Monday, January 31, 2011

Where is Facebook not used?

Look at this map, showing Facebook connections.


Well there are three reasons for big dark areas:

1.  Nobody lives there (vast tracts of the Amazon, Sahara, Arctic Circle, Siberia, majority of Australia but notice how Greenland is still connected despite a population of well under 1 million);
2.  Few can afford it (mountains of South America, central and west Africa, and the lower density in some areas);

but there is a third reason...

Look at China, no lack of people, no lack of people who can afford it, but it's a blank.  In fact look at the Middle East, except the shining lights from Egypt through Israel, Jordan and Lebanon.  Beacons in the oil rich Qatar, Bahrain and UAE.  Not Syria, Saudi, Yemen, Libya and little Iran.  Yet Vietnam has some, and we can see free China in the form of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau against the near devoid lack of mainland connections.  South Korea vs North Korea is too obvious to point out.  Indonesia and Malaysia are wonderfully well connected.

Speaks far more of freedom than many indicators.

Looking for innovation? Try a bureaucracy

Innovators, creators, producers, inventors.   Think of the greatest leaps forward in modern history that have changed economies and how people lived.  Think how many were spearheaded by a government bureaucracy.  Think how many benefited from being in a high tax economy.  Then read this from Wayne Mapp, a man who knows about innovation with his extensive entrepreneurial and  military and political background:

The Government is backing innovation to drive New Zealand’s economy forward and raise New Zealanders’ standard of living... Prime Minister John Key today launched the new Ministry of Science and Innovation (MSI)

Think of every single technological innovation in the last 30 years, do you really think there would be more if there had been the MSI?  

What else could government do?

How about get out of the way?  How about cutting company tax to 10%, so that businesses that do want to engage in research, development and be cutting edge about technology have an environment when they don't see the state taking a third of the "winnings"?

How about opening up the education sector so schools and universities are not dominated by a centrally planned bureaucratically specified curriculum, but that parents can withdraw their children from state schools and take their taxpayer funding with them to free private schools?  In other words, let innovators get involved in educating future innovators, not schools dominated by sclerotic unionists whose main philosophy is a burning envy of distrust of business and a politically driven view of the environment and humanity's relationship with it.

How about saying openly and loudly that you don't know what's best and you can't hire bureaucratics who can pick winners either?  You would be telling the truth, you'd be confronting the myth perpetuated by the left and most other parties that they can magically rescue the economy and advance it by spending other people's money on bureaucratically assessed beneficiaries.

However, it is clear National is of the left, given it's interest in growing the state.  So why vote for more of the same this year?

Why does the left ignore Islamism?

Noticed how so many on the left are, understandably, pleased about the imminent downfall of the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt, but completely nonchalant about whether it becomes an Islamist dictatorship?

How the rhetoric and thinking, almost childlike in its simplicity goes like this:

What government does Egypt have? A dictatorship
Where does most of Egypt's aid come from? US government. 
That means the US supports dictatorship.  Dictatorship is bad.
What should Egyptian have? Democracy, like "we" in the West have.  Egyptians deserve the same rights we do.
Do you believe in human rights?  Yes
Do you believe women, gay and lesbian people, ethnic minorities and religious minorities deserve equal rights to everyone else? Yes

OK so far but then...

Does it matter who gets elected? Up to Egyptians.
Does it matter if Islamists arm and fund terrorists to wage war against Israel? Silent (but we think Israel deserves it).
Does it matter if Islamists arm and fund terrorists to wage war against the West? Yes, but it would be our fault for wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, backing Israel.  They will stop when they have justice.
Does it matter if Islamists get elected who then restrict democracy to be the same sham it was under Mubarak?  Silent
Does it matter if Islamists suppress free speech, shut down competing media, arrest protestors, use the police and army to suppress dissent?  Silent
Does it matter if Islamists execute political opponents, adulterers, rape victims, gay and lesbian people? Silent
Does it matter if Islamists institute laws and enforce laws discriminatory against women? Silent
Does it matter if Islamists get nuclear weapons? America has them, so what?
See in a blind leftwing hatred of the USA, there is a total blindspot about Islamism.  For people who apparently espouse a love for women, desire for equal rights for gay and lesbian people and who hate torture, suppression of free speech and the like, their willingness to tolerate and appease Islamism is absolutely disgusting.  

It is the mindless view that anyone who challenges those they hate (the Republican Party, Israel) are to be thought of generously.

Well no.

I want Egyptians to be free, to have free speech and an open secular society and government.  I want Egypt to progress.  On balance I do not think it will become Islamist, but the risk is there.

For those on the left, whose hatred of the Mubarak regime is so thorough they will accept any alternative, are completely betraying the beliefs they purport to hold.

Want to see why? Look at how often they criticise the regime of Bashar al-Assad of Syria. A socialist Baathist dictatorship, led by a man who got his position through hereditary succession, whose father was a warm friend of the Soviet Union, who runs a secret police and torture network that rivals Hosni Mubarak. Who has invaded Lebanon twice to overthrow liberal secular regimes that were not compliant with it.

No, you wont hear quite the same hatred of Assad as you will Mubarak, because he didn't have US support.  He had Soviet support, so he isn't as bad.  I mean he has not made peace with Israel, he has not promoted peace in Iraq and continues friendly relations with Iran, so who cares?  After all, nothing gets the left more upset that the US backing a dictatorial regime - not because it should know better, but because the US is the embodiment of what they hate.

It completely robs them of credibility.  Particularly when nobody on the political opposite is saying "save Mubarak, he's good". Nobody is saying that.  All that is being said is that Egyptians deserve the rights and freedoms we all expect.  That is consistent, because it rejects Mubarak and Islamism.

However, for some on the left Islamism is implicitly ok because American is bad.

Where do you get this sort of thought? Try here, here or here for starters.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Egypt faces the crossroads

Egypt has always been seen as the leading Arab state.  Not being flush with oil wealth, it was the centre of anti-colonialism and Arab nationalism under the populist dictatorship of Nasser, who confiscated the Suez Canal for the state and waged war on Israel.   After failing miserably to destroy Israel, but losing the Sinai Peninsula to it, he was deposed and replaced by Anwar Sadat, who had another attempt at Israel before deciding enough was enough - and agreeing a peace treaty, which resulted in Israel swapping land (Sinai) for peace.  

Sadat was assassinated by an Islamist and replaced by his deputy, Hosni Mubarak, who took a less friendly view of Israel, but was sustained by the US pouring more aid money into Egypt than any other country bar Israel (and more recently Iraq).  Mubarak was sustained because the alternatives were seen to be Soviet and then Iranian backed Islamists.   

Let's be clear, an Islamist run Egypt would pose a threat not only to Israel, but could be a base for terrorist activities in Europe and beyond.  It would have a stranglehold over shipping through the Suez Canal, and be leading the largest Arab state by population.   The Iranian military religious dictatorship is already claiming a new Middle East, Islamic dominated, is coming to the fore, let's hope not.

For if it were to happen, do not be deluded that it will cost in lives, and could create a new age of conflict that makes Iraq and Afghanistan seem like they were easy.

Yet the Mubarak regime is far from good, it was relatively open economically, but used torture, suppressed free political expression and has been corrupt and kleptocratic (although not as bad as some).  It has been moderately benign as far as dictatorships go, but it is hardly an endorsement that it is better than the alternative.   So the time has come, as relative moderate secular Egyptians demand political freedom, and the dignity and respect of being able to challenge government, politicians, political appointees and the regime.

My hope is that he steps down, announces free and fair elections, and provides the space for real political pluralism to flourish in a country where more suppression may only embolden Islamists.

For the future of not only Egypt, but Israel, the Middle East and the world is deeply affected by what happens in Cairo.   I sincerely hope that those on the left, who with some justification, criticise and despise the Mubarak regime (although I suspect somewhat motivated by anti-Americanism) will not celebrate or support an Islamist takeover of Egypt.  

For if it is a bad dream for Egyptians to be suppressed by the Mubarak regime, it would be one of our worst nightmares to have an Ayatollah of Cairo.

Arabs stand up, but where will they walk?

Tunisia

Tunisians stood up because they saw the contrast between their own recession (driven in some part by a drop in demand for Tunisian goods and tourism due to the recession in Europe) and the privileged kleptocratic lifestyle of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his thieving bitch of a wife, the gold-digging hairdresser.  Having appointed himself as President for an extra two years, and maintained a tight grip on media, speech and maintaining a personality cult, Tunisians had had enough and rightly turfed him out.  Even when some of his lackeys tried to take over, Tunisians weren't standing for that either.   Ben Ali took over from Tunisia's relatively moderate but dictatorial founding President Habib Bourquiba, a man whose record was described by Christopher Hitchens as follows:

he was strongly influenced by the ideas of the French Enlightenment. His contribution was to cement, in many minds, secularism as a part of self-government. He publicly broke the Ramadan fast, saying that such a long religious holiday was debilitating to the aspirations of a modern economy. He referred with contempt to face-covering and sponsored a series of laws entrenching the rights of women.

Bourquiba was no angel, but he was one of the more moderate of the Arab world's strongmen, look at who he had to the east with Muammar Gaddafi making Libya a personal fiefdom and sponsor of murder worldwide.   He wasn't an economic genius and left Tunisia with mounting inflation and debts.

Ben Ali took over when Bourquiba was pronounced too ill to continue, and resisted an Islamist terrorist campaign to take over the country in 1987.  Ben Ali naturally got extensive US and French support to suppress the Islamists, and Tunisia and its neighbours are no doubt the better for it.

Yet as with all dictators, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Tunisia hosted the PLO for over a decade, and Ben Ali made considerable efforts to encourage it to reach out to Israel and recognise its right to exist.  He opened up the economy and living standards increased, but freedom of expression was not on offer. He hosted multi-party and multi-candidate elections that were for show, and as the economy has waned, and he has appeared aloof from it all, so Tunisians said enough.

However, wherever Tunisia ends up, it is unlikely to be Islamist and it is, after all, a small country.  It is hoped that its largely secularist past will bode well for the future.

Yet Arabs in Algerian, Egypt, Yemen and Jordan have all watched the protests on TV and online, and have seen how easy it is to topple a strongman.  None of the countries have political freedom, all have economic difficulties, but where will they end up?

Algeria

Algeria was born of a bloody civil war against the French, and it went through three Presidents in three years as power struggles and uncontested elections meant a volatile scene.  In 1965, Houari Boumedienne seized power in a coup and ran Algeria on strict socialist principles, with strong allegiances with the Soviet bloc and China, even giving an honorary doctorate in person to Kim Il Sung.  He wasted the country's oil wealth on developing state owned heavy industry which proved uncompetitive and unproductive, and ran a ruthless police state.

Boumedienne's death saw a brief interim Presidency, followed by his protege, Chadli Bendjedid who was unremarkable, as the economy stagnated with falling oil prices.   As debts grew and government spending was cut, protests emerged and Bendjedid liberalised politics to announced the introduction of multi-party elections.  That, as is well known, sparked the rise of Islamism.  Local elections in 1990 saw the Islamic Salvation Front win a majority of positions, and there was every risk it would win the central government election in 1991.  The Islamic Salvation Front was lukewarm towards retaining democracy, with the vice president of the party claiming "If the people vote against the law of God, this is nothing other than blasphemy. In this case, it is necessary to kill the non-believers for the good reason that they wish to substitute their authority for that of God".  The party opposed the widespread coalition of Operation Desert Storm that had UN Security Council endorsement to eject Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.

Hardly surprising that the military intervened and stopped the election, but what followed was a brutal oppression and civil war.  Thousands were rounded up and locked up, prisons were full, and Islamists took to the countryside with weapons.  Islamists embarked on a policy of deliberate massacres of entire villages if they were not supported, the military responded and over 100,000 were killed in 11 years of war.  The war ending only because so many Algerians were tired of the slaughter.   The military supported Abdelaziz Bouteflika to become President, and an amnesty saw many Islamists give up.  He was elected in 1999 in an election boycotted by opponents, but in 2004 he was re-elected in an election described by the OSCE as free and fair.  He engaged in substantive economic reforms, taking advantage of rising oil and gas prices to rebuild infrastructure, construct housing and the economy recovered considerably.   His amnesty and reconciliation process gained much support domestically, except among militant Islamists.  He engaged in privatisation of heavy industries and the tourism sectors.

However, tensions have risen in the last two year as Bouteflika sought and gained a constitutional change to allow him to run for the Presidency for a third term, meanwhile Islamists have gained support in resistance to his attempts to retain power.  He held an election in 2009 described by Western observers as a sham, as many candidates and voters boycotted it, and he subsequently won.  In essence, Algeria's carefully won peace has been undermined by the hunger for power by a man who started by doing good, but has been unwilling to let free expression and pluralism rise against him.  As a result, those who are not scared of doing violence and unwinding the peace - Islamists - are gaining the upper hand.  Algeria's economy is in reasonably good shape, but tensions with rapidly rising food prices and dissatisfaction with corruption and suppression of dissent, are firing up protests.  None of this is helped by Islamist backing for a revolution. It would be fair to say that the greatest risk in Algeria is a second bloody civil war.

Yemen

Often forgotten is the fact that the Republic of Yemen was only united in 1990, as much of Yemen's post colonial history was spent as two governments and states.  The new united Yemen was promising as it established a multi-party democracy, guaranteeing equality under the law, basic individual rights.  However, the election didn't result in acceptance of all political leaders, as the President and Vice President came from the two former northern and southern republics.  Grievances spilled out into armed conflict between the two sides, not helped by the failure of the two state's armies to integrate.   The unified Yemen acted as if it were two countries, with Saudi Arabia supporting the socialist south because it was opposed to a united Yemen.  The UN Security Council and most other states sought a ceasefire, and the civil war ended quickly with dominance from the north.  Subsequently parliamentary and presidential elections saw dominance achieved by Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had been President on reunification, and had previously been President of the northern Yemen Arab Republic since 1978.   Although elections have widely been considered to be reasonably free and fair, Saleh has had considerable influence over the media and press.

However, the main challenge to his rule since 2004 has been an Islamist insurgency from the north, which is partly tribal and religious motivated (as it has come from a sub-sect of Islam - the Shia Zaidiyyah).  Terrorism and attacks have persisted in Yemen, with the Yemeni government fighting a continuous campaign against the Islamist rebels.  Both it and the Saudis claims Iran is supporting the Islamists materially.  Saudi Arabia is now backing the Yemeni government, as Al Qaeda Saudi Arabia has shifted its base to Yemen.  The US has since provided direct military support to the Yemeni government to attack its bases in the north, including air combat support.

Yemenite discontent is from a combination of disenchantment with the almost continuous rule by one President since 1978, but also an economy which has performed poorly.  This was not helped by the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Yemeni workers during the 1991 Gulf War because the regime supported Saddam Hussein.  Yemen's economy has been dependent on subsistance agriculture and modest oil and gas reserves, of which revenue is used to offset high subsidies for domestic petroleum.  Tourism is virtually non-existent, and the civil war has dissuaded foreign investors as well as driving more skilled Yemenis overseas.  In short, the country has been seriously hamstrung by ongoing conflict.

The great fear is that protests in Aden will be taken advantage of by Al Qaeda and its associated Islamist rebels, particularly as Yemen is in a strategic position on the approach to Suez.

As for Egypt? The news is unfolding... the consequences could be far reaching.... and I will write on it later.

However, the common theme amongst all of these state is resistance to political power, to absolute rule, to those who have used the state to enrich themselves and not ever been accountable for what they have done.  In short, Arabs in these states have wanted political freedom.
Yet more than a few have seen it as a chance not just to throw off the shackles of existing regimes, but to introduce a new order.  Akin to how Iranians threw off the authoritarian corrupt Shah, and supported the most well organised alternative - who has since proven to be more authoritarian and despicable.

The Western support for the likes of Hosni Mubarak has been because the apparent alternative would be far worse - yet the truth is nobody knows what will happen, and maintaining dictatorship and one man rule simply provides fodder for the Islamists, promotes hatred of Western values and civilisation as Islamists can say the West supports political freedom for all, except Arabs.   So support must be given for these regimes to change, to let people have their say, and for freedom to emerge in secular modern republics.  Yet if any look like becoming Islamist states that will harbour and promote terrorism and war, then it is a different story, for it risks the national security of the targets of that terror and war.  Hopefully most Arabs in these countries, having lived under relatively secular rule for some time, have little appetite for a new form of tyranny - but, one might have said the same of Iran in 1979.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Labour approved of part-privatisation in 2002

Cast your mind back to the last Labour Government.  A government opposed to privatisation? Not quite.

The evidence is clear, as Michael Cullen issued a press release on behalf of the government in 2002 approving Qantas buying 4.99% of the mostly nationalised Air New Zealand, and approved an application by both airlines to get Commerce Commission and ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) approval for Qantas to ultimately buy 22.5% of Air New Zealand.

If it was good enough for Helen Clark, Michael Cullen, Trevor Mallard and Paul Swain (and the rest of Cabinet including Phil Goff, Annette King et al) then, why is it not any good now?

I opposed that at the time for the simple reason that the whole Air NZ nationalisation debacle was partly caused by the government sitting on its hands and not approving Singapore Airlines's request to lift its shareholding in Air NZ/Ansett Australia to 49%, because Qantas lobbied the government saying it had a "better idea" even though all of Air NZ's private shareholders opposed it.

It was a classic example of corporatist lobbying which successful killed off a competitor.  Qantas got what it wanted; the failure of Ansett (its biggest competitor) and a chance to gobble up Air NZ to ensure it was never threatened in its own patch again.  The latter didn't ultimately happen, but let's be clear.  Whilst Air NZ/Ansett did make poor business decisions, its collapse was precipitated because of government interference in a business decision that would have saved it.

That is the level of competence of those in the Labour Party who think, somehow, that they can manage large businesses well, when they have helped bring one to its knees, thanks to its competitor helping it out.  Then Labour sought to hand over part of what is now deemed to be a "strategic asset" (whatever that is) to its biggest rival.

The Greens did oppose any sale, because the growth in the public sector is seen as a "good" by those who think the people = the state.   However, it's sad that while Labour has no credibility, National can't have the courage of its convictions to argue that government should be in the business of owning businesses at all. 

Just one day

The day to remember what happens when the philosophy of selfless sacrifice, the belief that the common good is more important than people pursuing their own ends, the belief that the ends justify the means, the belief that people's ancestry is more important than their deeds, and when individualism is snuffed out completely and absolutely.

Holocaust Memorial Day is a day to recall the millions who were systematically removed from their homes, transported as cattle, enslaved, tortured and murdered industrial style in a manner that has yet to be paralleled by any regime.

It is also a day now to remember how the radical anti-capitalist Red Khmers took over Cambodia, declared Year Zero, abolished money, abolished property, systematically emptied the cities and shot, terrorised, tortured and starved between a quarter and a third of the population of that impoverished country - with the full material and moral support of the People's Republic of China.

A day to remember when the Orthodox Christian Serbian fascists went from town to town in Bosnia Hercegovina and ordered out the non-Serb men and boys, marched them out of town and shot them, and then went about raping the women and girl children of the towns (and one should not forget the Catholic Croatian fascists who did the same on a less organised scale to non-Croats).

A day to remember when the Hutu people of Rwanda had the fear and hatred struck into them to slaughter and butcher the Tutsi people, on a scale and extent that most has never really fully understood.

AND especially a day to remember when the Islamist thugs backed by the Sudanese dictatorship entered Darfur to slaughter, starve, rape and maim thousands of those who were not of them.

Many other mass slaughters and murders should also be part of today, and hopefully they will also be noted, such as the murder of Armenians under Turkish rule in the early 20th century, the Soviet slaughter of ethnic minorities and deemed class enemies under Lenin and Stalin, Mao's mass starvation of Chinese people in the 1960s, the murder, disappearance and purge of one third of the people of Equatorial Guinea in the early 1970s.  The list goes on.

It is why the use of the term "holocaust" should not be used lightly.  It is about the systematic slaughter and indiscriminate murder of vast numbers of people because of their background.   A scourge that the 21st century has sadly not yet purged from the desires of some politicians or religious leaders.

Being rational about privatisation

If there is one issue that is guaranteed to result in hyperboles, reality evasion and emotive banality from New Zealand’s left, it is raising the issue of privatisation of state owned enterprises. I think sometimes that those who claim to be “centre-left” are really hardline Leninists, who react as virulently as Mao’s Red Guards to those who don’t follow the “correct line”.

As a libertarian, I don’t believe the state should be engaged in owning and running businesses at all, because nobody should be forced to have their money tied up in any business. Some businesses the state owns are unviable in their own right and should either shut down, or be severely scaled back. They destroy wealth, and sustaining them is nothing more than taking from taxpayers to subsidise the customers of these businesses, who would otherwise either pay a full market price or go elsewhere. Kiwirail being a good example. If it was properly privatised it would still exist, but not on the scale it currently is at, which is driven by politics, not economics. Bear in mind though that key competitors of Kiwirail are state and local government owned, in the form of roads and ports. This significantly blurs questions of fair competition.

Others are profitable in their own right, but are constrained to expand because they don’t have enough capital and because the state, as a shareholder, tends to resist such expansion. Winston Peters stopped the Airways Corporation, an efficient operator by world standards, from expanding into other countries. An outrageous destruction of opportunity by a New Zealand company that could have taken its international best practice and earned foreign exchange from doing so. NZ Post is in somewhat of a similar position, being an excellent operator which was shoe-horned into entering the local banking sector by Jim Anderton, instead of entering foreign postal markets where it has true world-class expertise.

Some undermine competition and investment from the private sector, because the private sector knows state owned companies don’t fail. Ask yourself why there has been next to no new entry in the electricity generation market as the state has maintained ownership in 70% of generating capacity. Indeed perversely, after nationalising Air New Zealand, the last Labour Government deliberately tried to engineer the suppression of competition in the New Zealand aviation market, by promoting a Qantas part purchase of Air New Zealand. This would have effectively handed the state owned airline virtually all of the domestic, and 80% of the trans-tasman airline market. As it happens, competition authorities stopped the government creating this monopoly, which was not one of entrepreneurs, but the state colluding with a company that itself had its hands manipulating its government.

In cases where competition exists or can reasonably exist, it seems difficult to sustain any argument that the state should be in that market. Examples of this range from banking, to farming, retail energy production, exploration and supply, transport services, broadcasting outlets, telecommunications, postal services to housing. A state owned competitor at best can perform moderately well and be seen as any other player (how many people think electricity supply has been privatised and don’t realise most of the companies in the sector are state owned?). At worst it can distort competition and investment, as competitors see it as the player that cannot fail, even if it underprices and performs badly.

However, is there a case for the state owning any businesses, particularly ones some economists refer to as “natural monopolies”? I would argue no, and measures can be taken at privatisation to manage this over the medium term (such as requiring certain terms and conditions to be applied to competitors, and transitional measures of price control such as happened with Telecom). Yet this isn’t the issue presented by the Prime Minister’s announcement.

He is talking about a part-privatisation of five government companies.

One, Air New Zealand, is already part privately owned, because the last Labour government did not nationalise all of the shareholding. Given the Labour Party sought to sell 20% of Air NZ to Qantas (and Qantas did acquire 5% which it has since sold), the credibility in opposing any sell down of Air NZ is completely empty. Air NZ faces intense competition in some parts of its business, particularly Trans Tasman and long haul traffic to/from Europe. However, it isn’t individual kiwi shareholders it needs, it actually needs a massive injection of capital so it can expand and work more closely with its foreign partners. Whilst it has performed adequately, this is a highly volatile sector, and the airline is weak if it does not have strong support from highly capitalised partners.

Another, Solid Energy, is a commodity producer and exporter in a competitive international market. Some people find what it produces (coal) to be immoral, such as environmentalists. Quite why they should be forced to own a coal mine is beyond me. Quite why the Greens think so is beyond me even more. Solid Energy isn’t a great performer, it doesn’t make a good return on its capital. It has been erratic in paying dividends. There appears little value in the state holding onto it.

The other three are competitive electricity generators and retailers, Mighty River Power, Genesis and Meridian. They all compete with each other, and with the main private generators/retailers Contact and Trustpower. If it is fine for the private sector to have 30% market share, you may wonder quite why it can’t have all of it. Providing adequate power generating capacity to meet demand is a serious issue, and one that isn’t facilitated by companies that dominate the market but are themselves undercapitalised.

By no means would part or even full privatisation of any of these companies deliver harm to consumers, but are taxpayers losing out?

Well it depends on the following:
- Are the companies constrained from success by a lack of capital? In all cases, the answer is probably less. Extra capital means government borrowing or more taxes to “invest”. I doubt whether really faced with the question, most New Zealanders want to be forced to do this.
- Are the companies making returns better than the government debt their sale would retire? Bernard Hickey says yes, but I’d argue that this snapshot is a poor representation of the long term capital value. Solid Energy and Air NZ have not been good returns over a longer period, so these can be ruled out.

So if the electricity companies are making good returns does it still mean the state should hold onto them, because they make more money than the interest on debt that would be saved if they were sold? Well no. It does not make it moral to continue to force people to indirectly “own” any companies at all.

You see the underlying premise of state ownership of companies is force. You are all forced to have a stake in these companies, without actually having any of the privileges of ownership. You don’t get a dividend, the state uses it to spend on what it chooses (which the left assume you benefit from, but it is all in the mix). You get to inject money into the company without your consent. Most of all, you simply can’t get out of this deal and use the money yourself, since you may make more money if you simply had the money in your own hands.

Which raises the question of whether privatisation might better be carried out in some cases, not by selling shares, but by issuing them to New Zealand citizens in equal quantities. That would be true public ownership, and then the “average” “ordinary” “Kiwi Mums and Dads” or whatever sugar-coated adjectives are used, can decide using their own minds, whether they want to be shareholders in power companies, banks, a postal operator, farms, service stations, a railway, an airline etc. Many will want to, many would rather use the money to pay their mortgage, or put into their own business or put into savings. What would be wrong with that, except that an awful lot of socialists don’t actually like people making their own decisions with their own money, because they want to make the decisions for them.

So when the left talks about thinking about the average person, what they are saying is they want to think for them. Ownership by the public is not what the left wants, it is ownership by the state, controlled according to what politicians think is good for the public.

Paternalism pure and simple.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Who in Haiti and Malaysia can aim and fire?

For that's what Jean-Claude Duvalier deserves.  It is the least Haiti deserves.  The Duvalier family are irredeemably vile, murderous crooks.  Even divorcing his repulsive thieving bitch of a wife doesn't make Baby Doc more acceptable.  The record of his family added decades to the poverty, suffering and death of this sad, but proud country.  A country that threw off the yoke of French slavery, but was punished by the West for over a century and a half, and after paying off the French, got handed the Duvaliers.

The same Duvaliers who used the country's tobacco monopoly as a personal slush fund to enrich themselves.   The same Duvaliers who spent US$3 million on their wedding ceremony.  The same Duvaliers who ruthlessly suppressed dissent, maintained a ban on independent media and promoted widespread corruption and patronage.

Meanwhile, Robert Mugabe is in a hospital in Kuala Lumpur.  Another answer to the problems of a nation is in the hands of the brave.

Bear in mind these people are proven murderers and thieves.  If they were not politicians, they would have been subjected to extradition treaties and be treated as the evil men they really are.   However, they are not "common" criminals, they are the extraordinary ones, that hide behind "state sovereignty" to protect their blood dripping hands. 

Both deserve at the most to be treated as criminals, but as they aren't common criminals, their crimes are indisputable, their role in making the law as they go along, means they have no right to that.   As with Saddam Hussein and Nicolae Ceausescu, they have forfeited the rights of human beings.  For the only legitimate use of the death penalty for me, is the removal of tyrants - as it is an act of self defence and revolution.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Greens imply Queensland to blame for floods (updated)

Whilst the Queensland floods have seen the media filled with stories of death, attempted heroism, homelessness and the callous mindless destruction that can be wrought by nature, most have been expressing sympathy and compassion for the victims.

Politicians across the spectrum in Australia are unified in their expression of the natural human emotions of compassion, and benevolence.  Genuine concern for the victims and willingness to do as they can to help.  The Australian Green Party has been no exception, supporting the Queensland Government flood appeal.

Not the Green Party of Aotearoa/New Zealand.  No, it's a chance to blog on climate change.

First, Russel Norman says climate change evidence is compelling and that events like the floods are more frequent because of it.  Even though the scientist quoted says "It certainly fits the climate change models but I have to add the proviso that it’s very difficult – even with extreme conditions like this – to always attribute it to climate change".  "He says the extremes being encountered in Australia this week fit climate change models, but it is too early to prove a direct link to changing weather patterns."  However, if you have the faith, believe in it brothers.  There could be a link, but that's about it.  Given the last flood on this scale was in 1974, unless such floods occur again in the next 5-10 years it would seem to be a weak link at best.

Second, Russel points out one of the key industries of Queensland is coal mining so says "It is also noteworthy that Queensland is one of the biggest coal exporters in the world and so is making a significant contribution to climate change."

Putting those two statements together is effectively saying  "floods caused by climate change, Queensland exports climate change, Queensland brought it on itself".

Finally, after blaming the floods on climate change, blaming Queensland for contributing to climate change, the school prefect in the Greens come out to patronise Queenslanders:

"I hope that, once the cleanup is underway and people have a chance to recover from the impact, the 2011 flood leads to a debate in Queensland about whether they want to continue to be such a big contributor to climate change given that climate change makes such extreme weather events more likely."

Yes, the fools, they should do better next time.  Not that I was elected to represent them, but I want to make a political point anyway.


Presumably if Queensland shut down coal mining tomorrow all that would happen is the price of coal would go up, tens of thousands would be out of work, millions would be poorer off and there would be still no protection from floods - funny that.

He ends it with a weak expression of support "Love to all my family and friends over there. – ‘74 didn’t take out Brissie and neither will ‘11!" I'm surprised he didn't throw in a "you should have known better that this would have happened".

Most politicians responding to natural disasters respond with expressions that show they give a damn about the human beings who are suffering and rebuilding their lives.  Russel Norman has done it to make a political point, to effectively blame the victims and hector them into debating how much of it was their own fault. 

This is from the same people that go on about how they, unlike others, put people first.  No, it would appear they put politics first.  However, it is not the first example this week of people on the political left using a tragedy to score points.

UPDATE: Russel Norman's response is, as before,  to misconstrue and ignore my point, then engage in an ad-hominem attack saying "I really do love the way “Liberty”Scott tries to shut down debate. Keep on writing LS I think you demonstrate nicely the kind of freedom that the far right believes in, and it ain’t freedom of speech!".  All I suggested was that blaming the victims for a disaster on the day people were being killed wasn't good taste, but as someone who plays the man not the ball, he doesn't appear to understand the concept of standing aside from politics in the midst of tragedy.   Then he calls me "far right" because it is all so easy to paint someone libertarian as fascist.

This being the same man who thinks non-ionising electromagnetic radiation from cellphone towers is an issue because it is about adding to "background radiation", but similar radiation from far more powerful TV and radio transmitters can be ignored.  So it is safe to say he has scientific credentials that wouldn't get him passing NCEA Level 1 science, which tells your something about the extent to which he can be taken seriously on anything to do with real science.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Only we can stir up bigotry and hatred

Once walking down a Wellington alleyway I saw a piece of graffiti which depicted Nandor Tanczos saying "everything you do is political".  A similar philosophy has seemed to have gripped some on the political left in a manner that is both inexplicably vile and hypocritical at the same time.  Even the Secretary of State claims that the murder was by "an extremist".  I'll leave aside thay apparently only the shooting of the Congresswoman is significant here, and that the shooting of a child and several others are hard to connect to any political motive at all - but then it would be inconvenient to even consider that.  Malcolm Harbrow doesn't even mention those killed in his own unhinged diatribe of bigotry.

The killer in question is clearly rather disturbed, with possible psychoses.  What about his politics?  Well as much as can be gleaned from evidence seen so far, it would appear they are as deranged and incoherent as his behaviour.  Some on the left have grabbed his hatred of the government, concern for the constitution and embrace of a gold standard as evidence he is a Tea Partier, yet conveniently ignoring his appreciation of The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf.  Him being an ardent atheist wouldn't exactly align him with most Republicans either.  Then there is a report that he believed he could fly.  There were signs he was interested in the occult, but he also loved animals.  Time to point fingers at similar people?

Yet this transcript of his Youtube posting shows even less coherency, with random obsessions with the currency (he wants a new "third" currency), literacy and that the government engages in mind control and brainwashing.  He burned an American flag on Youtube, an act frequently seen committed by leftwing protestors (and one they defend as free speech, yet decry burning the Koran).

How could anyone say this nonsense has any credible link with the Tea Party, Republican party, Libertarian Party or whatever?   He hated the government, but then those on the far left, religious extremists of Christian and Muslim hues and white supremacists all share this.  He liked the Communist Manifesto too apparently.

To make such an accusation is itself an act of hatred and bigotry, to tar a whole political group with the brush of blame for inciting the murders of a disturbed young man. 

- Fiscal responsibility;
- Constitutionally limited government; and
- Free markets.

Quite how that can be blamed for inciting murder is a stretch.  So the philosophical and political agenda of the Tea Party can hardly be said to be responsible.

However, those on the left cite the map with crosshairs as incitement to murder.  It isn't the politics, but the dialogue and the way it is expressed.

There are two problems with this leap of "logic". 

First, it applies the very same logic that the conservative right (and the feminist left) uses to justify censorship, on the basis that it incites people to commit crimes.  Media should be devoid of violence and sexual imagery, because it might "raise the passions to a height at which a weak willed man could not resist".  It has been used to claim that nudity incites rape, that young women wearing short skirts and revealing tops incite rape.  It carries the implication that criminals are not responsible for their acts, but rather "society" is to blame for creating an environment that incites them.  Some on the left claim that "society" is to blame for why someone might torture an infant after all.  This disconnect between actual events and actions of an individual and any sort of choice or responsibility is a dangerous form of determinism, and one that has long justified the actions of totalitarians who believe all must be controlled to ensure people act "responsibly".

If it were true there would be justification for controls on speech to limit language, given the danger that could arise from that.  Of course, the US has constitutionally protected free speech that has only few limits, which are around defamation and production of recordings of actual violent and sexual offences.  So any call to "tone things down" wont be about legal limits, it will be about "being polite".  Yet should political discourse be limited just because someone unstable could misinterpret it?

The second problem with this approach is the failure to look in the mirror.  You see the left doesn't mind using violent rhetoric itself, especially when George W. Bush was President. For years it used the same inflammatory rhetoric, in depicting George W. Bush as a terrorist, akin to Hitler and that the 9/11 attacks were a conspiracy between the Administration, Israel and the military-industrial complex.  This even includes a frequently quoted mainstream journalist.  The Guardian's TV critic Charlie Brooker wrote a review calling for the assassination of Bush ("John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr - where are you now that we need you?") , culminating it the text being removed from the website Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe outlined multiple examples of those on the left using extreme inflammatory language, such as an NPR leftwing journalist saying it would be "retributive justice" if the then Senator Jesse Helms or his grandchildren got AIDS.  More recently, plenty on the left put up placards that call for violence against bankers, or jokingly then seriously suggest it online

So the idea that rhetoric that could be interpreted as violent is a "Tea Party" "right wing" trend is sheer nonsense, when the left uses the same language, pure and simple.  Pot-kettle.

Indeed, if you want to stir up hatred and bigotry, then what do you call smearing a political movement with blame for a multiple murder?  What does that do to lift standards of discussion and debate?  In fact by pointing the finger so ridiculously at the Tea Party for the actions of an unstable young man, it is doing precisely what the left is accusing the Tea Party of - engaging in bigotry, hatred and viciousness.

The strengh of rhetoric from some libertarians (not the "right" as the Republicans in the US have been part of the problem) is because many are fed up with politicians borrowing and spending money that is not theirs, they are fed up with their own peaceful activities being taxed to pay to boost business, social or other interests that get listened to in government.  They are fed up with property rights being eroded and new laws being developed for the latest problem.

To end it, Jeff Perren's excellent post at Not PC has two very useful points.

Firstly, to reinforce the point that the reason some express political anger is because they want change to less government.  Not something many on the left (and some on the right) understand.   As long as there are politicians who want to spend more, tax more, borrow more and regulate more, there will be those standing up to say no, again and again.

Secondly, he links to the excellent Michelle Malkin piece showing explicitly violent rhetoric used by the left against the right in the US.  Then again, it's hardly surprising that the left has long excused violence used in its name to justify political action (e.g. threats and intimidation of so-called "scabs" at pickets), given it so warmly embraces state violence to accomplish its goals.

You see, when someone commits murder, with no clear motive, then the appropriate political response is, in fact, exactly what President Obama has done so far.  It was a crime, there was some courage shown by those who confronted the gunman, and the bigger concern is for those who have lost a loved one.

Let those who want to occupy the fetid sewers of hatred, bigotry, blame and hypocrisy wallow, and be shown up for the shallow opportunists they are.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Hungary leapfrogs to authoritarianism

Hungary has long been known as one of the countries that openly defied the Stalinist brutality and inhumanity that was imposed on it by Moscow after WW2, and having one of the first set of gutless mice who scurried off when Mikhail Gorbachev told the Soviet satellite countries that it wouldn't intervene if their regimes faced overthrow by popular acclaim.

Since then it has reformed, opened up its economy, joined the European Union and NATO, and made huge strides towards being an independent relatively liberal open country, with a vibrant civil society, embracing freedom. The old cliche that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance is only too true, as the coalition government of Fidesz-KDNP is proving too well.

The 2010 Hungarian election saw a collapse in popularity for the Hungarian Socialist Party, which despite its name (and being the partial inheritor of the old communist Socialist Workers Party), has helped lead many free market reforms in Hungary for some years.  The communist element left very early to form a tiny hardline party that has never done well.  The socialists had been in government in coalition since 2002.  However, the biggest blow to the socialists was in 2006, not long after the last elections, when a recording was released of the socialist Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsány, openly saying his party had lied to win the election.  Mass protests erupted.  The government remained tainted and stank for the next four years, voters never forgave the socialists.  The 2010 election saw the socialist vote collapse from 42% to just under 17% of the vote.  Those votes had to go somewhere.

As a result, two opposition parties did comparatively well, Fidesz and Jobbik.

Fidesz has had a laudable history as one of Hungary's first independent political parties, being pro-freedom, anti-communist and youth oriented.  However, its electoral success was more limited as parties flourished after the end of one-party rule, so that it had a respectable 7% of the vote in 1994.  Then the party transformed into a conservative party, adding the name Hungarian Civic Party to its name.  It adopted an approach of social conservatism and greater nationalism, and grew to 28% support in 1998.   In 2010 it won the greatest plurality with nearly 53% of the vote, up from 43% (the socialists had been governing in coalition with the Alliance of Free Democrats, a liberal free market party).

Whilst Fidesz could govern in its own right with 262 out of 386 seats, it had campaigned jointly with the Jobbik party.

Jobbik (or Movement for a Better Hungary) was originally set up as Christian oriented conservative party, with strong nationalist credentials (although distinctly non-racial, rather culturally nationalist).  It was sceptical of EU accession.  The 2006 protests gave it a perfect platform to campaign on, as it simply said the communists are still in charge (given the socialists lied).  Jobbik claimed the electronic media was on the side of the government, so that it was ostracised unfairly.  It claimed crime was on the rise and needed to be addressed.  It developed a manifesto opposing free market capitalism, social liberalism and multiculturalism.  It promoted granting citizenship to Hungarians who live outside Hungary.  It was "very nearly" fascist, in that it avoided anti-semitism, anti-Roma and other such language, but was strongly pro-Hungarian.  It got just under 17% of the vote.

So Hungary elected a conservative government, with an ultra-conservative coalition partner.  It has sought to radically change the Hungarian state, and one of the early controversial moves has been the creation of a new media law.  This law creates a media regulator which judges whether TV and radio stations, and newspapers have provided "balanced coverage", and can fine or shut down those deemed to have failed.   The Prime Minister has evasively said this is "just like" other European countries.  It's not.  It is state control of the dissemination of debate and opinion, and it is unacceptable.

If that wasn't enough, the government has found a new way to address Hungary's public debt.  It is confiscating the private pensions of citizens (or rather saying "hand them over to the state or get no pension at all").   The current Hungarian system has some parallels to Roger Douglas's compulsory retirement savings account idea, although it retains a significant public sector component.

All Hungarians are required to put 8% of their salary into a private pension fund of their choice, another 1.5% is effectively taxed to pay for current state pensions.  Employers were also expected to make a contribution, with pensions received being a combination of private and state funded pensions.  Now it is being confiscated, and mixed messages are being given as to whether receipts will reflect contributions or not, the strong suspicion is that this is easy money.  The government has said it is about dealing with the budget deficit, a deficit not caused by people saving, but by overspending.  However, the same government is increasing state pensions and increasing maternity leave.

"Though the accounts are not linked to any underlying assets, an individual’s pension entitlement is tied to the sum recorded in that account, giving earners an incentive to contribute more. But the government’s most recent statements suggest the individual accounts will be no more than a regular statement of the value of the pensions contributors can expect to receive, with no relationship to contributions made."

In other words, a money grab. Unadulterated theft on behalf of the state. 

The EU has lodged protests about the media law, but not the state theft (which is unsurprising).  Given Bulgaria, Poland and Ireland have all embarked on related confiscations of pension funds to cover short term overspending, and the EU strongly supports state confiscation of private property, why be surprised?

The media law should be scrapped, and private pensions should be sacrosanct.  Indeed the only safe policy is to keep it completely out of state hands altogether.

Bear in mind that in New Zealand, the equivalent is a pay as you go pension, that promises you absolutely nothing, that pays nothing if you die before you retire, and bears absolutely no relationship to what you pay the state.  So no need to worry about state theft of your pension in New Zealand, it is simply par for the course as it is exactly what happens to anyone paying above the average amount in tax or dying before age 65!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Rewriting history by claiming your opponents are doing so

It is fairly well established that one of the big economic mistakes of the last Labour Government in the UK was its addiction to overspending.  With the exception of two years, the entire history of the Blair-Brown government saw deficits.  Indeed the surpluses were largely generated by some early privatisations and the sale of radio frequency spectrum.  When elected, public debt as a proportion of GDP was 41.9% in 1997, by 2002 economic growth had reduced that to 29.3% but the debt itself had not declined.  This was entirely frittered away by Gordon Brown by 2009, with public debt up to 44.2% of GDP, and now predicted to climb to 69% of GDP by 2014.  This ignores the massive off balance sheet debt of PFI (PPPs) and unfunded public sector pension debts for many firms, such as the Royal Mail.

In other words, whilst Labour spent its first time being frugal, after that it started spending up large.

The Adam Smith Institute explains the deficit situation (in nominal terms) since 2001.  It shows a pattern of ever increasing overspending, with two years of easing of overspending as tax revenue took off.  

Why does it matter now?  Because the modest cuts implemented by the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition are creating an enormous gnashing of teeth and moans from those who are having to face not living off of other people's borrowed money so much.   The cuts reduce government spending to the level they were in 2007, which is hardly enormous.

Of course it is understandable that Labour would oppose the government, and not by saying the cuts are too modest and tax rises are wrong, but by opposing cuts full stop.  Labour believes in more government spending, it is back to its socialist roots.  

However, the cuts are being sold to the public on the basis that Labour mismanaged the economy by overspending.  This resonates with many voters who understand that when taxes are not enough to cover spending, that borrowing occurs and that constant overspending is unsustainable.   So Labour needed to rewrite history, in this case to claim that the deficit was not Labour's fault, but due to a collapse in tax revenue, which is about blaming the banks.  

So Red Ed wrote a column for the Times that does just that.  He claims the Conservatives are lying about the budget deficit to justify a radical plan to cut the state (if only!), and that it is the same everywhere else.   He who points the finger at deception is guilty of a complete fabrication himself.

The figures from Treasury show that tax revenue dropped for two years, but by 2010-11 had recovered to the level of three years previous.  Hardly catastrophic. On top of that Labour had been overspending to the tune of at least £26 billion a year since 2003.   Miliband is being deliberately evasive of these facts to save his credibility, and only the true believers will listen to his nonsense.  He also talks nonsense in claiming no other developed country is undertaking such cuts, when it is obvious that Ireland, Greece and Iceland all are.  Estonia, the latest member of the Eurozone has a budget deficit of only 1% of GDP and public debt at 7% of GDP.  Given the UK's public debt is over 10x that proportionately, Miliband is simply wrong.   He thinks Obama's overspending gets him off the hook.

The Adam Smith Institute summarises Miliband's deceit:

First, from 2000-01 and 2006-07, spending rose by 51 percent, while tax revenues only rose by 36 percent. Secondly, from 2006-07 to 2009-10 (which encompasses the crisis years), spending rose by 22 percent. 

In other words, it isn't about tax.  It isn't about bailing out the banks either, the debt from which is less than 5% of total public debt.   That lie is trotted out by the left who oppose cuts, who prefer to blame bankers than their beloved Labour Party borrowing and spending as if it could continue forever.

So Ed Miliband claims the Conservatives are ignoring the collapse in tax revenue, which was actually modest, to rewrite history.  In fact HE is rewriting history in claiming Labour was a great manager of the public accounts, and that the financial crisis (which had nothing to do with the growth in fiat money and government supported inflation of housing prices) is to blame entirely.   The leftwing myth of government not being to blame.   By contrast I don't believe the banks are blameless and I don't believe it was right to bail them out, so the left that thinks capitalism means taxpayers bearing losses is floating a strawman that true laissez-faire capitalists reject.   Miliband further evades truth by saying neither Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties campaigned on spending cuts, which is true.  However, had they done so, Labour would have engaged in grotesque scaremongering of the people who it has made dependent on the state.

Quite simply, Britain's economy has seen an ever increasing role for the state, as the last Conservative administration did less cutting than it is accused of (and the Major years were profligate), and Labour kept creating new bureaucracies and pouring good money after bad into the NHS, plus greatly advancing the welfare state.

British taxpayers are unwilling to pay more, so cuts need to be made.  The Conservative/Lib Dem coalition at best is freezing the growth of the state and the growth in public debt.  GDP growth will shrink this modestly, but it is not radical.  It is taking a breather.

And sorry Labour, you are to blame.  You are the problem, your philosophy, your belief that people should not be responsible for their own lives, your belief that other people owe people a living and that other people's money is yours.  What is more disgusting is your willingness to lie and evade the facts - in government you supported overspending and more government dependency.  Labour wants people dependent on government to feed, house, clothe, education, medicate and move them - for without that dependency, why would they ever want the Labour Party?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Pakistan sadly spirals towards theocracy

The assassination of Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab, Pakistan, should send shivers down the spines of all within and outside Pakistan who do not wish to see that country become another Iran.  You see Taseer was a secularist, he wanted Pakistan to be a secular state that allowed citizens to choose not to be Muslims.  He himself was a Muslim.  His most recent campaign has been to oppose laws on blasphemy, as he defended Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, from being convicted and executed.  Not only it is a crime to blaspheme against Islam in Pakistan, but it carries a mandatory death sentence.

He was murdered by one of his own security guards, Malik Mumtaz Qadri.  He aimed at AK-47 at Taseer and shot him 27 times. Notably, his other guards didn't shoot and kill Qadri, who is now under arrest.  

As is to be expected, Facebook pages have emerged for Taseer AND for his murderer.  Yes, his murderer has much support among Islamist violence peddlers across the world.  

The whole idea of Pakistan was a mistake, it was a recipe for disaster from the start and the blood of hundreds of thousands have been spilt because of this mindless religious sectarianism in what was India (and Hindus are not innocent of this either).  The contrast today is palpable between an outward looking growing liberalising India, and a poor, backward, terrorist ridden Pakistan.  If only Pakistan could shed Islamism it could join with its fast growing neighbour and be a country that didn't chase its best and brightest overseas to flee violence and seek opportunity.  

Have little doubt, the war in Afghanistan is as much about keeping Islamism from overrunning Pakistan as it is about keeping the Taliban confined in Afghanistan.  A Western-Indian strategy to keep Pakistan from becoming Islamist is essential to ensure the worst possible outcome does not arise.  For if it does, then prepare for blood to be spilt on a grand scale.  India knows this too well, it would be good if the Obama Administration, NATO and others did so as well.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Monbiot says share your house or else! (UPDATED for Monbiotbots)

I visited the Green Party website for the first time in age today, nothing quite as funny as seeing Catherine Delahunty on the front page claiming 1 in 5 New Zealanders experience disability (it being pretty obvious that she is one of them), but one of the pin ups of the Green Party is British radical environmental moonbat - George Monbiot.  Monbiot is an advocate of all sorts of compulsion, including banning patio heaters, replacing gas pipelines with hydrogen, abolish superstores, cut airport capacity, as well as calling for an end to economic growth.

His latest missive is his brilliant solution to the high cost of housing in the UK - make people rent out their spare rooms.  Not rooms they define as spare, but ones that the Great Leader George Monbiot has deemed as excessive.  He thinks that people shouldn't have spare bedrooms, that there should be a housing footprint.  That means a couple in a four bedroom house should rent out two rooms.  Spare rooms should be occupied by people seeking housing.

Monbiot is such the little central planner control freak, that he believes pensioners should rent out spare rooms so people can live with them and provide home help and assistance.

He seems to have completely ignored the simple point that most people like to choose who they live with and to decide what to do with their own property.   He has decided there are enough homes around if only people used less rooms.  Are there limits to this bullying wannabe thugs willingness to stomp over the rights of others?

Nothing says more about his complete contempt for property rights, lack of any understanding about personal achievement and reward for effort and value than this statement:

While most houses are privately owned, the total housing stock is a common resource. Either we ensure that it is used wisely and fairly, or we allow its distribution to become the starkest expression of inequality.

A common resource?  How much of a communist is this man?  Its "distribution"?  Who "distributed" it?  If you buy land and build on it, who "distributed" it?  It is as if he thinks some holy economic father dishes out money and resources, and all that is needed is someone to reverse it.  He either doesn't know or willfully blinds himself to how the diffuse ownership of property is due to millions upon millions of decisions by billions of people who buy, sell, earn, consume, destroy and build, in spite of petty thugs like Monbiot who prefer the Khmer Rouge approach to government - do whatever it takes to reach a final solution.
He wants to tax empty rooms.  He is just a thieving little religious evangelist who deserves no more attention than the hate filled Westboro Baptist Church.
Monbiot has no respect for property rights or individual rights at all.  He is chief priest of the high church of environmental armageddonism.

Of course, the Green Party gleefully links to him approvingly on regular occasions.  Will it soon be promoting housing footprints?  Is not the Green belief in planning laws to promote high density housing based around railway stations a form of embracing this agenda?

Ed West in the Daily Telegraph calls him a fascist and carefully explains why.  It is about time that Monbiot was ignored for the raving lunatic crank he is.

Meanwhile, Tim Blair points out that Al Gore achieves five rooms per inhabitant in his home.

UPDATE:  Some have said Monbiot doesn't actually say force people to share their homes, but what does this tell you:

He says of housing footprints: " Like ecological footprints, it reminds us that the resource is finite, and that if some people take more than they need, others are left with less than they need".  Zero sum economics.  Sheer utter nonsense.  As if you cannot increase housing capacity without destroying something valuable.  Even ignoring land, he's forgotten airspace or is that precious too??

However, he carefully shrouds his iron fist in his glove by saying this:  "none of the major parties wants to pick a fight with wealthy householders. So it’s up to us to give them no choice, by turning under-occupation into an issue they can’t avoid. It cannot be left to the market, as the market works for the rich."  He doesn't intend to persuade anyone, he wants to give "no choice" he doesn't want the market, he wants to use force (the only alternative).   It is semantics to claim otherwise.

Monbiot's suggestions about council tax discounts are besides the point.  Council tax is a charge for individuals using council services with a relationship to property prices to have some reflection of income.  As a libertarian I'd scrap council tax altogether, because all council services can be funded by direct or indirect users.  The council tax discount is virtually irrelevant in any case, as it would be a small fraction of the annual cost of housing.

Monbiot does have a four bedroom house and this great hero lives in it with his daughter and two lodgers.  His own choice is a shining example to us all of course.

Ending the subsidy to breed

Cactus Kate has written about two interconnected issues, the chronic rate of extreme abuse and neglect of children in New Zealand disproportionately by Maori adults, and the way the state subsidises breeding from the taxes of others.

She is right of course.  Despite Marxist reality evaders like John Minto and Maia excusing brutal child abuse as being about poverty, precious little is needed to disprove that.  If it were true, children in poorer countries would be getting beaten up and murdered in record numbers.  The problem is not material the problem is a poverty of aspirations, a problem of people breeding recklessly and keeping the kids because they bring in cash, or wanting to be parents, but also wanting to party, get drunk, leave children with relatives, friends, neighbours and then psychologically abusing the kids who want attention.  People who themselves wasted their education, don't read, don't study, don't work hard and don't want kids who know they can be better than them, are the source of abuse and despair.   They destroy the lives and futures of children because they have made their lives a daily search for instant gratification, sensation and mindless hedonism.

Her answers are good as well.  The first priority for the welfare state should be to cease paying the DPB to new claimants, and to end all other benefits/tax allowances for children, in exchange for lowering taxes across the board.  People shouldn't be rewarded for breeding.  Indeed, breeding whilst on welfare benefits should be penalised on the basis that the last thing someone should do whilst unemployed or sick is to breed.

By contrast, imagine if there was an income tax free threshold of NZ$15,000.  What if GST could go back down to 12.5% (!), then families who do work hard to make a difference wouldn't be penalised so much for what they do.  

However, to do that you'd need to vote for political parties that believe in more freedom and less government.  These don't apparently exist in Parliament at the moment.

The bigger message is that breeding carries responsibility and to give up some of your money, time and effort for children.  It costs you to breed.  Nobody else owes you or your children a living, except the source of the sperm (or egg) of your child.   Along with such welfare and tax reform would be the legal obligation of each parent to be responsible for the basic needs of the child (unless one has been removed from this by contract/court agreement).  

While we are at it, why not deny custody of children of all those convicted of serious violent and sexual offences - for reasons that are rather obvious.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Fascist council of the day

If the British Government ever needed reasons to cut funding local authorities and to reject the stupid Tory policy of devolution of powers to local government, it is the likes of Bedfordshire Borough Council.
The Daily Telegraph reports how a man who put up 20 A4 posters, home made, seeking his lost cat, was threatened by council goons for "fly posting" (it being illegal to just put posters up on lampposts).  He was phoned by the council and a letter was sent telling him of his offence, and threatening a £1000 fine.

A spokesman said: ''Our Environmental Enforcement Team discovered more than 20 of Mr Harding's 'lost cat' posters. Some were nailed to eight trees along The Embankment. ''As well as damaging trees, fly-posting is also illegal and may lead to fines of up to £1,000. 

That's what a power of general competence gets you.

Yes the local government policy of the National Party originally came from the UK and the Blair administration.   

2011 comes with a UK tax hike

Despite all the nonsensical blusterings of the British Labour Party and others on the left who think that government halting the rise of the state is somehow some neo-liberal revolution, the truth is that the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government is not driven by an ambition to shrink the state.
Proof of this has been seen twice in four days.  On 1 January, the UK's fuel excise duty (fuel tax), one of the highest in the world, went up by another £0.0075 a litre.  Not much, and yes it was a decision from the Brown Government, but the money is entirely to help reduce the budget deficit.  You seen, unlike NZ, the UK's fuel excise duty is entirely revenue for the Crown, none of it is dedicated to roads or transport spending at all (and it corresponds to about five times the total government expenditure on roads).  Fuel tax in the UK is now nearly 59p per litre (NZ$1.18).  That plus VAT makes tax more than half the price of petrol.

Speaking of VAT, that rises to 20% from 4 January, up from 17.5%.  Now VAT in the UK does not include food not served in restaurants, childrens' clothes, books and other items, but this tax increase has provoked considerable buying of bigger items such as cars, electronics and clothes in the post Xmas sales.

All in all, it is more money for the UK government, less for consumers, retailers, wholesalers, producers.  Labour's Ed Miliband is opposing the increase, but like an ostrich in the sand he never says what spending he would cut, what taxes he would increase, and given Labour is so overwhelmingly to blame for a decade of reckless overspending, he has no credibility except for the whinging unionised public sector workforce and those who don't want to be weaned from the state tit. 

The Opposition's only response is to say that the UK government should not cut its overspending so fast, delaying the inevitable, and increasing overall public debt levels - but if you're a socialist who wants to remain willfully blind about government borrowing why shouldn't you just be on the side of "the people" in promoting the same ignorance?

Of course there is no need to increase either tax, it will suppress demand and suppress the private sector.  There is still plenty of scope to cut public spending, such as eliminating child benefits and winter fuel allowances for those not in poverty, getting rid of subsidies for "green energy", not pursuing an unprofitable high speed railway pet project and not increasing foreign state aid.   The British state has grown like an obese nanny never sated on desserts.   Tax increases delay economic recovery and help cement the fact the UK economy is now 50% consumed by the state.

Thatcherite government? hardly.