Friday, 28 October 2016

Friday Morning Ramble, 28.10.16



There’s still a lot of serious work to be done critiquing capitalism and solving its problems, but right now the radical left aren’t doing any of it.” Several interesting Dim Post posts (and comments) summarised …
Smashing capitalism and the failure of communism – YOUR NZ

“The IPCA's take on the police's use of a fake breath-testing checkpoint to gather data on euthanasia supporters is likely to be severe - and so it should be.”
'Phoney' checkpoint a direct challenge to NZ's freedomsJarrod Gilbert, RADIO NZ

“So negotiations continue, with the threat of eminent domain in the background. But why?”
Christchurch: SimCity, South Frame – Eric Crampton, OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR

Something for all Aucklanders next Wednesday: “Mr. Darby will discuss many of the myths about immigration and provide a summary of what economists have shown in terms of the effects of immigration.”
Economics of Immigration, with Julian Darby – Liberty on the Rocks, FACEBOOK

Libraries gave us power …
Leave our libraries alone – Greg Presland, FUTURE WEST
Library cost-cuts cultural vandalism – Deborah Hill Cone, HERALD

“It is often said that economists don't agree on anything, well that's not quite true. One thing they do agree on is that building sports stadiums is just not worth it.”
There is a lot of stupid in JAFAland – Paul Walker, ANTI DISMAL

“There's apparently been Cabinet-level discussion of whether the government should throw money at the boxing match to make sure it happens in New Zealand rather than someplace else. I covered a few points…”
The bout round the bach? The fight in the Ferns? –Eric Crampton, OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR

More eyewash. (“First in the world” for the speed of construction permits – and other assorted lies.)
World Bank names NZ best country for business – STUFF
A wooden spoon for the Fraser Institute’s “economic freedom” medal – NOT PC, Sept. 2016
NZ: Prosperous? – Peter Cresswell, NOT PC, June, 2016




Is this U.S. election “a 1933 moment”?
Election 2016: This Is Not a Drill – Paul Blair, MEDIUM

Five responses when confronted with the why-can’t-we-all-be-more-like-Sweden argument.
The Swedish Case for Limited Government – Daniel Mitchell, FEE
In One Chart, Everything You Need to Know about Big Government, the Welfare State, and Sweden’s Economy – DANIEL MITCHELL BLOG

"Socialism requires force--not only force against those whose earnings are to be seized, but also force against its purported beneficiaries: the poor. For if we left the poor free, they would do the ‘wrong’ things--such as coming to America, where they will only be ‘ripped off’ (i.e., employed) by profit-seeking capitalists. It seems that only the wise rulers know what is actually in the interest of the poor."
Socialism Loathes the Poor, Capitalism Loves Them – Harry Binswanger, REAL CLEAR MARKETS
Immigration Restrictionism Is for Losers – Shikha Dalmia, REASON

“Very large increases in the Muslim population in the United States due to immigration have not stalled assimilation of those immigrants. Rather, they are demonstrating Americans’ incredible capacity to encourage immigrants to adopt their ways.”
US Muslim Population Becoming More Socially Liberal – David Bier, FEE

“Both sides in the child-refugee debate are astonishingly self-obsessed.”
You’re so vain you think the refugee crisis is about you – Brendan O’Neill, SPIKED

“Left-wing people used to like working-class people…. Nowadays left-wing people are middle-class people. Working class people are a big disappointment to left-wing people.”
A handy guide to Left-wing people for the under 10s – SPECTATOR

Best political ad yet? (The competition is slight.)


“Most discussion of global warming would not stand up to 15 seconds of scrutiny by Socrates.”
Wrapping our minds around climate change – Alex Epstein, NATIONAL POST

"As a result of such [anti-GMO] campaigns, speaking out in favor of genetic engineering automatically gets one labeled a Monsanto defender, even though any party can wield the technology. It’s an effective tactic for anti-GMO organizations to paint their opposition as corporate apologists rather than people who want the best technology used to meet challenges."
Don't Like Monsanto? Then You Should Be Pro-GMO, Not Anti. Here's Why. – Kavin Senapathy, FORBES

"Greenpeace, advancing beneath the banner of the “natural,” is prepared to watch you die."
Scientists Plead with Greenpeace for Blind, Dying Children – SAVVY STREET


“Contrary to the ecologists, nature does not stand still and
does not maintain the kind of equilibrium that guarantees
the survival of any particular species - least of all the
survival of her greatest and most fragile product: man.”

~ Ayn Rand, from her essay ‘“The Anti-Industrial Revolution,”


“With all of our emphasis on academics and what it takes to get into college, essential life skills, such as how to do laundry, balance a checking account or cook a meal, have been overlooked. ‘Life skills are essential for your child to learn how to be independent and become self-sufficient.’”
The key life skills parents should be teaching their children – WASHINGTON POST

“Parents must put down the electronic tablets and start reading to their children if they want them to be successful in the world of tech and science.”
Reading to children 'more effective than technology at boosting science skills' -  IRISH INDEPENDENT

“The essentials of Ayn Rand’s philosophy and their practical significance for each individual’s life.”
The Philosophy of Objectivism – Leonard Peikoff, CAMPUS.AYN RAND

“’In Aristotle’s eyes, ethics does not begin with thinking of others; it begins with oneself.’”
Rational Man by Henry B. Veatch – Anop Verma, VERMA POST

“Half of academic papers are never read by anyone other than their authors, peer reviewers, and journal editors.”
Academics Write Rubbish Nobody Reads – FEE

“In school, students are rewarded for how well they have played the game and jumped through the hoops, not based on how deeply they have assimilated knowledge, and how much this knowledge has improved their character.”
Vast Libraries in Our Pockets, and Nobody's Reading - FEE

“If we examined the scriptures of the world's major religions, how much would nowadays be considered unethical? Many believers would certainly be surprised…”
Here Are Some Contradictions And Verses That Are Now Considered Unethical/Illegal (And Are Ignored) – WAKELET

“Author and columnist Thomas Sowell's work has been called ‘myth-busting’ and a ‘bath of cold logic.’ .. Though he is a prolific writer, Thomas Sowell grants few interviews,,, What follows is a no-holds-barred look at the key issues facing America in the 21st century and what we need to do to make this a better place to live and work for everyone."


“To understand the marketplace, it is not necessary to believe in the existence of a selfish, profit-maximising human.”
The Homo Economicus Straw Man – Ryan McMaken, MISES WIRE

“Why does Ayn Rand argue that the moral justification of capitalism does not lie in the claim that it is the best way to achieve the ‘common good’?”
Capitalism: Individual Rights vs. “The Common Good” – Eric M., OBJECTIVISM FOR INTELLECTUALS

“The benefits of freer international trade accrue to consumers in the form of increased choice and lower prices. More imports mean more bang for the buck, and that effectively functions like an increase in pay.”
Small Special Interests, Big Influence – Nita Ghei, U.S. NEWS

How protectionism works.
Hotel CEO openly celebrates higher prices after anti-Airbnb law passes – WASHINGTON POST

"The smuggler is a radical and judicious reformer. The smuggler is essential to the well being of the whole nation. All external commerce depends on him." ~ Nassau Senior (1790-1864)
Mercantilism Was Monarchy's Planned Economy – Richard Ebeling, FEE

“It’s true that the public has mixed feelings about financial innovation; it has seen both good and bad consequences of such. But there are good reasons for believing that unhindered financial innovation, whatever its risks, is ultimately a lot safer than heavy-handed government interference in the financial sector…
    “Consider U.S. experience. Contrary to conventional wisdom, unwise regulations have  been responsible for most if not all of the 19th-century woes of the U.S. financial sector, from wildcat banking and counterfeiting prior to the Civil War to recurring banking crises afterwards. I would regale, or more likely bore you, with the details if I had time. But instead I must settle for pointing out that Canada, with its then-identical gold dollar, avoided practically all of them. Yet Canadian banks were less, not more, heavily regulated than their U.S. counterparts. Nor did Canada establish a central bank until 1935. (Can anyone guess how many of its banks failed during the 1930s?)”
The Perils of Financial Over-Regulation – George Selgin, ALT-M

Recommend it to any patent attornies you may know.
An Introduction to Austrian Economics, Parts 1 to 9 – Richard Ebeling, FFF

Very true words …


Economics in one movie.


Art and economic history …


Mid-century illustration. A point if you can name the house. Two, for naming the architect. Three, the illustrator.


Truth through humour …



“Does this cover everything? Probably.”
30 reasons why we need art in our lives – ART BY LINDY

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright but built after his death…
How Frank Lloyd Wright’s Marin Civic Center was finally built - SF CHRONICLE

Metal Machine made, not Music, but oddly listenable.


“It has been covered so many times that I would not be surprised if Cohen has made more money off that one song than all the rest of his repertoire. So imagine how it must have felt to have been famous a bit while young, almost completely ignored (outside of a cult following) for twenty years or so, and then have one of one's best songs become an institution.”


“Urlicht. Sehr feierlich, aber schlicht. [Ancient light. Very solemn, but simple.]”



And finally … cheeses, red beer matching, and seven footnotes.
It Gose on and on and on again: Hunt for the Red October comes to an end. – Neil Miller, MALTHOUSE BLOG

[Hat tips etc. The Salty Dog Inn, Vinay Kolhatkar, Paul Litterick, Keith Weiner, Michael Strong, Marvin Adams, Leonard Peikoff Study/Appreciation Group, The Mendenhall, History & Art, Libertarian Party UK, Louise Lamontagne, For The New Intellectuals, The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (Official), Auckland Liberty on the Rocks, James Stevens Valliant, Julian Roô, Reason Matters, Maria Montessori Education Foundation, Wayne Niddery,Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, The Questionist, Econlib, Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, Chip Joyce, Stephen Hicks, Mark Hubbard, Wilhelm Scream, NIRP Umbrella, Ben Thomas, Alex Epstein, Cafe Hayek]

Thanks for reading,
And have a great weekend!


Aggregates are not homogeneous




[Hat tip NIRP Umbrella]


Quote of the Day: Living in a kakistocracy


Vinay Kolhatkar:

“After sixty years of a pull-peddler mixed-economy, what could you get? …

    A Kakistrocracy. noun
    Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens.
    Origin of kakistocracy:
    Greek kakistos, worst, superlative of kakos, bad; see caco– + –cracy.
   pl. kak·is·toc·ra·cies


Thursday, 27 October 2016

Quote of the Day: On evasion


"Thinking is man’s only basic virtue, from which all the others proceed. And his basic vice, the source of all his evils, is that nameless act which all of you practice, but struggle never to admit: the act of blanking out, the willful suspension of one’s consciousness, the refusal to think—not blindness, but the refusal to see; not ignorance, but the refusal to know. It is the act of unfocusing your mind and inducing an inner fog to escape the responsibility of judgment—on the unstated premise that a thing will not exist if only you refuse to identify it, that A will not be A so long as you do not pronounce the verdict ‘It is.’ Non-thinking is an act of annihilation, a wish to negate existence, an attempt to wipe out reality. But existence exists; reality is not to be wiped out, it will merely wipe out the wiper. By refusing to say ‘It is,’ you are refusing to say ‘I am.’ By suspending your judgement, you are negating your person. When a man declares: ‘Who am I to know?’ he is declaring: ‘Who am I to live?’”
~ Ayn Rand, from the Ayn Rand Lexicon: Evasion


[Hat tip Charlotte Cushman]


Donald Trump’s economic policies are “mostly a mash of bunkum”


Since so many who should know better seem to have come out strong for the Trumpelstiltskin’s economic “plan,” this concise open letter from economist Donald Boudreaux should prove in explaining why it’s actually mostly a mash of bunkum. As he says, It literally hurts his brain to hear the read the economic idiocy emitted by Trumpkins:

Wilbur Ross’s and Peter Navarro’s defense of Donald Trump’s economic policies is mostly a mash of bunkum (“A Vote for Trump Is a Vote for Growth,” Oct. 26).  Consider this claim: “Donald Trump will cut taxes, reduce regulation … and eliminate our trade deficit through muscular trade negotiations that increase exports, [and] reduce imports….”
Cut taxes?  Bunk.  Trump famously promises to raise taxes on Americans who buy imports.  Reduce regulation?  Rubbish.  Trump promises moregovernment intrusions into Americans’ commerce with foreigners.
As for ‘eliminating’ our trade deficit, Trump might indeed succeed on that front.  But such ‘success’ would be regrettable, for it would be the inevitable outcome of the American economy being made an unattractive destination for investment.  (Ross and Navarro seem to be unaware that to “eliminate our trade deficit” – such as was done, for example, during the Great Depression – is to eliminate net contributions by foreigners to increasing the size of America’s capital stock.)
But Trump’s most absurd promise is to enrich Americans by increasing exports and reducing imports.  Imports are what we voluntarily buy and exports are the price we pay.  Therefore, a policy meant to increase exports while decreasing imports is a policy meant to force Americans to pay more to foreigners and to receive less in return – a decidedly unartful deal the architect of which would deserved to be fired.
But the Trump camp’s confusion runs even more deeply.  Exporting for Americans is worthwhile only because it supplies us with the means to purchase imports, either currently or in the future.  So a policy that aims both to increase exports and to decrease imports is akin to a policy that aims both to increase people’s spending power and to decrease it.  It’s a policy meant to give Americans greater means for acquiring imports as it simultaneously strips Americans of the freedom to use those means.  It’s the economic policy equivalent of an attempt to square a circle.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

Any questions?


Big Data cannot solve the paradox of the state


The paradox of the state is that while it employs very smart people the state itself is dumb. It was Hayek who best explained why, suggests Andy Smarick in this guest post: it’s a problem of knowledge.
    It’s impossible to create and maintain well-functioning, domineering central authorities because they will always lack the capacity to collect, analyse, and act on the infinite and ever-changing body of relevant information—information that is inside each of our heads. The government’s decision to centralise doesn’t imply a solution to the problem of information being infinite information. It only reveals the state’s presumptuousness.

There are obvious dangers associated with centralising authority in vast, potent government bodies: it prevents communities from living according to their particular beliefs, inhibits continuous small-scale course corrections, relies on clumsy, expensive administrative units, and so on.

But two recent publications describe two other hazards too seldom discussed. Both relate to the hubris undergirding centralisation, and both recall Friedrich Hayek’s seminal 1945 article “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” Hayek argues it’s impossible to create and maintain well-functioning, domineering central authorities because they will always lack the capacity to collect, analyse, and act on the infinite and ever-changing body of relevant information. Instead, we should decentralise authority among citizens, neighborhoods, community-based groups, firms, and others. He wrote,

The knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in a concentrated or integrated form, but solely as the dispersed bits of incompletely and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess.

Knowledge, in other words, is contextual – individually contextual. Using this lens, we can spot that centralisation efforts often attempt to get around the infinite information problem in one of two ways: employ strategies to simplify and manage the Everest of information, or create a state apparatus that promises to cope with its consequences.

Both fail.

Ruled by Algorithms

Cathy O’Neil’s new book Weapons of Math Destruction explores how institutions are increasingly using “big data” to simplify. Algorithms and mathematical models now shape a big part of our lives — and not only Amazon’s personalised advertisements. Formulas are used to calculate user-specific car insurance rates, sort résumés, assess loan applications, predict recidivism rates, and more.

KnowledgeBut such systems pose major risks. As the Wall Street Journal noted in its book review, we should be wary of “the biases of people who encode their notions in algorithms.” Worse, the details of the models are typically opaque to both those being assessed and those using the assessments for high-stakes decisions. As O’Neil told NPR, “we really have no idea what’s happening to most algorithms under the hood.” In K-12, we’ve seen this very debate rage related to “value-added” models of student performance.

O’Neil argues these models can have discriminatory effects, exacerbating racial, economic, gender, and geographic inequalities. But we should also ask a more fundamental question: whether it’s even possible to create a dispassionate algorithm capable of driving fair, high-stakes governmental decisions. Though a model will generate an ostensibly empirical, trustworthy “answer,” it will always be a mechanical product of a formula and inputs. That carries the possibility of false precision. Perhaps some important considerations couldn’t be quantified and were omitted from the formula; perhaps there’s major disagreement over how to weight relevant factors; perhaps the “answer” responds to a question different than the one asked by the policymaker.

Even more importantly, though, the mindset behind algorithm-based decision-making can be an uncomfortable fit with democracy and pluralism. We want individuals and their representatives to feel independent agency over key choices, and we want them to feel free to use their communities’ particular values. A heated political process, not a cold formula, is probably the best way to litigate and adjudicate competing claims.

Interestingly, Hayek forecast most of these issues. He pointed out that there is “very important but unorganised knowledge” particular to individual circumstances, that some of it “cannot enter into statistical form,” and that some experts regard such knowledge “with a kind of contempt.” Indeed, James Scott’s anti-technocratic masterpiece Seeing Like a State argues that complexity, practitioners’ craft, time-tested wisdom, and local custom are some of the greatest casualties of centralisation. In total, algorithm-based decision-making pulls off much of its magic through the sleight-of-hand of simplification.

Centralised Meddling

A different way for the state to try to address the infinite information problem is to develop a colossal government apparatus. Peter J. Wallison’s new National Affairs article, “Decentralisation, Deference, and the Administrative State,” explains why this is so perilous. Big-government opponents often focus on its expense and power to compel, but Wallison argues it can be undemocratic and unconstitutional: regulatory agencies are empowered to make crucial policy decisions, craft rules with the weight of law, and implement behemoth programs. Accordingly, unelected officials inhabit a space between the executive and legislative branches and wield enormous, hard-to-check authority.

Wallison notes that Dodd-Frank authorised almost 400 new regulations to be enforced by at least eight different agencies. Six years on, a quarter of those regulations have yet to be adopted. So new, undefined government powers lie dormant, just waiting to be awakened by some government bureau. The scope of this authority is remarkable: after the New Deal, the Code of Federal Regulations had about 18,000 pages; today, it’s 175,000 pages.

Knowledge1In my view, Wallison seems to hit upon a real-life example of one of Robert Nozick’s famous criticisms of John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice. Nozick argued that a Rawlsian understanding of justice would require a nearly omnipotent state to meddle incessantly. Maybe state centralisation inevitably begets executive-branch agencies with expansive legislative-like powers, including, eventually, substantial latent authority that can be animated as needed.

In recent years, a number of scholars have written about the administrative state’s sprawl, including books like Phillip Hamburger’s Is Administrative Law Unlawful? and Charles Murray’s By the People and articles like Steven Teles’s “Kludgeocracy” and Philip Wallach’s “The Administrative State’s Legitimacy Crisis.” One of Wallison’s major contributions is adding to this mix that a consequence of state centralisation may be an extra-constitutional role for federal agencies that only courts can check.

The overarching point is that both books show that the government’s decision to centralise doesn’t imply a solution to the infinite information problem. It only reveals the state’s presumptuousness.

Andrew R. (Andy) Smarick is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he works on education and related domestic and social policy issues. Concurrently, he serves as president of the Maryland State Board of Education and a visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins School of Education.
This post previously appeared at AEIdeas and FEE.


Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Bonus Quote of the Day: On The Forgotten Man


“As soon as A observes something which seems to him to be wrong, from which X is suffering, A talks it over with B, and A and B then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help X. Their law always proposes to determine what C shall do for X or, in the better case, what A, B and C shall do for X. …
    “What I want to do is to look up C. I want to show you what manner of man he is. I call him the Forgotten Man. Perhaps the appellation is not strictly correct. He is the man who never is thought of. … He works, he votes, generally he prays — but he always pays — yes, above all, he pays. … ”

~ William Graham Sumner, from ‘The Forgotten Man’ (1893)


Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant


Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have now passed the numerical ‘barrier’ of 400 parts-per-million (i.e, 400ppm), and are still rising. Here’s the press release and accompanying gee-whiz graph:


Is this something about which to be concerned?

Well, just remember what 400 ppm actually means. That means this trace gas, the second of the four main greenhouse gases by which this planet is able to maintain a temperature sufficiently equable for us to survive on its surface, is now 1/2500th of all the gases in the atmosphere. 0.04%.

So should we be concerned about a gas whose sensitivity it turns out is relatively low, whose effect on warming decreases as it rises – and whose levels have historically increased due to warming, rather than the reverse.

Warmists are fond of reminding folk that understanding the connection between climate and carbon dioxide dates back over a hundred years, to the work of Svante Arrhenius. They are less fond of citing his observation that:

By the influence of the increasing percentage of carbonic acid in the atmosphere, we may hope to enjoy ages with more equable and better climates.

Any era emerging from an ice age would concur.

We have known for an even longer time that carbon dioxide is plant food, so it should be no surprise to discover that, due in large part to the fertilisation provided by the increasing percentage of carbonic acid in the atmosphere, we have also been enjoying an abundant greening of the planet: according to satellite analysis, 14% greener over the last 30 years.


Any environmentalist should be excited! Matt Ridley is one who enthuses about this “global greening, the gradual, but large, increase in green vegetation on the planet”:

I think this is one of the most momentous discoveries of recent years and one that transforms the scientific background to climate policy, though you would never know it from the way it has been reported. And it is a story in which I have been both vilified and vindicated.
    In December 2012, the environmental scientist Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University drew my attention to a video online of a lecture given by Ranga Myneni of Boston University.
    In this lecture Myneni presented ingenious analysis of data from satellites proving that much of the vegetated area of the planet was getting greener, only a little bit was getting browner, and that overall in 30 years there had been a roughly 14% increase in green vegetation on planet Earth.
   In this slide he argued that this was occurring in all vegetation types – tropical rain forests, subarctic taiga, grasslands, semi-deserts, farmland, everywhere.
    What is more, Myneni argued that by various means he could calculate that about half of this greening was a direct result of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, rather than the application of agricultural fertiliser, irrigation, warmer temperatures or increased rainfall.
    Carbon dioxide, along with water, is the raw material that plants use to make carbohydrates, with the help of sunlight, so it stands to reason that raising its concentration should help plants grow.
    I was startled by Myneni’s data. I knew that there had been thousands of so-called free-air concentration (FACE) experiments, in which levels of CO2 had been increased over crops or wild ecosystems to find out if it boosted their growth (it did), and that commercial greenhouse owners now routinely maintain CO2 levels in their greenhouses at more than double ambient levels – because it makes their tomatoes grow faster.
    But the global effect of CO2 levels on the quantity of vegetation had not, as far as I could tell, been measured till now.
    Other lines of evidence also pointed to this global greening:

  • the increased rate of growth of forest trees,
  • the increased amplitude of seasonal carbon dioxide variation measured in Hawaii and elsewhere,
  • photographic surveys of vegetation,
  • the increased growth rate of phytoplankton, marine plants and some corals, and so on.

By the time Myeni’s results were published, in April of this year, “His results were now even stronger than he had concluded in his 2012 lecture. Now he said that 70% of the cause of greening was carbon dioxide – up from half.”

AAA4-1024x663 (1)As Myneni’s co-author Zaichun Zhu, of Beijing University, puts it, it’s equivalent to adding a green continent twice the size of mainland USA.
    Frankly, I think this is big news. A new continent’s worth of green vegetation in a single human generation.

This is huge news, as Ridley makes clear:

In the very same issue of the same journal was another paper from an international team about a further benefit of global greening, which concluded that CO2 fertilisation is likely to increase crop water productivity throughout the world, for example by up to 48% for rain-fed wheat in arid areas, and that “If realised in the fields, the effects of elevated [CO2] could considerably mitigate global yield losses whilst reducing agricultural consumptive water use (4–17%).”
    Their chart shows that without CO2 fertilisation, crops will become more water-stressed during the current century; with it they will become
LESS water-stressed.
    These are huge benefits for the earth and for people.

Not that most environmentalists consider people.

And since most predictions from warmists’ models’ have failed to come to pass “(think empty dams, no more snow in the UK and an ice-free arctic)” and as every year the scientists’ estimates of CO2’s climate sensitivity decreases – if (as Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore points out) When Asked To Show Evidence Of Man-Made Warming, Scientists Can’t Do It. – and if (as Arrhenius insists) a warmer earth is a more equable place to be and (as Alex Epstein points out) the warming itself is mild and manageable, then why do so many continue to demonise this important trace gas?

Why tax its production?

Why demonise the fossil fuels by which we produce the gas as a byproduct in the process of “improving our planet and creating new resources”?

So let’s do it for the people! "I don't want an earth with the smallest human impact,” says Epstein. “I want an earth with the greatest human flourishing."

To do that we must understand we begin with an planet largely inhospitable to human life and by our own energies transform it. We must understand that does have an impact.

So long as we accept nonimpact as an environmental ideal [however], we will not fight passionately against those who oppose the energy of life, because we won’t consider its essence—the transformation of nature in service of human life—as a moral ideal.
   But transformation is a moral ideal. I call that ideal industrial progress—the progressive improvement of our environment using human industry, including energy and technology, in service of human life. It’s why I named my think tank the Center for Industrial Progress. I wanted to start a positive alternative to the mainstream Green environmentalist movement, to replace the deadly ideal of nonimpact with the true ideal of industrial progress. We don’t want to “save the planet” from human beings; we want to improve the planet for human beings.

So should we all.

We can begin to get there be getting over our carbon inhibitions.

Understanding that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant but a plant food – that’s a real beginning.


UPDATE: Another excellent step: Two years after Australia has dropped their carbon tax, and less than a year after the climate conference in Paris, France has announced plans to drop their carbon tax


[Pics from Matt Ridley, Watts Up With That, I Love CO2]


Capitalism? This just in …


Since it’s on my masthead, and since so many (including presidential candidates) confuse capitalism with the regulatory state, here – for all of you – is the news:


Regulation poisons everything, even the thing most people associate with capitalism: competition:


[Hat tips Charlotte Cushman, Jim Rose, Anti-Dismal]


Quote of the Day: On the (intellectual) success of the left


“For about half a century the intellectuals, most of whom are leftist, have been struggling to achieve a spatial situation which is geometrically impossible: a political field consisting of a middle and a left-of-middle, with no right-of-middle. They came close to succeeding. Their success was made possible by the non-philosophical attitude of most rightists, who surrendered the intellect to the leftists, accepted their basic premises, and mouthed empty slogans in answer to deadly political principles.
    “This permitted the intellectuals to play the game of ‘window dressing,’ i.e., to preach political tolerance or impartiality and to practice it, on suitable occasions, by featuring the weakest, most befuddled champion of capitalism as a representative of the right. (Which led people to the conclusion: ‘If this is the best that can be said for the right, then the leftist position must be true.’)”

~ Ayn Rand


NB: For the record, I still describe myself as neither right nor left


Q: Why do politicians lie?


How do you know when a politician is lying? Answer: Because their lips are moving.

Why do politicians lie? Well, that’s a more interesting question. Ilya Somin from The Volokh Conspiracy suggests three main reasons.

The first may be considered a ‘technical’ reason that may be forgiveable.

Political duplicity is sometimes a necessary tool for facilitating deals, negotiations, and diplomatic maneouvering… ‘Often, the only way to get something done is to have separate private and public truths.’

But the other two? Not so much. Somin calls them

  • Lying to exploit public ignorance; and
  • Lying about the nature of your policies in order to overstate benefits and conceal possible downsides.

He doesn’t consider another reason: because the lied-to have come to expect it. But he does ask if political lying is always wrong.

It is easy to see how political lying might cause harm. But sometimes politicians might actually be justified in lying to the public. Georgetown political philosopher Jason Brennan argues that such deception is defensible if it prevents an ignorant or malevolent electorate from pushing through harmful and oppressive policies.
    For example, if a bigoted electorate favours slavery or racial segregation, a candidate might be justified in pretending to support these positions himself, and then reneging on his campaign promises when he takes office.

In other professsions that might be called ‘pandering’ -- and better by far, surely, to use your platform to persuade rather than dissemble.

That said, the routine use of lying and exploitation of public ignorance probably causes more harm than good. It also likely contributes to the atmosphere of suspicion and partisan hatred that helps make public opinion even more ignorant and illogical than it otherwise would be.
    Given the structure of the political system, widespread deception may be unavoidable. Politicians who refuse to lie and exploit public ignorance are systematically disadvantaged relative to those with fewer scruples, and win fewer elections because of it. Ironically, the very same voters who hate dishonest politicians regularly reward deception by doing a terrible job of sifting lies from truth – especially when the lies reinforce their preconceptions.

In other words, politians lie because you let them. And because you let them, every new crop of political porky-tellers is rewarded for continuing the practice.

        The public ignorance that makes lying an effective political strategy is extremely difficult to overcome.

That is, it’s all your fault.

Some of the resulting lying may even be justified. Still, we might wonder whether so many of our important decisions should be made by a system where lying is just politics as usual.

Perhaps if we put most of those important decisions beyond politics, where we judge sich things much more severely, we may all be better served.

[Hat tip David Prichard]


Sunday, 23 October 2016

Question for the Day: “To terrify children with the image of hell, to consider women an inferior creation–is that good for the world?"


Question for the Day is from the late Christopher Hitchens: “To terrify children with the image of hell, to consider women an inferior creation–is that good for the world?"


Thursday, 20 October 2016

Labour Weekend Ramble


Yes, sorry to spoil your routine but this week it’s a Thursday Morning Ramble.
It’s a Thursday Morning Ramble because I had a lot of things I still wanted to present, and with a long weekend starting tomorrow for some of us, too little time to present them otherwise. So let’s go…


“The second three years of the Supercity could be called the ‘profligate’ years. Within a few days of the 2013 election Len Brown became a lame duck second term mayor after his philandering became public. With no possibility of a third term Brown decided he must leave a ‘legacy’ and so went on a spending binge. This forced up rates to an unsustainable level, created a debt mountain, and bloated the bureaucracy. As a result, Goff’s promises to spend even more on new projects are simply untenable. When coupled with a majority of his Councillors pledging fiscal responsibility for the next three years, it leaves Goff with little room to manoeuvre [If he and they are to keep their promises – Ed.]”
Auckland’s profligate years leave Goff with little room to manoeuvre – JO HOLMES BLOG

Modern journalism. Compare…
Salvation Army: ”New Zealand’s problems of persistent youth unemployment are not caused by recent migrants taking jobs.
Radio NZ: “Too many jobs going to migrants – Sallies”

Question from a posuer.
Question of etiquette – DIM POST

“An important piece of work. Inequality is important. Measured inequality in NZ has been much smaller than people think. It would not have increased if it had not been for the self inflicted wound of our house prices.
That of course is now acknowledged even by the Greens and Labour to be the consequence of the RMA and council power and incentives.
    “They removed property owners’ power to intensify spontaneously as all great cities and vibrant towns once could.” ~ Stephen Franks
The Inequality Paradox: Why inequality matters even though it has barely changed – NZ INITIATIVE

“Why is it that many hard-working factory workers, plumbers and waitresses never earn as much as some CEOs, best-selling novelists or A-list actors? Isn’t that unfair?”
J.K Rowling,billionaire author of Harry Potter, shows why inequality doesn’t matter if we’re all paid according to the value we create – Don Watkins & Yaron BRook, CITY A.M.

Translation: “Poverty line definitions of poverty are bad and you should feel bad.”
A 'national shame': Acoss report reveals worsening poverty in Australia – GUARDIAN

Translation: “This time it’s different.”
ANZ economists see signs of 'late cycle behaviour' emerging in the economy but believe the boom-and-bust pattern of previous cycles can be avoided this time – INTEREST.CO.NZ

“A weekend police survey in Hamilton discovered only two beggars were actually homeless and the others were bringing props and even dogs to help them appear poor.
    “The survey found only two of the 15 beggars were homeless. The remaining 13 had brought duvet covers, cardboard signs and even sickly looking pets to give the impression they were living on the streets.”
Police find only two beggars on Hamilton streets are homeless – NZ HERALD

“Government doesn’t ‘give’ us tax refunds; it simply refrains from taking more of what we created.”
There is No Such Thing as Trickle-Down Economics -  Steven Horwitz, FEE

“From the state to private corporations, many groups benefit from marijuana prohibition. And, they will fight to keep marijuana illegal.”
The Special Interests Behind Marijuana Prohibition – Mark Thornton, MISES WIRE



“Many Americans, not just conservatives, will cast essentially negative ballots. The only real argument for Hillary Clinton is that she is not Donald Trump . The only real argument for Donald Trump is that he is not Hillary Clinton. Neither argument is convincing. If someone is not fit for office, it doesn't matter that someone else may be even worse.”
How should a conservative vote? – Daniel Hannan, WASHINGTON EXAMINER

“Dear Mr. Trump: 
“It is hard—perhaps impossible—to calculate the damage that you have done to the United States and its people, and the people of the world. The situation that the United States faces today is one of great uncertainty at home and great peril abroad.”
An Open Letter to Trump – Richard Epstein, HOOVER INSTITUTION

“"Mrs Clinton has been exposed to have no core, to be someone who constantly changes her position to maximise political gain. Leaked speeches prove that she has two positions (public and private) on banks; two positions on the wealthy; two positions on borders; two positions on energy....
   “Voters might not know any of this, because while both presidential candidates have plenty to answer for, the press has focused solely on taking out Mr Trump. And the press is doing a diligent job of it."
Media is burying new details on Hillary Clinton’s record – Kimberley Strassel, THE AUSTRALIAN BUSINESS REVIEW

“Hacked e-mails released by Wikileaks reveal the Clintons are exactly what their nemeses feared.”
Forget the Election: Why Hillary Clinton May Be the Most Hated President of All Time – VANITY FAIR

“"In a series of candid email exchanges with top Clinton Foundation officials during the hours after the massive 2010 Haiti earthquake, a senior aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly gave special attention to those identified by the abbreviations 'FOB' (friends of Bill Clinton) or 'WJC VIPs' (William Jefferson Clinton VIPs)."
How Hillary's State Dept. Gave Special Attention to 'Friends of Bill' After Haiti Quake – ABC NEWS
Former Haitian Senate President Calls Clintons 'Common Thieves Who Should be in Jail' – PJ MEDIA

Bizarrely,and on policy at least, the private face of Two-Faced Hillary may be better than the public.
”According to Wikileaks, at the same time Hillary Clinton was wooing the support of radical greens, at a behind closed doors meeting with pro-energy unions, she was telling those same radical greens to ‘get a life.’”
The Two Faces of “Green” Hillary Clinton –Eric Worrall, WATTS UP WITH THAT
Here Are Hillary Clinton's Three Speeches To Goldman Sachs For Which She Was Paid $675,000 – ZERO HEDGE

“The amazing thing about America? Most people have the right emotional reaction: ‘Throw the bums out.’ But they have the wrong idea. Their idea is that government will protect and take care of them. Actually, that is the proper role of government when it comes to purse snatchers, identity stealers, computer hackers, car thieves and rapists/murderers. It’s also the proper role of the national government when it comes to criminal spies, international secret-stealers, terrorists and invading armies. But it’s NOT the role of government to feed, clothe, hospitalise, educate and provide all the creature comforts of life for us. Government cannot do these things, and should not try.
    “The fact that this no longer occurs to most Americans is why the two major candidates – whomever they are – disappoint us every single time. Americans sense that neither Trump nor Clinton have the answer. But they don’t have the willingness or ability to define the right answer. And most are unwilling to let go of their fantasy that government somehow can and should feed, clothe, educate, provide creature comforts and otherwise take care of them.”
Why Don't We Have Better Candidates? - Michael Hurd, LIVING RESOURCES CENTER




“Do you want to make the world a better place or do you want to impose socialism? You really can't have both.”
Socialism Kills More Babies than War – Chelsea Follett, FEE

“President Nicolás Maduro’s government has begun dismantling price controls… ‘I used to look for anything, whatever was going, even if it meant getting in line the day before,” she said. “I haven’t had to line up for two months now.”"
Venezuela Backs Away From Price Controls as Citizens Go Hungry - WALL STREET JOURNAL

“#JeSuisCharlie survivor Zineb El Rhazoui is as hard as steel!” ~ Maajid Nawaz
Zineb el Rhazoui, Charlie Hebdo survivor, discusses why the world needs to ‘Destroy Islamic Fascism’ – Zineb El Rhazoui, NY TIMES

“When you set up a system that inflicts deliberate harm as a deterrence, it's really hard to find another name for it than torture" ~ Amnesty International
'I was not prepared for what I saw': Australia intentionally torturing refugees, report claims – SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

“Sustained foreign aid, such as rice, undermines markets and drives many local producers out of business, creating more dependency on aid.”
The Curse of Charity in Haiti - Mary Anastasia O’Grady, WALL STREET JOURNAL

“If we eliminate paradoxes and contradictions like public or government “ownership,” then we will allow people to fix problems associated with those things. Let the market and economics reign supreme and let entrepreneurs solve the issues that present themselves.”
Privately Owned Roads Would End Congestion – FEE 

“A seasoned anti-piracy advocate couldn’t have said it any better.”
Content Thief Turned Content Creator Rails Against Piracy – Kevin Madigan, CENTER FOR THE PROTECTION OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

If young followers of the Mises Institute actually read what Ludwig Von Mises said about anarchy, their heads would explode.
Mises on Anarchism: Five Quotations – STEPHEN HICKS



“So what I am about to say this evening about the state of climate science is not in any sense anti-science. It is anti the distortion and betrayal of science…
    “Why do I think the risk from global warming is being exaggerated? For four principal reasons.
        1. All environmental predictions of doom always are;
        2. the models have been consistently wrong for more than 30 years;
        3. the best evidence indicates that climate sensitivity is relatively low;
        4. the climate science establishment has a vested interest in alarm.
    “I will come to those four points in a moment. But first I want to talk about global greening, the gradual, but large, increase in green vegetation on the planet…the most momentous [yet largely unreported] discoveries of recent years and one that transforms the scientific background to climate policy”
Globl Warming versus Global Greening – Matt Ridley, GWPF

“Should Chris Wallace ask our presidential candidates about climate change? Absolutely, but only as part of a broader discussion of the role of fossil fuels in America’s energy future.
    “’Climate change’ — more precisely, man-made warming — is a side effect of using fossil fuels for cheap, plentiful, reliable energy. To ask candidates to address climate change without addressing the unique benefits of fossil fuels is like asking the candidates to address vaccine side effects without addressing the unique benefits of vaccines.”
Warming is mild and manageable: Opposing view – Alex Epstein, USA TODAY

“Elinor C. Ostrom, the first female Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences, believed that people are perfectly capable of taking control of decisions that affect their lives, without external authorities imposing rules. Her extensive fieldwork focused on how people interact with ecosystems, such as forests, fisheries and irrigation systems, while maintaining the long-term sustainability of these resources.”
Are ordinary people able to self-organise? – Nobel Perspectives, UBS

“All the highest concentrations are downwind of warm water… There is little or no significant excess CO2 above or downwind of major population centres such as Western Europe or the North Eastern USA.”
Evidence that Oceans not Man control CO2 emissions – Stephen Wilde, NEW CLIMATE MODEL

“’How race complicates the way we view Haiti and the environment.’ … He had discovered a rarity in today’s world: a good-news environmental story in one of the planet’s poorest countries [Haiti]. But then he had a troubling thought: 'People won’t like this.'”
One of the most repeated facts about Haiti is a lie – NEWS.VICE.COM


"[W]e have to reject the false alternative of 'climate
change believer' or 'climate change denier' and
become 'climate thinkers'—people who think
carefully about the magnitude of man-made warming and
compare it with the unique benefits of fossil fuels.
"Candidates who are climate thinkers will conclude
that man-made warming is mild and manageable,
not runaway and catastrophic. And thus they will
conclude that fossil fuels should be liberated, not restricted."

~ Alex Epstein, ‘Warming is mild and manageable: Opposing view;


“Years ago, experts in the hardware industry would have had more sympathy for Sherman. Now, no one does—not even Sherman himself. While discussions of intellectual property in China’s manufacturing centers once focused on how brands and investors could protect their designs from China’s rapacious copycats, things have changed. Startups and foreign manufacturers are embracing a new reality—someone in China is going to make a knockoff of your unique invention, almost immediately. All any company or entrepreneur can do is prepare for it.”
Your brilliant Kickstarter idea could be on sale in China before you’ve even finished funding it – QZ.COM

“Think about how little you know about the politics, race, gender, or even nationality of the person who makes the bread you buy. You don't know because you don't care. What you care about is getting the best deal on bread.”
The Free Market Wins against Discrimination – David R. Henderson, FEE

“Everybody relies on those four letters far more than they should.”
The Myers-Briggs Personality Test Is Pretty Much Meaningless – Rose Eveleth, SMART NEWS

A scientist examines the science.
Science-Based Alternative Cancer Treatments

“With congestion getting worse, proponents advise techniques, such as preventing bottlenecks, letting others cut in; the problem with tailgaters”
One Driver Can Prevent a Traffic Jam – WALL STREET JOURNAL


“In countless fields and by innumerable devices we
see the deliberate contrivance of scarcities, the
abolition of which would surely enable the dissolution
of what we to-day regard as physical poverty.”
~ William Hutt, from his book Economists and the Public, quoted by Don Boundreaux at Cafe Hayek


"We allowed economics to be lost when we decided it was too complicated and too technical for intelligent laypeople to understand."
How We Lost Economics – Jeff Desit, MISES WIRE

“Falling prices are so obviously beneficial that only academic economists don't get it.”
VIDEO: "Why Falling Prices Are Good for Business" – Joseph Salerno, MISES WIRE

“Keynesian economics is a perpetual-motion machine for statists.”
More Evidence against Big-Spending Keynesian Economics – Daniel Mitchell, INTERNATIONAL LIBERTY

“Central banks appear more powerful than at any time in their history – has something changed? Not really – because of their role in government debt management and fractional reserve banking, central banks have always possessed this power.”
A History of Fractional-Reserve Banking - or, Why Interest Rates are the Most Important Influence on Stock Market Valuations? Part 1 – Colin Lloyd, COBDEN CENTRE

“The Federal Reserve is, at last, acknowledging at top levels that its economists are completely baffled, its recovery is failing, that the Fed cannot raise interest and may even have to heat up its stimulants … or we may end up with a permanently scarred and stagnant economy.”
Federal Reserve Admits it Never Knew What it was Doing – THE GREAT RECESSION BLOG

“The positive economic case for free trade is straightforward.  Here I distill it into ten – well, as you’ll see, really eleven – elemental points.”
The Elemental Case for Free Trade – CAFE HAYEK

“Yes. [The UK] should go for total free trade. Unilaterally if necessary. [Britain] will still be better off.”
The EU’s maddening, opaque, and illogical import tariffs must be scrapped – CITY A.M.

Who would've guessed that the Fed's assessment of human behaviour might be flawed … ?




"Strip away the titles of 'capitalism' and 'socialism', and the responses become drastically different. A 2015 Reason-Rupe poll found that college-aged respondents are far more supportive of a 'free-market system' (72%) than they are of a 'government-managed economy' (49%). In reality, millennials—regardless of party or ideology—have arrived at a surprising consensus: We support free markets, are very much unhappy with the current state of affairs, and are still looking for change."
Millennials vs. Mutant Capitalism – Christopher Koopman, WALL STREET JOURNAL

“I will argue that the anti-liberalism is much deeper in Kant’s philosophy than the liberalism. That means saying something about the ringlingly liberal-sounding principles that are indeed integral to Kant’s philosophy. That something is this: One must always interpret a comprehensive philosopher’s remarks on applied matters in the context of his philosophical system.”
Does Kant Have a Place in Classical Liberalism? – Stephen Hicks, CATO

““In Aristotle’s eyes, ethics does not begin with thinking of others; it begins with oneself. The reason is that every human being faces the task of learning how to live, how to be a human being, just as he has to learn how to walk or to talk. No one can be truly human, can live and act as a rational man, without first going through the difficult and often painful business of acquiring the intellectual and moral virtues, and then, having acquired them, actually exercising them in the concrete, but tricky, business of living.” ~ Henry B. Veatch in Rational Man: A Modern Interpretation of Aristotelian Ethics, quoted in …
The Perfectionist Turn, by Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen – AMAZON

“People inquire about socialisation, but what they should be asking about is civilisation. Lots of animals live in social groups, but civilisation is unique to humankind.”
Homeschoolers Invent The Most Daring Ways To Educate Kids – Jenni White, THE FEDERALIST

14729395_10155447122244782_6206104311649497136_n“Today's schools teach students to be comfortable bandying about abstractions they don't understand and opinions they can't validate… Inversions of hierarchy turn kids into passive parrots able to recite - and unable to think.
    “To say that knowledge is hierarchical means that there is a necessary order to its acquisition. Before you can learn calculus, you must learn algebra; before you can learn algebra, you must know arithmetic. This fact, that knowledge—to be real, meaningful knowledge—must be gained in a specific order is generally understood in the subject of math, but is woefully neglected in many other areas. The most abstract principles of science are taught as bolts from the blue to be memorized, with no presentation of the observations and intermediate principles that led to their discovery and that render them meaningful. Controversial political events are discussed and analyzed when students do not have the knowledge of history that would make an informed, intelligent judgment possible. These rampant inversions of the hierarchy of knowledge are turning children into passive parrots able to recite abstract formulas—and unable to think. If we want our children to be truly educated, to have a vast store of crucial knowledge that they grasp deeply and independently, then education must be radically reconceived with respect for the hierarchy of knowledge.”
Shop – Lisa Van Damme, VAN DAMME ACADEMY

[UPDATE: Lecture temporarily withdrawn from shop for some updating and revision.]


If you’re looking for a fun-filled concert experience, then get ye to one of Operatunity’s touring Mario Lanza afternoons. Still half of the country left to entertain … !
The Great Mario Lanza – OPERATUNITY

Hey, great news!
Pop-Up Globe returns for summerNZ HERALD

“I don’t explicitly say so, but a lot of this analysis turns on knowing how writers on deadline work. By the time of the motorcycle accident, Dylan was so overcommitted that almost everything he did was phoning it in. The word salad would have started as a Loki joke, just to see if he could get away with it…”
Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize cheapens true greatness even as it insults his actual achievements – Greg Swann,SELF ADORATION.COM

“In their own terms, film and architecture are mutually inspirational, and filmmakers often look towards architecture for what it offers.”
Why Film Villains Love Modern Architecture – Linda Bennett, ARCHITIZER

“And the problem? These designs are created by brain dead extroverted managers who want to inflict their demented views of cognition onto those who actually need to focus and think.”
Programmers really hate open floor plans – QZ.COM

This is great! “Mapping Gothic France: database of images, texts, charts & historical maps…”
Mapping Gothic France


Hey Joe!


Hey Hoagie!


Hey Edmund!


[Hat tips etc. Felix Mueller, Anoop Verma, Marsha Enright, Phil Oliver, Jim Matzger, Monica Beth, Louise Lamontagne, Stuart Hayashi, Bastiat Institute, Taliesin Fellows, Jerome Huyler, Jim Rose, Marius Comper, Michael Strong, Michael John Cyril Fasher, Karen Bridgman, Andie Moore, Bernie Greene, The Questionist, The Friedrich Hayek Society, The Objective Standard, Climate Realists, Tom Bowden, Jeff Deist, Damien Grant, Emma Espiner, Salvation Army NZFT, Daniel Hannan, Learn Liberty, ATHE1STP0WER/Kriz, The Rational Walk, Trisha Jha, Alexi Baker, Phil Quin]

Thanks for reading!
And have a great (long) weekend.