basic economic laws that demonstrate price inflation when supply is artificially prevented from meeting demand. A 2010 report from the Productivity Commission report was also able to illustrate this consequence when it showed land 2km inside council’s self-imposed urban limit is eight times the price of land 2km outside of it.

Centrally planning special zones where consents processes are streamlined, and where land-owners receive special favour, will attract headlines but is not going to make the slightest dent in prices. The fact only 102 houses have been built out of 30,000 projected proves this.

The Council needs to remove the regulatory distortions it has created to allow the market to begin behaving in a healthy manner. Centrally-planned growth must be replaced by organic growth respecting private property rights. The consequences of not doing so will be and are becoming catastrophic.

Stephen Berry is the Affordable Auckland mayoral candidate for 2016.
He was third place-getter in the 2103 Auckland mayoralty election.
Like Affordable Cities on Facebook.

For ‘living wage’ campaigners to be right, economic theory has to be wrong

Some economists and journalists claim that a "living wage" mandate would actually help businesses. Our guest poster Ryan Bourne says this is a prime example of motivated reasoning and half-baked economics, and gives four reasons why the claim is nonsense.

It is common for Living Wage campaigners to say that adoption of the Living Wage “would benefit staff and businesses.” Why? By increasing pay, it is claimed, firms can reduce turnover, reduce time that their workers take off sick and encourage greater worker effort. This in turn will raise productivity. Some pseudo-economists claim this is evidence of the "efficiency wage" phenomenon.

Unfortunately, this is the economics of motivated reasoning. It reminds me a bit of when environmentalists say “subsidising wind farms won’t just be good for the environment, it will create jobs too”. It implies there are no trade-offs — that the Living Wage imposition or increase is an unadulterated good.

There are big problems with this narrative, two of which Alex Tarrabok explains over at Marginal Revolution (making similar arguments as I have here before) and two which I’ll add below.

The first is that the "efficiency wage" theory has always been a theory of persistent unemployment. Yet the Living Wage campaigners also say that their policy will not cause unemployment. In the efficiency wage model, as Alex explains:

The question that motivated efficiency wage theory was not why firms should raise wages but why firms don’t cut wages when they should. The answer they gave was that firms don’t cut wages despite unemployment because they fear that workers will respond to lower wages with reduced productivity. ...
Instead of being desirable, the efficiency wage is a problem because lower wages would reduce unemployment and be better for the economy as a whole.

This would imply that efficiency wages entail trade-offs that can be welfare-reducing, through reducing employment — hardly the line Living Wagers are pushing.

Second, though, and importantly, efficiency wages in these models are set by profit-maximising firms — i.e. individual companies are assumed to operate according to what is best for them. The Living Wagers are implying that they know as campaigners what is best for companies — that firms are currently ignoring potentially large productivity improvements that campaigners are able to observe. It seems very unlikely to me that huge numbers of employers are this irrational given how firms track these things.

Third, the Living Wage campaigners assume that the "efficiency wage" effects that some companies can see in terms of improved productivity could be generalised across a whole sector or the whole economy. But whilst it might be true that at the firm level paying a higher wage may mean one is able to recruit and retain from a better (and at the low pay end more reliable) pool of people, this effect dissipates if everyone is paying more.

Finally, even if we were to assume that widespread or statutory adoption of the Living Wage lowered turnover of employees from firms operating in low-skilled industries, it is unclear why it is assumed that this would be good for productivity at an economy-wide level. The higher wage in these sectors might reduce the incentive for workers to move to higher-skilled, higher-paying sectors over time.

Again, we are left with the assumption that the Living Wage campaigners not only know better what is optimal for businesses in terms of profitability, but also what the optimal rate of turnover of jobs for strong productivity growth is.

In short, for the Living Wage campaigners to be right, economic theory has to be wrong: Living Wage campaigners have better knowledge of firms’ profitability than firms themselves, and the campaigners have a better grasp of optimum turnover rates for low-skilled workers than dynamic market processes.

To be honest, I highly doubt that many campaigning for a Living Wage have discovered a way to raise economy-wide productivity painlessly through firms increasing wages. Instead the productivity argument is an ex post rationalisation. Many like the idea of higher wages because, they say, they are "fairer," and so are drawn to arguments that support that these do not have negative effects.

Ryan BourneRyan Bourne is the Head of Public Policy at the UK’s Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA)
He is a co-author of "The Minimum Wage: silver bullet or poisoned chalice?" and "Smoking out red herrings."
This post previously appeared at the IEA’s blog, and at Anything Peaceful.

REPOST: Who needs great art?

[Icarus[3].jpg]    Icarus Landing, by Michael Newberry 

WE’VE ALL FELT IT. That moment when a piece of art has touched us.

Paintings, movies, literature, sculpture, music, architecture ... all have the ability to make us cry, make us laugh, and -- just occasionally -- to make us feel ten feet tall. Why is great art so powerful? – how does it acquire this profound ability to affect us? Simply, because it speaks personally to each of us. It is our shortcut to our very souls. When we experience art that truly touches us, we don’t just feel, “I like this;” if we have souls we feel “This is Me!”

So what gives art this enormous power?

Great art has enormous scope: it subsumes an enormous range of experience and thought and emotion; it offers insight into the deepest questions we can ask about our place in the universe and our own evaluation of that; it and it integrates it all into a mental unit that our particularly human consciousness is able to grasp. It might be a painting, a sculpture, or a play or a building, but if it is done well we can all look at it or walk through it and almost immediately know -- without even being able to put it completely into words -- how the artists see the world around them, and whether or not we agree. By experiencing the art they’ve produced, we should have a pretty fair idea of what they see as important in the world, and whether or not we too see the world in that same way, or not.

Think, for instance, of the lightning-like evaluation you make when you see this painting. Or this one. Or this collection of buildings. Or these. See what I mean? The integration involved in a good work of art subsumes all the experience, thought and emotion that goes into our own view of the world and, if we identify with it, allows us to point and say: “That’s Me!” or “That’s Not Me!” (So on that score, ask yourself about your reactions to those linked pieces, and what it tells you about the way that you see the world.)

San Marcos Water Gardens Proposal, sketch by Frank Lloyd Wright

    The point here is that art isn’t just a way to kick back after a difficult week -- which is one reason elevator music and abstract painting are so execrable. (The first is just background at best; the second might manage to be good interior decoration; but neither has little ability to offer much more.) The point is that great art offers us a shortcut to our very souls; a means whereby we can examine and understand our own implicit philosophy; a way to see and to experience our deepest values, and also to celebrate them.

Art -- good art -- shows us our way of seeing the world, while celebrating that that is the way we do see the world; more particularly, it celebrates our own individual way of seeing the world, and affirms it.

WHY DO WE NEED art to see the world when we’ve already got eyes and ears and fingers and hands with which to experience it ourselves, and a brain with which to organise those experiences? Answer: We need art precisely because of the nature of that brain, and because of the way it organises the experiences.

Look at the way our knowledge of the world is acquired and held: our knowledge of the world around us begins with our senses, which provide us with material that is then organised by our brain into concepts; those concepts in turn are then integrated into propositions and theories. We start with sensations, derived from particular experiences, and these form the basis for all our higher abstractions: all our ideas, from ideas of love, of justice, of rights, of value ... all high-order abstractions; all derived from earlier concretes which are subsumed into concepts, and then subsumed into even wider concepts, and so on.

This process of abstraction-leading-to-further-abstraction creates both the enormous power of the human mind, and its great weakness: both its power to think in vast abstractions, and its inability to see these abstractions as one unit. That’s what art does for us: it gives us each the power to see all of our important abstractions as a single unit.

To ‘fix’ each particular abstraction, as Ayn Rand points out in her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, we integrate the concept into a single mental unit: a word. Each word acts as a unit that integrates the constituent units of that particular concept, which brings together and holds for us in our minds the vast material referred to by the particular concept which that word is used to delineate.

But as we integrate these high-end abstractions into even wider abstractions, we run into a problem: the scope becomes too vast and too amorphous to grasp as a whole,even with a word. For that, we need art.  Think for example of the Statues of Justice and of Liberty, and of Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People.” These don’t just sum up the concepts of liberty and justice; they offer a dramatic evaluation of them to boot.

THE RELATIVE POSITION OF our higher abstractions works of art is analogous to the position of a poem to a word; or that of a book to its chapter; or that of a piece of furniture to a building: the greater work orders, makes understandable and gives context to all the units subsumed, and brings into existence a new mental unit integrating them all. In making a work of art, we are offering a new mental unit that is at once a higher abstraction than those it subsumes, and a more concrete one. In making our abstractions concrete, it takes us back to the concretes from whence they came, but in a much more powerful form.

Art allows us to see the totality of our worldview. If we follow Leonard Peikoff’s idea that philosophy is like a skyscraper, we can see that it is a rather oddly-shaped one. Peikoff's skyscraper begins at the lower levels with metaphysics, the nature of existence. It continues upwards with a few floors dedicated to epistemology, how we know what we know. On top of these lower floors and dependent on them are floors describing the nature of human beings and how we should live in the world as it is, i.e. ethics, and then how we should live together, i.e., the field of politics.

Now, if we understand the true nature of art we can see that art does fit on top of the other floors, since it requires all the other floors below to give it support. But in an important sense, the upper floors of art actually lead directly back to the basement, rather like one of those strange buildings in a science fiction story in which we keep going up, yet we end up in the basement instead of the penthouse. Good art is both penthouse -- in the sense that it is a glorious summation and culmination of all that is below it -- and it is also basement, because it is both fundamentally necessary to human survival (witness the cave scratchings of even primitive men, who sought to find meaning in his world) and also intensely explicative of our own deepest metaphysical value judgments.

Deep art really does go deep: right down to the bottom floor.

Why, then, is art so intensely personal? If it’s just a higher form of abstraction, why do we so readily get up in arms over it? Again, it is because of the nature of the human mind. We are endowed not just with a cognitive mechanism, but also with an emotional mechanism. “It is man’s cognitive faculty … that determines the content of both.” The premises and abstractions we form and accept are the programming for our subconscious: based on this ‘subconscious programming,’ our emotional faculty provides us inexorably with lightning-like evaluations of the things we see and experience around us -- the extent of our emotion at these experiences is the extent of the import and resonance they have for us.

We get a very real visceral pleasure when great art goes down and touches our own personal bottom floor.

As Ayn Rand said when identifying the nature of our emotions, they offer a lightning-like evaluation of the things around us. But our emotions do not spring from nowhere; they themselves are “an effect, not a cause.” Every single thing we see or experience is value-laden. It is our previous thinking (or lack thereof) that determines the nature of the evaluation.

If one has finished a hard day’s work and sees a beer, one might feel a fierce thirst and a yearning to sit down and enjoy it; if one’s a poor student and sees an exam paper, one might feel nausea and a desire to escape the classroom; but if one is a human being with a healthy soul, and one hears Beethoven’s Ninth or sees Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, then one feels exalted. The difference in the feelings is determined by what it is we experience. The intensity of feeling is the measure of the extent of the intellectual and emotional abstractions subsumed.

Why does great art move us? Because it speaks to the whole of us, and to everything we know and stand for.

So who needs great art? Why, you do.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Fixing those fragile campus kids

“Safe spaces” on uni campuses where students’ delicate sensibilities are protected.

Sensitive wee flowers so terrified of being “micro-aggressed” they bully anyone their feelings tell them might “trigger” them.

Mob rule on campuses demanding “freedom” from ideas or even events that might challenge them.

Self-infantilising students everywhere are finding ideas so scary they're demanding you check your privilege and check out of their personal and public spaces:

  • A Colorado University anti-racism rally was recently cancelled because the organisers are white.
  • Free yoga classes at the University of Ottawa were recently cancelled  because yoga is now apparently inappropriate cultural appropriation.
  • Students at Yale spit on other students and try to get their professors ousted because said professors don’t believe it’s their job to police Halloween costumes for political correctness.
  • Cambridge University students demanding that anti-abortion speakers be barred from speaking on campus
  • University College London’s students’ union (UCLU) voted to ban Nietzsche reading groups on the grounds the ‘far-right, fascist ideology’ threatened the ‘safety of the UCL student body and UCLU members.’

So well-satirised in this wonderful short film, from the UK to the USA to Australia to little old NZ “University has become the place for teenagers to go when they wish to delay being an adult, rather than being the bridge to independence it was once considered to be.”

So what can be done?

Recently on Sam Harris’ podcast, Douglas Murray said something amazing. He said:

The surprising thing is not that young people would rebel. Young people have always rebelled. That’s what young people do. The surprising thing is why the adults give in.
    I think this is far more relevant today than in 1968. The amazing question that hovers over Yale University is why the adults take it and the kids run rampage over Yale University. And this is the really large problem which Islamists and other terrible people are simply taking advantage of.
    Somebody needs to say to the girl shrieking at her professor, 'If you cannot cope with Halloween costumes, then you’ve got no place at a university, because you’re going to have no chance at dealing with quantum physics or Shakespeare or Heidegger if Halloween spooks you out this much. You’re a useless person, and you’re going to go into a useless career, because if you’re a lawyer, and you’ve gone to Yale, but you’re too sensitive to hear about rape cases, you're not going to be able to represent anyone in a court of law. You’re no use to law. You’re no use for literature because you might read a novel that will trigger you. You’re no use for the sciences. You’re no use for anything.'
And that’s what the adults should be saying.

They should. But how do we fix the problem? And how do we find young folk who are any use to law, to literature, to science?

At root, “post-modernism, deconstructionism and progressive education have caused today's rebellion against the mind,” so in the end you have to blame the philosophers for the campus insanity. But fixing the philosophy requires new philosophers on campus ready and able to challenge the regressive post-modernists. Which means, independent young thinkers.

Where are they going to come from in our mollycoddled over-nannied world?

Here’s another answer. Jonathan Haidt, the NYU Professor who co-authored the explosive Atlantic piece,”The Coddling of the American Mind,” was asked “how to prevent another wave of kids on campus who can’t handle reading a disturbing book, or sharing the campus with a visiting speaker whose views contrast with their own.” In an article titled “Revenge of the Coddled” he responded that we have to “think young.” So obviously, education committed to encouraging independence in young children such as Montessori education is crucial. But there’s so much, says Haidt, that parents themselves can do:

Children are anti-fragile. They have to have many, many experiences of failure, fear, and being challenged. Then they have to figure out ways to get themselves through it. If you deprive children of those experiences for eighteen years and then send them to college, they cannot cope. They don’t know what to do. The first time a romantic relationship fails or they get a low grade, they are not prepared because they have been rendered fragile by their childhoods. So until we can change childhood in America, we won’t be able to roll this back and make room of open debate.
    My biggest prescription is that in every hospital delivery room, along with that first set of free diapers, should come the book: Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy. If everyone in America read the book Free-Range Kids the problem would be over in 21 years, when the first set of tougher kids filled our universities.

Free-Range Kids author Lenore Skenazy reaffirms that

the way to raise resilient kids is to be sceptical about the message we get all the time that they are just moments from doom: An encounter that will haunt them, a loss that will derail them, or an unsupervised couple of minutes that will result in their disappearance. Our society obsesses about the way kids can die in an instant, and ignores the fact that 99.9999% of them won’t, and most of THOSE will emerge no worse (and possibly better) for the wear.
    Haidt’s premise is that by avoiding more and more of our “fear triggers” (like, “She’ll die if she goes around the corner without me!”) we give those fears more power. They grow, and so does our kids’ anxiety.
    I love safety, but it’s true that
once we let our kids do things on their own, the pride and confidence that they feel and that WE feel goes a long way to restoring “normal anxiety” back to its set point, instead of the red alert it is on today, all the time.
Including on campus.

[Hat tip Monica Beth]

Peronists Lose in Argentina after 12 Years of Populist Rule [update 2]

After years of disastrous economic performance, Argentinian voters this week threw out the Peronistas who have had a political stranglehold on the country for decades—and some commentators are suggesting (or hoping) it might be a permanent expulsion, not least for the economic basket-case they’ve made of the place.

Our guest poster Ryan McMaken explains below why the disastrous economic performance led to the ejection of the populist Kirchners, in favour of a relatively pro-market President to clean up the mess left by their 12-year rule. But if history is any indicator, he says, once the new president starts to do the unpleasant work of austerity and fiscal restraint, the Argentinians will sour on him and quickly elect someone new who will start the cycle of debt, inflation, and economic disaster all over again.

[UPDATE 1: New President-elect Mauricio Marci (right) was asked “what books he would take to a deserted island, and answered The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand." (Translation here.) Hat tip David Prichard.]

[BONUS QUESTION: “What explains the dramatic differences in economic performance between the two Americas?” asks philosopher Stephen Hicks, and he has a surprising answer. If you’re not a philosopher. Long term, he says, “it’s the difference between philosophies that centre on rational individuals who produce and trade with each other to mutual benefit – and those philosophies that appeal to power conflicts between semi-irrational collectives who exploit each other. That clash of philosophical traditions goes far in explaining … the differences in economic performance.”]

Peronists Lose in Argentina after 12 Years of Populist Rule
by Ryan McMaken

The Peronists lost in Argentina after 12 years of populist rule, as voters, in a close election, opted for the economically liberal candidate who, according to USA Today, "promised to reduce the state's role in the economy and embrace more pro-business policies." "Pro-business" is most definitely not the same as being "pro-market," but we'll see how Mauricio Macri, the new president, proposes to end some of the crippling regulations and interventions that have hobbled the Argentinian economy over the past decade. 

Over the past 12 years, the rule of the Kirchners — first Nestor, then his wife Christina — ruled in the populist model of the Peronists. They committed to extravagant government spending programs, currency manipulation, and to a cronyist model of government favours for select corporations and industries. 

Prior to the most recent era of Peronism under the Kirchners, Argentina laboured under Peronist Carlos Menem, who set the stage for the 1998-2002 economic crisis in Argentina. 

As the economy headed down in the wake of Menem, the Argentinian voters opted for Fernando de la Rua who was faced with the unpleasant work of implementing cutbacks in government spending and attempting to bring inflation and government regulators under control. 

As is so often the case with those who have to clean up after the economic populists, Rua quickly became unpopular and was replaced by Peronist Nestor Kirchner in 2003. 

Kirchner set to work implementing the same policies that had led to the 1998 crises. He imposed high taxes on exports and imports, inflated the currency, and massively increased government spending from 14% of GDP to 25% of GDP. The Kirchners have imposed price controls, and under Christina, the economy took an especially ominous turn toward the authoritarian as Kirchner threatened lawsuits against critics of her economic policy and against those who attempted to provide alternative measures of the economy independent from the official government numbers. Christina imposed capital controls as capital fled the country, and by 2014, Argentina was said to have one of the highest inflation rates in the world. 

Needless to say, the economy has not been robust. 

With the election of Macri, however, Argentina may just be going through the same motions it went through when Menem left office. Argentina is following the familiar 4 Stages of Populism as described by Dornbusch and Edwards. We may be in Stage IV right now:

A new government is swept into office and is forced to engage in “orthodox” adjustments, possibly under the supervision of the IMF or an international organisation that provides the funds required to go through policy reforms. Because capital has been consumed and destroyed, real wages fall to levels even lower than those that existed at the beginning of the populist government’s election. The “orthodox” government is then responsible for picking up the pieces and covering the costs of failed policies left from the previous populist regime. The populists are gone, but the ravages of their policies continue to manifest themselves. In Argentina the expression “economic bomb” is used to describe the economic imbalances that government leaves for the next one.

The new anti-populists lay the groundwork for more economic growth, but they become unpopular when the reality of austerity sets in. 

So, new populists are voted in and the cycle begins all over again. 

Macri's time may be short lived when it becomes apparent that the way to fix Argentina's economy will involve pay cuts for government employees, less consumption, more work, and more saving. 

Ryan McMaken

Ryan W. McMaken is the editor of Mises Daily and The Free Market.

He has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado, and was the economist for the Colorado Division of Housing from 2009 to 2014. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre. This article first appeared at the Mises Daily.

UPDATE 2: The Casey Daily Dispatch posted this frankly excited analysis of the news:

A New Day in Argentina

Is it a new day in Argentina?

Are contrarian investors in the country about to make multiples on their investments?

These are the major questions on the table after Mauricio Macri won the Argentine presidential election on Sunday.

Longtime Casey Research readers know Argentina is one of Doug Casey’s favourite countries in the world. Doug, who founded our firm, has a home there and multiple Argentinian investments, including the spectacular La Estancia de Cafayate development.

La Estancia de Cafayate is located in the heart of northern Argentina’s wine country. It offers one of the world’s premier sporting and lifestyle experiences. It features miles of beautiful hiking trails, a world-class golf course, and a luxury athletic club and spa.

Doug and numerous other freethinking individuals call Cafayate home. It’s become a modern day “Galt’s Gulch.”

Macri’s victory could have major long-term implications for Argentina. To get a boots-on-the-ground take, we asked Doug for his opinion.

•  Here’s Doug Casey:

Sunday night, there was great rejoicing among the people I associate with here in Argentina. Mauricio Macri, the pro-business mayor of the city of Buenos Aires, defeated Daniel Scioli, the Kirchnerite governor of Buenos Aires province, by 52% to 48% of the vote. This was an important election for anyone who has money in this country (including myself).

Let me give you some brief background. For the last 12 years the country was ruled first by Néstor Kirchner (from 2003-2007), then by his wife Cristina, who was elected in 2007, then re-elected in 2011. Nestor died of a heart attack in 2010. Nestor had the good luck to come into office at the dead bottom of a horrendous crisis. From there, everything cyclically recovered, aided by higher commodity prices; the Argentine economy is based on agriculture. People, idiotically but predictably, attributed the better times to the Kirchners, as opposed to a commodity boom. Néstor was just a garden variety leftist. But Cristina turned out to be a raging statist ideologue, modelling herself on her idol, Eva Perón.

The Argentine economy has been in a steep decline since the accession of Juan Perón in 1952. Perón was an admirer of Mussolini and Hitler and, like them, instituted a regime of strict state control of the economy, enriching well-connected businessmen, while giving all manner of “free” goodies to the peons. The peons felt they were getting something for nothing, so subsequently always elected a politician who claimed to be a Peronist.

Cristina took it to another level. She nationalised Aerolíneas; and La Cámpora, her youth group, is said to extract about a billion dollars a year from the airline. She nationalised the country’s biggest oil company, so, of course, there’s been no energy development even though Argentina has some of the world’s biggest shale deposits. She put export duties ranging up to 40% on soybeans, corn, wheat and cattle; then farmers are expected to pay ordinary income tax on whatever profit is left. She nationalised the country’s pension funds, spent all the FX reserves, and filled the government with tens of thousands of her supporters. Meanwhile, it’s alleged she personally stole over $10 billion, not counting what subordinates and cronies have scammed.

So, back to Sunday’s election. If Scioli had won, it would have been more of the same, just on a lesser scale. But there’s a good chance that Macri will get rid of lots of gnocchis (as featherbedding government employees here are called), will repeal the export taxes, defang La Cámpora, reduce money printing, etc., etc. He’s no Ron Paul, but there’s reason to believe he has, at least, a basic understanding of economics.

He’ll be forced to take radical action since Cristina has run the country until its wheels have about come off. But if he does it, a couple hundred billion dollars Argentines have offshore could come home. And as much more from foreign investors. Sure, people in the government will still steal - that happens everywhere but maybe Singapore. But, as I’ve said for years, if the country gets a government that’s only not criminally insane, the place could, and should, boom. At a minimum, asset prices, which are now extremely low, should rise to world levels.

I came down here because I liked the lifestyle - and despite Cristina it remains one of the world’s best. But now, there’s also a good chance that those of us who put money here in the last decade, after years of being laughed at, could make a bundle. And the lifestyle will get even better…

Chart of the Day

Argentina has the world’s fourth largest shale oil supply...

Shale oil is trapped deep within rocks. About a decade ago, it was impractical to get out of the ground. However, recent advances in technology have made it economical to extract shale oil in some cases.

Today’s chart ranks the countries with the seven largest shale oil deposits. These numbers account for all oil that can be produced based on current technology and industry practices.

As you can see, Argentina has a huge supply of shale oil. Yet, because of misguided government policies, almost none of it has been tapped.

Doug Casey is hopeful Macri will create a more business-friendly environment in Argentina. If that happens, there could opportunities to make tremendous amounts of money in Argentina’s oil industry. We’ll let you know if these opportunities surface...


Justin Spittler
Delray Beach, Florida
November 24, 2015

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Bonus Quote of the Day: On Auckland house prices . . .

"The average house price in New Zealand’s largest city is now higher than London’s. ‘It’s like the supermarket before it closes on Christmas Day —
everyone thinks they’d better get in or they’ll miss out’."

~ Emma O’Brien writing for BLOOMBERG: ‘London House Prices Have Nothing on Auckland

[Hat tip Ziv Du]

Q+A on Auckland’s densification [updated]

Yesterday’s Horrid reported on the horror of the Unitary Plan’s densification of Auckland with this headline and picture:


It inspired some questions …

Q: Are Auckland’s mountains about to get covered in multiple multi-storey apartments and townhouses?
A: No.

Q: So why would a newspaper struggling for circulation use that pic with that headline?
A: You just answered your own question.

Q: Oh. Right. But the rest of the best suburbs will soon be swarming with high-rise apartments and town houses that will virtually be blotting out the sun?
A: Three storeys.

Q: Pardon me?
A: The new rules would increase the densities in these suburbs, but the height allowed for is virtually what the current District Plan’s height limit allows for now. As even the Horrid’s report itself confirms, “New rules mean around a dozen suburbs will be rezoned to a ‘mixed-house’ zone to allow for townhouses, studios and apartments of up to three storeys.” See. Three storeys.

Q: Oh. So why would … ?
A: Yes. You just answered your own question again. Horror stories sell newspapers. (They hope.)

Q: But there is a real problem, isn’t there? This is all being done in secret. It’s being done by stealth!!!!
A: But you know about it, don’t you?

Q: Well, yes. But Richard Burton, of the Auckland 2040 community group, says Aucklanders “are blissfully unaware of the new rules that will change the city.” He says, “the Unitary Plan - a new planning rulebook for the Super City - was turning into a farce, with the council making fundamental changes without any public process.”
A: You got that from the Herald too, didn’t you.

Q: Yes. I did.
A: You don’t need to be a fan of the public process to recognise that there has been one. A slightly-skewed but still quite extensive one. The original proposed Unitary District Plan was issued with all sorts of proposals, allowing many more high-rises than this latest proposed Plan doe,s and anyone who wanted to submit was able to, and invited to; and anyone who did can still be part of that process now if they want to.

Q: But these changes weren’t part of the original Plan! So how could they be part of the process?
A: Well, no, but many of the changes were signalled in that first Draft Plan. So you could have commented if you want to. And this is the process required under all plans written under the Resource Management Act. So perhaps your problem is with this Act -- that takes away your property rights and essentially makes them subservient to some random faceless council planner?

Q: Yes, that’s it! That’s it exactly !!  I hate that Act!!!!
A: Do you. Do you really? So did you vote for either of the major parties last election?

Q: Yes. Yes, I always do. They keep us on the straight and narrow.
A: Then you voted for the very parties who wrote, introduced, and continue to support the Resource Management Act. So you voted, and keep voting, for planners to have that power over your property rights.
Suck it up, big boy.

Q: But I voted for them to have power over other people, so they wouldn’t fart in my backyard.
A: Karma’s a bitch, huh.

imageQ: And my wife voted for ACT’s David Seymour, and he reckons this is an abomination too. He says, “The proposed intensification programme has enormous implications for congestion, community character, and the shape of school zones.”
A: Well, yes it does. But no city is preserved in aspic, is it. As it grows and develops according to demand, it will and does always change. And you really think just because he’s Epsom MP and needs to talk to his base that the abomination of school zones should constrain the freeing up of housing zones?

Q: Freeing up?
A: Well, you surely must agree that if you can do more with your property than the rules previously allowed, that that this represents a freeing up? There is a hell of a lot of garbage written about the Plan, and much to bitch about, not least the fact that the Resource Management Act does give planners the power to override your property rights. (As ACT’s previous leader eventually recognised.) But since property rights do give you the right to do what you wish on your own property—with only the ‘side constraints’ of recognising that your neighbours have the same rights, common-law rights to things like light, air, support and the like—this does represent a freeing up. Just a little. But it’s there.

Q: But Seymour says, “It’s a betrayal of young people in its assumption that they can never own a house and must live in apartments.”
A: It doesn’t make it compulsory to live in an apartment. But it makes it more possible for land-owners to build them should young people want to – or need to. And while there’s plenty more that could be in the Plan to help make houses more affordable – such as freeing up much more land around outside the Metropolitan Urban Limit, and making it possible to easily add a granny flat–oh, and just recognising property rights in general, if that were actually possible under the RMA—it would help to bring down the price of all accommodation at the margins, so all housing generally would be cheaper by virtue of these apartments (should they be built) than without.

Q: But Seymour says, “There's nothing free market about the council coming in and overriding your expectations about the character of your street to impose a grand plan on the city because it suits what planning schools were teaching 20 years ago.”
A: And it’s said that ACT’s David Seymour believes in property rights—that he understands the market process ...

Q: Excuse me?
A: Well, you do realise don’t you that these new rules don’t make it compulsory for land-owners to build three-story apartments on their property. It simply makes it possible for them to do so if they see demand for them.

Q: But nobody wants them!
A: Then nobody will buy them. So nobody would build more.

Q: …
A: So in this case an accident of planning lore has meant today’s Plan might free up land just a little from the iron grip under which planners have constrained it. Mind you, it’s not like they’re allowing people complete freedom of choice about where and how to live, more’s the pity. It’s not like they’re fixing the model for spec building, without which housing is never likely to be affordable ever again. And under this new plan you will now require a resource consent for anything more aggressive than mowing your lawn, so so-called “private planning consultants” graduating from those planning schools will be made independently (yet undeservedly) wealthy. Yet about these iniquities I hear no complaints at all from any direction.

Q: But I have rights in the existing character of my street!
A: Well, you do, in a sense. Yes. And there is a simple process by which those rights might be recognised even as the character changes. But as long as you keep voting for the Resource Management Act, that process is made all-but impossible.

Q: But, but … the value of my own house will plummet!! Ian Wishart says so!!!!
A: You’re taking advice from Mr Conspiracy now? How would the value of your land plummet if the new Plan allows you to build more on your site rather than less.

Q; But he says these multi-storey high-rises will block out the sun.
A: We’re back to that misreporting in the Horrid again, aren’t we. . .

UPDATE: Covering much the same territory as this Q+A, but from someone who does love planning, is this otherwise sensible piece at Transport Blog pointing out that Three Storeys Does Not Equal Highrise.

  • “Are we really down to the stage of scaremongering about three storey townhouses, a housing typology found frequently overseas and even in many parts of Auckland already? In fact for a city like Auckland three storey townhouses are perhaps the ideal missing middle of the housing.”
  • “So what’s really happening? The answer is much less secretive and much less alarmist than the herald like to make out.”
  • “The real betrayal of young people is by those who have opposed any change to the city, especially in the area of housing where prices have been pushed up or some people have been pushed out half way to Hamilton.”


Bonus ‘Stupid of the Day’: Obama edition

Sorry, I thought the previous Quote of the Day was going to be the stupidest thing I heard today.

But it turns out it’s not.

It turns out Obama thinks the Paris climate conference is going to send a message to ISIS . . .

It’s at times like this you realise why satire might be becoming extinct.

Thank goodness for cartoonists.

[Hat tip Steve Milloy. Cartoon by Rick McKee from the Augusta Chronicle]

Quote of the day: On stopping suicide bombers with cameras . . .

The former German Federal Minister of the Interior Hans-Peter Friedrich told Der Spiegel that surveillance cameras are effective in stopping suicide bombers . . .

[Translation]: DER SPIEGEL: Widespread video surveillance in the US could not prevent [the Boston Marathon] attacks. Rather, the perpetrators seem to have been fully aware of the monitoring.
Friedrich: A suicide bomber, who includes his own death in his planning of the attack won't be discouraged by surveillance cameras.
DER SPIEGEL: So the cameras are ineffective?
Friedrich: That'd be a wrong conclusion. If we catch the attacker after the first time, he can't act a second or third time.  That alone is already a success.

[Hat tip Felix Mueller]

Monday, 23 November 2015

Sea level hazards: You can’t repeal risk, but you can repeal section 71

Ask Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright why, with the money made by peddling his warmist mantra, Al Gore purchases and enjoys sea-level property--despite his own claims that the apartments thereon will be rapidly underwater--and I’ll wager she’ll have no idea.

Nonetheless, this from last Friday’s news:

NZ urged to act on rising sea levels – RADIO NZ
Entire communities may need to be uprooted due to rising sea levels and the Minister of Finance should start preparing for the financial impact now, says the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright.
    The commissioner's latest
report 'Preparing New Zealand for rising seas: Certainty and Uncertainty' identified at least 9000 New Zealand homes that lie less than 50cm above spring high tides.
    There was no doubt sea levels were rising and it was certain the frequency of coastal flooding would increase as the sea level rises, Dr Wright said. …
    A standard process for council engagement with coastal communities should be included in central government direction and guidance on sea level rise, Dr Wright said. …
    Councils' planning for sea level rise was problematic … [so] the government was recommended to put direction on planning for sea level rise into a National Policy Statement, such as one envisaged for dealing with natural hazards.
    Officials were urged to address the issues the report raised in the upcoming revision of the 2008 MfE Guidance Manual - which provided direction and guidance to councils on how they should deal with sea level rise.

Here’s my own recommendation for “officials” providing “direction and guidance to councils on how they should deal with sea level rise”:

Direct them to keep the hell out of the way.

You may think that’s a frankly frivolous thing to say, but hear me out.

Let’s grant her claim that sea levels are rising and coastal flooding will increase. Let’s assume that she’s not just another one not letting a good climate crisis go to waste. Let’s agree with her that at least 9000 New Zealand homes are “at risk” when that happens. But let’s recognise that it’s about this point that Ms Wright begins wringing her hands and talking about “sending people letters” and uprooting entire communities –and that people are taking that prescription seriously.

But me ask you this: is this massively increased coastal flooding going to happen this week? Next month? Next year?

imageLet me answer it for you. No, it’s not. The “best estimates” on which she relies (and for the sake of argument let’s agree with them) are talking about these things happening over the course of a century, or even more. Yet the speed of this century-long accretion is allegedly urgent enough that “officials” must begin planning today to expel people from their homes some time tomorrow.

No other possibilities appear to be contemplated other than snail-paced action from officials to tell property-owners what action they must take.

But, well, let me just ask you: Do you know of any means whereby folk could sort out for themselves the risks associated with sea-levels threatening their property, and deal with it as expeditiously as they think necessary?

Think you there might be some process for engagement that didn’t require either central government “direction and guidance” or the bullying and bureaucracy that comes with it?

Any idea of some solution that might spontaneously emerge when folk go about their daily risk-taking business?

Yes, I know, it wholly eludes Ms Wright, council officials and all, none of whom appear to have heard of the phenomena for which Nobel Prizes are awarded, but the process by which supposedly marginal homes can so peacefully and undramatically end up in the hands of those who are satisfied the risk of ownership is worth it—and out of those whose hands are wringing wet with worry mark—is precisely the market process that deals with risks like this every day.  A process whereby those who discount risks in favour of perceived value can outbid and help compensate those who truly fear the worst.

Another way to say this is that the former pick up a bargain from the latter. But if we’re speaking freely, and by this stage of the game we surely are, then how many existing property-owners would really and truly take Ms Wright’s views that seriously they would want to leave their paradise at a knock-down rate. (And putting it the other way, wouldn’t those who are convinced she is right, as well as Wright, be thinking they were the ones stealing from their buyers, since in their minds it is the buyers who are going to miss out—and soon!)

So. Simple.

Problem is that there are only two ways whereby this simple, free and peaceful process could be made to not work, and both are either contemplated or already exist today:

  • either public action to ban private action; or
  • laws to ensure that councils rather than land-owners assume the risk for any alleged natural hazards, and may bully land-owners into compliance with whatever “plans” for their property council sees fit, up to and including the effective nationalisation of their land for beachfront reserve.

Ms Wright proposes the former. The Building Act and Resource Management Act already enforce the latter.

I therefore suggest that the only public action necessary in the face of this alleged threat is to remove the sections of these two acts imposing the resulting risk on ratepayers.

imageLET’S RULE OUT ONE THING right from the bat. Landowners neither deserve nor should be paid compensation from any public trough. The only compensation these willing sellers need is that provided by a willing buyer. And have no fear they will exist.

But all that’s really necessary is the repeal of one simple section of the Building Act, section 71.

I can guarantee you’ve heard of this section before, or at least its results.

You heard about it a lot after the Christchurch earthquakes, often associated with red-zoned land.

You surely heard of its results when council goons trued to evict stroppy old Joe Bennett from his Lyttleton home because they were “concerned for his safety” after the Christchurch earthquakes because of two risky rocks they thought were threatening his home (the risk being entirely in the eyes of the councils'’ beholders):

Last August two goons marched up the drive and slapped a sticker on my house. The sticker threatened me with enormous fines if I didn't leave. I didn't leave. …
    In August, Mr Democracy Services issued a press release saying that the council was concerned for the safety of people in red-stickered houses. Nice of him, but irrelevant. My safety is not the council's concern, just as theirs isn't mine.
    As I said on radio at the time, I don't need another mother. The decision to live in my house was mine to make, and mine alone. And the consequences were for me to accept, and me alone.
    If the council considered my place to be dangerous, they could put a sign outside saying so. Duty done. The truth is that the council never cared about my safety. It cared only about its own legal liability.

Remove Section 71 and the council will have no legal liability, and then between ourselves and our insurance companies we can all safely (or at least peacefully) plan our own futures and look after our own risk. Even if it does mean a sign outside your house—or a tag on your certificate of title—saying that in council’s opinion, which we should all be free to express, the sky is about to fall on us.

That way, the council nannies don’t need to cover their arses.

You see, in the face of risks or alleged risks, Section 71 and its related sections do essentially make council wholly responsible for damage to your property, mandating a policy of “managed retreat” should “natural processes” impinge or appear to infringe upon some unlucky person’s land.

What that retreat means might be summed up in that sticker slapped on Joe’s house by the goons: Enormous fines if you don't leave. Except that in some places now the goons just refuse you your right to build on your own land because, they say, of the risk.

This means that in some parts of the country where the tides, sea levels sand dunes are alleged to be moving in such a risky fashion that almost the entire coastline is said to contain “natural hazards” (bucolic old Tauranga being one such place) you may not build at all in those parts of your land so designated by mother; you may build on other parts differently designated only if you have another site on which to move your house; and  if a sand dune is blown within a certain specified distance of your house, then mother says you may not even take out a shovel to move it – instead, you must move your house to that other site you’ve been keeping for that very purpose all these years.

New Zealand, this is your future under Jan Wright and her recommendations – and, while largely being unspoken about, it has been our present for at least the last twenty years. As I wrote way back in 2002, under the District Plans written in conformity with this policy, beachfront properties are essentially already being nationalised in order to create unpaid-for beachfront reserves.

You see -- trees, rocks, sand dunes and “natural processes” all have rights under the Building and Resource Management Acts. Human beings do not.

Repeal the section that makes it so, however, and you too can live like Al Gore.

Although maybe without the huge nest egg that allows him to purchase sea-level San Fran condos.