23 September 2022

Do the Greens really back the demands of #schoolstrike4climate?

So on Friday the #schoolstrike4climate was held, whereby a bunch of hysterical school children demand that a Government, which is literally obsessed with mitigating climate change (even though the impacts of its measures are infinitesimal), should do MORE, NOW!

I don't want to bother with critiquing a bunch of kids, backed by environmentalist/leftist teachers (and the poor quality teacher protectionist racket), demanding public policy changes without the faintest clue of the consequences, but I do care about the Green Party - the main future coalition partner of the Labour Party, agreeing to all of its demands.  The kids aren't to blame, because the kids are being used by politicians and their supporters, because of the assumption that they'll get entirely positive media coverage and not be subject to criticism because... well... kids being political is meant to be a GOOD thing (imagine if kids were organised to go on a protest for something the Greens opposed though...)

#schoolstrike4climate put out a press release, published on Scoop of their rambling demands: 

  • banning the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilisers, 
  • halving the herd of cows
(Taxpayers should apparently be forced to "invest in a just transition" to compensate farmers for this)

Then there is this 

"agriculture isn’t the only thing we want to see changes in"  (I bet, you little meddlers)

 In the words of one of our organisers, Charlotte Hoffman: 

‘We need to start making big changes to transport, too. If the New Zealand Government is really serious about committing to a sustainable future, then they need to completely cut our transport emissions. Compared to other things, these changes are simple to make. Ban unnecessary air travel, invest in better public transport. If the Government wanted to, they would.’

So add:
  • Ban unnecessary air travel and
  • Invest in better public transport
So what of it?

The last demand is just silly, because this government is pouring unprecedented amounts of road user tax and general tax income into public transport. The latest National Land Transport Programme is spending $2.3 billion on public transport infrastructure, $2.6 billion on subsidising public transport services.  Sure it's NEVER enough for the kids, but this is the most benign of the demands.

The rest are absolutely destructive.
  • Synthetic fertilisers literally help sustain 3.5 billion people on the planet. This is a demand that will kill people. Without synthetic fertilisers food production would drop significantly, prices would rise, and although you can be sure the kids and the Greens wont suffer, it would mean hundreds of millions of people would starve, and billions would be undernourished.  Sure, if farmers can find alternatives good for them, let them do as they see fit, but let's remember New Zealand does NOT subsidise fertiliser (and hasn't done so since the late 1980s when the free-market liberal reforms the likes of the Greens opposed, got rid of agricultural subsidies).
  • Halving the dairy farm herd would cut the country's export earnings by around 5% and GDP by 1.5%. That's about a quarter of the education budget. This will make the country poorer, especially rural areas. Sure the kids want to "invest in a just transition" (spend more taxpayers' money on people not producing anything to compensate them for banning their business), but it's just more money coming from nowhere.  This would also put up dairy prices and modestly increase global food prices. For some reason the Greens think it is "just" for the world's least subsidised dairy sector to kneecap itself by half, but the Greens don't care very much about production of anything.  If dairy drops because it is no longer commercially viable, then that's one thing, but this is just a demand of destruction.
  • Banning "unnecessary" air travel is the real authoritarian scold streak coming out.  What's "unnecessary"? I am fairly sure foreigners taking a holiday in NZ is "unnecessary" so maybe kneecap international air travel (except, of course, for politicians going to climate change conferences). That's around $17.5 billion a year of revenue, which IS the total education budget.  Imagine the mentality that would want a law and a bureaucracy judging if your travel is "necessary".
So the Greens want an end to synthetic fertiliser, want to halve the dairy industry and stop you flying on holiday, or to go to a conference (except perhaps a Green approved one).

This will make people poorer, make them less free and will make next to no difference to the impacts of climate change, except by making them LESS able to respond to it, LESS able to afford to adapt.

The posh kids don't know or understand any of this, but the Green Party which uses them, which facilitates them as tools to advance its agenda should know better.  It's an agenda of misanthropy, of degrowth and authoritarianism.

What epitomised it was an interview on Newstalk ZB on Friday between Heather du-Plessis-Allan (HDPA) and Izzy Cook, one of the organisers of the #schoolstrike4climate.  She's under 18, so let's be clear here, she is being put forward to represent this movement, with the support of the Greens, environmentalist groups, some of her teachers and presumably her parents, but the kitchen of politics can get hot - and she has learnt a humiliating lesson is what being an adult, engaging in political debate, is all about.

The peak was HDPA asking how the ban on unnecessary flights would be implemented.  HDPA asked if it was ok if she flew to a conference, Cook said no, it should be done by video.  Then HDPA asked about travel, paraphrased as follows:

HDPA: I'm planning to fly to Fiji on holiday should I be allowed to do that?
IC: No, you shouldn't.
HDPA: When did you last fly anywhere?
IC: A few months ago
HDPA: Where did you go?
IC: Fiji...

I can't imagine how awful Izzy Cook is feeling after that, but she will be buttressed by adults who will call HDPA a "fascist" and play on Cook's youth as being a shield that should defend her from being cross examined on a political issue.

However, this is so profoundly dishonest and cruel.  The Greens want 16 and 17yos to have the vote, ostensibly because the decisions made in Parliament affect them too, and they can have jobs, pay taxes etc. Many of these arguments could go down to 12yos etc etc. but of course the Greens wouldn't want them to have votes if they didn't think they could harvest power from it.  Have no doubt, the Greens think that its brand of dishing out other people's money with no conditions and solving the world through banning "what's bad", making compulsory "what's good" and endlessly trotting out and abusing words like "fairness" and "sharing power", will bamboozle plenty of kids brought up in an education system that is tilted towards promoting their ideological view of the world.

Furthermore the utter intolerance of this ideological view is what the kids are brought up on.  Greta Thunberg's "How Dare You", is THE response to simply questioning the effectiveness and impact of poorly thought out extreme ideas about destroying parts of the economy.  The kids are taught themselves to humiliate those who disagree with them with hyperbole like "why do you want the planet to die?".  After all, they're being taught that extinction is coming, armageddon is near, and that the people getting in the way just want to  "make profits at their expense".  This simplistic binary, us (good) vs. them (bad) is what fuels this hysteria, and it is largely invented in the minds of Green activists.  

However they DON'T want the kids to be subject to the same scrutiny.  They want a mob of kids to be immune from criticism, advancing the policies THEY want.  Because it's a lot easier to risk one or two kids being cannon fodder to a critical journalist than to actually have James Shaw, Marama Davidson and the Green caucus confront voters with "you'll need a permit to book a flight somewhere".

The Greens are grooming a new generation of hypocritical climate scolds who want to destroy people's livelihoods, regulate how they live their lives and make food much much more expensive harming the poor.

So bear a moment of sympathy for Izzy Cook, she didn't expect to get scrutinised, to have her own personal hypocrisy highlighted on radio across the country, and she wasn't prepared. Nothing the activists who have groomed her mind prepared her for an alternative point of view, and the Green Party itself, eager to be a much more influential force on the next Government, used her and the other school kids to advance policies that, if subject to proper media scrutiny, would shrink the party's support close to the 5% threshold.

If you're going to advance political ideas that impose enormous costs on people, then you actually need to front up and propose them openly yourself James Shaw, Marama Davidson, Chloe Swarbrick et al.

20 September 2022

Which wannabe busybodies do you want on your council?

Academics, journalists and politicians bemoan every three years how little interest there is in the local body elections in New Zealand.  The narrative being that if more people voted, then local government would be "better" and people being more "engaged" would result in bette Councillors, better decisions, better cities, towns and districts.

It's utter nonsense. There's a reason why most people aren't engaged with local government, because by and large, the things it tends to do adequately are taken for granted (local roads, footpaths, rubbish collection), and people have busy lives getting on with making a living, looking after their families, their homes, and living their lives.  

Local government has little to do with many issues, such as healthcare, education, justice, policing, but it DOES have a lot to do with areas that are in crisis, such as:

  • Water, fresh, waste and storm.  You may not agree with the Three Waters prescription of the Ardern Government, but local government in most of the country has mismanaged water infrastructure for decades.  Why? Because local government is dominated by socialists who don't believe in user pays, don't believe in running ANYTHING like a business and don't get excited about infrastructure that is largely out of sight.  It's no wonder central government is, essentially, taking water off them.
  • Housing. Councils stop housing being built, whether low, medium or high density. When it gets approved, it adds costs to that approval, because it is dominated by central planning types who think they know what's best for other people's land.  Councillors think they "build communities", when in fact it is they, facilitated by the Resource Management Act, that mean housing is scarcer and more expensive than it should be.  Central Government may have been monetarily incontinent, but the clot on housing supply lies squarely with local government.
  • Supermarket competition. Councils stop supermarkets being built. Again they are dominated by socialists who think supermarkets are awfully vulgar places where big companies serve common people who dreadfully arrive by car.  As with housing, Councils use the Resource Management Act to constrain supply and even listen to incumbent supermarkets that don't want competition, facilitating higher grocery prices for everyone.

Local government also attracts a particular type of person.  More often than not it attracts busybodies, planners, pushy finger-wagging types who think they know what's best, over what people actually indicate according to their willingness to pay. It particularly attracts socialists who see local government as a stepping stone to central government for Labour and Green Party members.  They all have a set of principles and views in common, being:

  • Rates should go up, beyond inflation, because Councils can always spend your money better than you can.
  • Economic development occurs because Councils write plans and set up bureaucracies to enable it, not because people choose to set up businesses in their districts
  • Councils should prioritise fighting climate change, because if they don't, then the consequences will be catastrophic
  • Recycling of as much as possible is a good thing, regardless of cost and regardless of whether the collected recycling actually gets used
  • Driving is a malign, public transport is good, cycling is divine, freight doesn't exist or isn't important
Take Auckland's leftwing contender for Mayor, Efeso Collins, who is promising to make public transport fully subsidised ("free" in socialist marketing parlance). Who is going to pay? Blank out.  What's the impact going to be?  Well if it is anything following the experience of Tallinn, Estonia, it wont be much (as it barely reduced car traffic, but cost a lot of money and significantly reduced the amount of walking).

However, look at the other side, the so-called "rightwing" Wayne Brown, who wants to move the Port of Auckland.  The Port of Auckland should be privatised, but no, Mr Brown knows best how to use the land and doesn't care about the location of New Zealand's number one import port. 

Look at Wellington where the choice is between the former NZ First aligned encumbent Andy Foster (who has been on Council 20 or so years), the existing Labour MP for Rongotai Paul Eagle (who was once a Councillor, but whom Labour isn't willing to rank on its party list, so little do they think of him) and the hard-left former Green Party chief of staff and spin merchant Tory Whanau. Do you want encumbent, a bit left or far left leading Wellington?  As Karl du Fresne pointed out, in reference to GWRC Councillor Thomas Nash, some of these people are "troughers", who think that the city and the world would be a better place if only there were more and more central planning, more taxes to spend on grand plans, more regulation of people and businesses doing what's "wrong", and endlessly bigger local government. 

So vote if you must, but the real problem is that local government has too much power.  It has stuffed up water, the only unreformed network utility (except in Auckland).  Local government used to manage local electricity distribution, but that was taken off it in the 1990s.  At one time it was responsible for milk distribution, which is why until the late 1980s buying milk OTHER than by kerbside bottles was unusual, and indeed there was no plastic or cartoned milk.

So pick candidates who want to get out of the way, of new housing, of new supermarkets, of enterprise and don't want to promise grand totemic projects that you have to pay for.  Don't pick those who think that local government can "do so much good" by spending your money and pushing people around.  Maybe pick those who actually have some understanding of the limits of the ability of local government.

If you get to ask them any questions then ask them this....
  1. How much do you want me to pay for (insert expensive promise)?
  2. Given how poorly Councils have performed in delivering water infrastructure why do you think it is competent in delivering (insert expensive promise)?
  3. Why wont people pay voluntarily for (insert expensive promise)?  
  4. Do you think Council has hindered the supply of housing and if so, what will you do about it? (if the answer is no, then, if you're in a major city, you know you're talking to an idiot). 
  5. What do you think Council is not good at and shouldn't be involved in?
  6. What have you learned from your own life and career that causes you are able to make a judgment on how to spend other people's money and regulate use of their land and businesses?
  7. Do you think your Council should have members on it that are not elected but appointed by local Iwi, because this is the "new democracy"?
As a footnote, the Taxpayers' Union has launched a guide on which it asks a bunch of useful questions of candidates, only some of whom have responded.  It infuriatingly asks for your postcode (who knows that?) to find a council name, not just the council names. However, some pertinent questions on rates, spending and curiously discouraging car use are answered, so make of that as you will.  I'm no fan of Three Waters as a solution, but the status quo in MOST districts is not good either, so make of that what you will either.

The Free Speech Union also has a guide to candidates which is more accessible. It asks various free speech questions and you may be surprised on its stance (it IS libertarian), on matters like transgenderism, abortion and drag-queen story time.  

Much more well publicised in the media has been FACT Aotearoa, which publishes its own list of candidates that it claims promote conspiracy theories and misinformation, again make of that as you will. 

Other lobby groups have their own perspectives,  I find them all mildly useful, if only because it can flag people having opinions I both like and don't like, and it may not be the view expressed by the lobby group. 

However, I'm largely quite pessimistic. People wildly enthusiastic about local government are generally the opposite of people I want in local government, because local government attracts far too many meddlers, regulators and planners.  

Try to pick the least worst and hope for the best, at least until there is a central government that keeps them on the leash.  You'll have to make some compromises.

When I get my voting forms, I might do a review of the candidates where I'm voting, and I might do a splattergun of identifying those who I have found who are good sorts and worth a tick, and those you should run a mile from..

17 September 2022

Gorbachev dies, the Queen dies

I'm no monarchist, but I appreciate that Queen Elizabeth II was handed quite a job, to preside over the dismantling of the British Empire, to reconcile with the new Commonwealth and to be the symbol of the United Kingdom as it, and its former Empire transform itself.  I have little time for the vulgarians who wish to damn her as some sort of party to crimes against humanity, but equally I find the entire British Royal Family almost endlessly tedious. These are very ordinary people, of average intelligence, ability and below average achievement. It is perhaps because of this that they remain primarily because the people of Britain at the same time are rather fond of having a Head of State that is essentially benign, and because they can't be arsed to get rid of it (and look on at horror at the idea of it being someone who actually WANTS the job).

Because let's be clear, Queen Elizabeth II did the job because she felt a duty to do it, it seems unlikely that even Charles III and William really WANT to be Head of State. In many ways that's much more preferable to those who want power.

I'd be supportive of a republic, if it could guarantee a Head of State that exercised next to no power, that could guarantee a Constitution that would protect the right of the individual to control his or her body, property and life, subject only to respecting the same rights in others, and a state that did not violate those rights. Sadly I fear that many (notwithstanding Lewis Holden), wanting a republic want one that would guarantee the political future they want, and for that, I'd prefer the status quo thank you...

Mikhail Gorbachev didn't pursue a political career advancing the supremacy of the human individual, but rather a vision of Marxism-Leninism with glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). He thought he could reform a system of central command and control, by allowing people to criticise what was wrong, and through freedom enable people to centrally plan an economy and society based on the competition of ideas of how best to centrally plan. What he didn't figure was that freedom and central planning are fundamentally incompatible.

Critics of Gorbachev come from two sides. Russian nationalists criticise him for breaking up the USSR and the Soviet empire, but they are simply rebranded totalitarians that have succeeded the Communist Party old guard.  Libertarians who criticise him for being a commie miss the point, his mistake was to think the system he had spent his life defending and advancing was reformable. The tyrants in Beijing will say you can, if you let capitalism flourish under a jackboot of zero political freedom. Gorbachev did it the other way round, he let freedom emerge before setting capitalism free, but he also faced a country that had had 70 years of trauma of Marxism-Leninism (China had had 30) and had little tradition of trading and entrepreneurship (nor enough of a diaspora to support it).

Gorbachev was the great Russian anti-imperialist, because he decided that the Red Army would NOT stop the people of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Bulgaria and the German Democratic Republic rising up against their putrid, jackbooted, sclerotic regimes. The "Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart" (Berlin Wall) was to be no more because feeble little excrescences like Erich Honecker were dependent on Moscow to do their dirty work. Most of the eastern half of Europe became free because Gorbachev let Stalin's satellite countries go. Even Romania, which had notably no Red Army presence, would turn against perhaps* the most despicable of eastern Europe's dictators - the Ceausescus.  

He tried to hang onto the USSR, and briefly used force to keep the Baltic States within Moscow's grasp, but it didn't last. Ultimately the system and philosophy that put the USSR at odds with the Western allies brought it down, because it didn't deliver a standard of living remotely commensurate with the west and because inherent to the system was evasion of reality. It was built on lying, because freedom of expression weakened a system that not only didn't deliver on what it promised, but which was so fundamentally antithetical to humanity, that it couldn't stand up to criticism or any inference of error on behalf of the single authority that led it - the Party.

Beyond the USSR (most of which reverted to totalitarianism and authoritarianism after independence, especially in Central Asia, but also in the Caucasus and Belarus), Gorbachev oversaw the end of the Cold War, as it became clear that neither side wanted to invade the other. The collapse of the risk of communism was a prime reason why the National Party of South Africa started to dismantle apartheid, legalise the ANC and hold a referendum on apartheid, before ultimately allowing South Africa to become a full-fledged liberal democracy. Peace talks between Israel and, ultimately, the PLO arose because the collapse of the USSR effectively forced the Palestinians to seek concessions, and resulted in Israel withdrawing from Gaza and permitting Palestinian self-governance, as fraught as that has been.  Dictatorships across Africa fell to liberal democracy, as flawed as many were, with some political plurality that had never been tolerated when Moscow was the paymaster. Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Tanzania among others, and on the other side of the ledger, it saw the West totally abandon the likes of Mobutu.

Ending the Cold War, and the 40 years of the risk of global thermonuclear conflict, because Gorbachev not only knew he could not compete with the West militarily or economically, and he wanted his people to have a better life, was no small achievement. It is perhaps difficult for current generations to grasp what it was like growing up with the fear generated that, at some point, the nuclear deterrent would not work.

but it did, Gorbachev backed down and to this day almost all of Europe is now free. Much more freedom and liberal democracy exists in the world because of what he did and didn't do, than otherwise. He brought to an end one of history's most despotic, destructive, murderous and imperialist regimes, that itself spawned multiple mini-versions of itself. We also shouldn't forget those who shilled for that regime.

Sure, Putin's Russia is also despotic, murderous and imperialist, but Gorbachev took the jackboots out of eastern Europe. Millions of people are safer, healthier, wealthier and happier as a result.

For all of the pomp and circumstance around remembering Queen Elizabeth II, it is Gorbachev I would give the pomp for, because he was the great liberator.

* Enver Hoxha is the rival for Europe's worst post-war tyrant.