Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Coming Fight for Freedom

Since the 2012 US election I have seen a great deal of pessimism amongst bloggers and commentators about the prospects for individual freedom in the Western world. It seems that the re-election of Barack Obama and the left-wing political victories in France, Greece and other countries are seen as the turning of the tide against classical liberalism in favour of state control and the abrogation of individual rights.

I agree with these commentators that there is little prospect of rational, classical liberal governments being elected in New Zealand or other Western nations over the next few years. Voters have made their choice clear – they want to continue deluding themselves that the welfare pot is forever full and that government interference in every aspect of society and the economy will always guarantee them a better life.

It is clear that it will take something more than a prolonged global economic downturn and the increasing erosion of individual liberties for voters around the world to get the message. No one seriously believes that the economic policies of most Western governments are sustainable beyond another few years and the signs are that severe social disruption is becoming more common in most Western nations the longer the global economic downturn continues.

The end game is now starting to be played out and unfortunately it is not going to be possible for anyone to opt out, any more than it was possible to opt out of the same philosophical fight in the 1930s and 40s. Political demarcations are becoming more pronounced and positions more entrenched. You would have to be a very optimistic person with little sense of history to look at the current situation around the world and believe that it is not going to result in a great deal of bloodshed.  If you think I am being crazy, then ask yourself why the US Department of Homeland Security (whose sole responsibility is domestic security) has recently purchased more than 1.2 billion sniper bullets. Clearly, I am not the only one who is anticipating a significant outbreak of violence in the West.

However, I disagree that the prospects for freedom are all bleak. History teaches us that greater freedom prevails over the long term. I believe that current events are unfolding so quickly that the collapse of the West and the real fight against tyranny are more imminent than most realise. I am sure that in 1940 few people thought they would see the defeat of Fascism in their lifetimes and in the 1980s few Russians would have believed they would see the end of Communism.

Thomas Jefferson said, "the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants". Freedom is not lost unless we are not prepared to fight for it.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Right to Bear Arms

I've read much in the last few days about the constitutional right of Americans to bear arms and how this should be limited in view of the terrible events at Newtown, Connecticut.  I am as appalled as anyone about the shooting of teachers and schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary School (see the post below) but I think much of the comment about gun control in the US is poorly informed.  It is important to understand why Americans have the constitutional right to bear arms when considering whether and how to further restrict their ownership and use.

The right to bear arms is contained within the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. The words, in the final version ratified by the States and authenticated by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, are as follows:
"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
The amendment made it into the Bill of Rights along with the right to freedom of speech and religion (the 1st Amendment), protection from unreasonable search and seizure (4th) and due process under the law (5th).  Why it is there amongst other unquestionably moral rights is an interesting story.

In 1789 when the Bill of Rights was being written, the United States was a brand new country that had only recently defeated the British in the War of Independence and adopted the US Constitution.  There were concerns that the Federal government would become too powerful and abrogate the rights of the States and the people, in the same way as the British Crown and Parliament had done before the Revolution.  Congress was divided between the Federalists, who believed that there should be a strong federal government, and the Republicans, who believed in a small federal government that was effectively subservient to the States.

The United States did not have a standing army until 1789.  The Continental Army that was led to victory in the War of Independence by George Washington comprised the militias of the thirteen states and was disbanded upon the final defeat of the British at Yorktown except for a small general staff of no more than a few hundred soldiers.

By the time the Bill of Rights was adopted in 1791 there had been both external and internal challenges to the unity of the United States.  The risk of renewed war with Great Britain and with revolutionary France, plus the internal Whisky Rebellion and Northwest Indian War, meant many in Congress supported the idea of a strong, standing Federal army.  But in order to garner the supermajority of States needed to pass the Constitutional amendments, those promoting the idea had to offer the States something in return.  That something was the right to bear arms.  The 2nd Amendment was the right demanded by the States to ensure the Federal Government would not be able to use its armed forces to tread upon their rights.  Of course one could say the assurance did not work - after all, the American Civil War was primarily about that same issue: whether the Federal Government had the right to over ride the States on the important issue of slavery.  And in that case it was a very good thing that the Federal Government won.

Today the issue of Federal vs States rights is more salient than ever.  Washington DC and the state capitols are arguing over many important issues - drug enforcement, immigration, health care, etc.  The Federal Government has taken upon itself more and more power, including in recent years the power to torture and kill people without any form of judicial process.  Many Americans think their government has well-overstepped the constraints that the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison intended to impose upon it and in view of this, it is understandable that they would be reluctant to give up the right to bear arms.

Seen in this light, the Second Amendment becomes something more noble and reasonable than merely the right of Americans to defend their person and home against criminals (although that, too, is hardly an ignoble right in my opinion).

All of the above doesn't change the fact that American civilians kill far more of their fellow citizens with firearms than any other country on Earth.  I agree that America needs to debate the issue but I don't think stricter firearms control alone will do much to address the problem (after all, New Zealand has some of the strictest firearms ownership laws in the world and we have had our share of mass killings).  If President Obama wants to introduce tougher gun laws, perhaps he should start talking in the same conversation about limiting the unbridled power of his Government - then more Americans might be more receptive to greater gun control.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Victoria Soto - Hero

In previous posts, I have lamented the lack of heroism in the world today.

In this blog, following the example of Not PC, I would like to post a tribute to a real heroine - Victoria Soto, one of the teachers who gave their lives to save the lives of the children in their care from the despicable coward who committed suicide by mass killing in Newtown, Connecticut.

I will remember Victoria Soto.  I will not remember her killer.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Imagine if David Bain Really is Innocent

New Zealanders have watched the Bain family murder case unfold over the past 18 years with fascination. For any readers who are unfamiliar with the case of David Bain's trials and imprisonment for the murder of his family, there is a reasonable summary of it in David Bain's Wikipedia entry here. It has all the elements of a classic murder mystery - the horrific, bloody crime itself, family intrigue, suggestions of incest, allegations of planted evidence, and the selfless campaigning of those who believe David Bain to be innocent - particularly that of former New Zealand international sportsman, Joe Karam.

I, unlike David Bain's supporters, do not profess any certainty of his innocence. But I have read enough about the case to be sure that he was only convicted of the crime because of the an incompetent and possibly corrupt police investigation and a determined and one-sided presentation of the evidence at his first trial.

Bain was released from prison in 2007 after his conviction was overturned by the Pricy Council in London (at the time, New Zealand's highest appelate court and since removed in favour of a new local Supreme Court). He was retried in 2009 and acquitted on all charges. Since then he and his supporters have been waiting for the Government to decide whether he should receive compensation for wrongful imprisonment. In New Zealand, such claims are considered by the Cabinet acting on the advice of the Minister of Justice. The process usually involves a senior lawyer or judge investigating the merits of the claim and deciding whether, on the balance of probabilities, the person is innocent. Note that this is both a higher and a lower standard of proof than that which applies in a criminal trial where a conviction requires the case to be proved "beyond reasonable doubt", but acquittal does not require proof of innocence, merely failure to prove guilt.

The Minister of Justice in this case, Judith Collins, commissioned a report from Ian Binnie, a retired Canadian Supreme Court judge, to determine whether David Bain should receive compensation. Binnie reported back in September this year, determining that Bain was innocent on the balance of probabilities and that he should receive compensation.

Many New Zealanders still believe David Bain is guilty and it is obvious Judith Collins is among them. She decided she did not like Justice Binnie's recommendations and has appointed Robert Fisher, a New Zealand Queen's Council (a glorified title for a senior lawyer), to review it. Unsurprisingly, Fisher has decided Binnie's report is flawed. Collins' unwillingness to accept Binnie's recommendations is disappointing but hardly unexpected, given she was Minister of Police during the period covering the second trial and would have been receiving advice from her department that has itself been the subject of accusations of criminal conduct in the case. Even as Minister of Justice, she has a fairly obvious conflict of interest because it is the New Zealand justice system itself that is now on trial.

As I say, I don't know whether Bain is truly guilty or innocent. But I do know a conflict of interest when I see one. New Zealand has not seen such a disgraceful handling of an independent judicial review since Prime Minister Muldoon trashed the report of Justice Mahon into the 1979 crash of an Air New Zealand airplane on Mount Erebus in Antartica. There is a clear conflict of interest in Judith Collins' consideration of the Binnie report and she should recuse herself from any further consideration of Bain's bid for compensation. The Prime Minister should appoint a less-interested minister to make the recommendation to Cabinet, or do the job himself.

I believe that on consideration of the balance of wrongs, David Bain should receive compensation. If he is guilty, he has served 13 years in prison through a conviction that was the result of an incompetent and possibly corrupt justice system - and you might say that is good outcome. But consider if he is innocent - not only did he come home one morning in 1994 to find his entire family slaughtered, he has been suffered the further horror of being tried, convicted and imprisoned for the crime he did not commit, and extreme vilification for that crime ever since. The fact that there is a strong possibility of his innocence outweighs everything else in my mind - this man must receive generous compensation and our humble apologies for what we as a society have done to him.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Americans Voted for Oblivion

The 2012 US elections were more than just a choice of candidates for President, Congress and state houses, they were a referendum on America's future. They were like the last fork in the road, with one sign pointing to "Oblivion" and the other one saying "Long Road Back". The American people chose to follow the first sign. Of course, the sign didn't say "Oblivion", it actually said "More Hope and Change". It was a seductive slogan when it was first seen four years ago, but this time no one should have been fooled. The past four years have seen the Obama administration borrow an additional six trillion dollars to fund spending that resulted in $905 billion in economic growth. The federal debt increased by around 15% per year during Obama's first term and the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, has already announced plans to extend the federal debt ceiling by another $2.4 trillion before Christmas. At this rate the US federal government debt will reach $30 trillion before Obama leaves office. If that doesn't strike you as a rather excessive amount, consider that the entire world's GDP is only about $70 trillion.

The President appeared on Letterman during the election campaign and claimed he couldn't remember how much he'd borrowed during his first term, which made him look either very stupid or very dishonest, but that didn't seem to matter to the American voters. They wanted more of the good stuff and, like the Greeks, they didn't care who pays for it.

The problem with comparing the United States to Greece is that the similarities extend only to the nature of the problem, not the scale of it. Greece has an economy not much bigger than New Zealand's and that means it can be bailed out by its larger neighbours like Germany (should the German taxpayers choose to do so). No one can bail out America. Forget China - that country has already stopped lending to America at the levels it had previously. In fact, the biggest lender to the US Government today is...the US Government! Over 60% of US Treasury bonds last year were bought by the US Federal Reserve.  Where does the Federal Reserve get the money from? It creates it at the stroke of a computer keyboard. This is what they used to call printing money.

When a government prints money at the rates the US Government is now doing so, sooner or later it starts to significantly devalue its own currency - that's why the US Dollar has fallen against other currencies like the New Zealand Dollar. And sooner or later that translates into inflation, which pushes up interest rates, and that means the government has to print even more money to repay its loans. The end game of all this is the sort of hyperinflation they had in Germany in the 1920s and in Zimbabwe today.

This cannot end well for the United States, but Americans have made their choice - they have chosen to ignore reality and carry on snorting the fiscal crystal - and they will have to live with the consequences.  Those consequences can be seen again and again throughout history - from the fall of the Roman Empire through to Britain's decline in the first half of the 20th Century.  Great nations are sustained by great economies and are destroyed by economic decline.  I greatly admire the idea of America - a republic of the people where individual aspirations and liberty are enshrined in its founding documents - and I am saddened by its decline.  Perhaps the American people still have time to change course and avoid oblivion, but I suspect that after another four years of the Obama administration it will be too late.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Government's only legitimate function...and it can't even get that right

Every now and then we see a criminal case that it so utterly appalling that it stands out even amongst the murders, assaults, rapes and burglaries that are all-too-common in our smug little "God's own country" down here in the South Pacific.  Such a case was the killing of Christie Marceau by Askay Chand.

These are the raw facts of the case.  In September 2011, Askay Chand kidnapped and threatened to rape Christie Marceau, who lived nearby.  Chand was imprisoned on remand for those offences but was released on bail after he wrote a letter to the judge expressing his remorse, despite the police and prosecutor strongly opposing his release.  Two months later he returned to Christie Marceau's house and stabbed her to death in front of her mother.  Yesterday in the Auckland High Court Chand was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

As a parent of two daughters, this case horrifies me.  After the first attack, Christie and her mother must have been living in abject fear that Chand would be released and would return to attack again.  They would have put their faith in the criminal justice system to protect them.  In New Zealand we have no choice but to trust that system - we are not allowed to possess the means of our own defence (even pepper spray is illegal).  Chand's return must have been like living through the worst nightmare for Christie and her mother - a nightmare from which that neither of them awoke.

I believe the state has one legitimate role - that of protecting its citizens from the initiation of violence against person and property.  Whether or not you believe that the state has other legitimate roles such as redistributing income to the poor,  you probably believe that the role of protecting citizens against violence is paramount.  If the state can't  get even this right, then there is something seriously wrong with our form of government.  Sure, people make mistakes, but there is no excuse for what happened to Christie Marceau after the signs were so obvious in the first attack by Askay.

At the very least, the judge who granted Askay bail should resign.  Under the doctrine of ministerial responsibility, the minister of justice should also resign.  There has been a call for a "Christie's Law" to tighten bail requirements by criminal justice campaigners, and Christie's mother has appeared at a Parliamentary select committee to speak in favour of this.  While I am seldom in favour of knee-jerk legislative responses to social issues, I think tighter bail laws is the least we can do as a society to ensure Christie's death was not in vain.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Economic Outlook for New Zealand

This morning I went to a breakfast lecture given by ANZ Bank chief economist, Cameron Bagrie.  The high point of the morning was the excellent buffet breakfast, which is not to say Bagrie didn't speak very well - it was just that his message was very downbeat.  That makes him an unusual beast in the economist herd at the moment, with many of his profession both here and overseas being little more than mouthpieces for their profligate governments.

The message was simple: New Zealand is one of the most indebted nations in the world (when public and private debt is included), up there with Spain and Greece.  While New Zealand is enjoying economic growth in the 1 - 2 % range, even that modest level growth is built on record high commodity prices in recent years, which are now heading south very quickly.  Add to that the very slow recovery of our second largest city, Christchurch, from its devastating earthquakes and the fact that all our key export markets are in a worse economic state than ourselves, and you have solid evidence for a poor economic outlook.

Bagrie saw the solution as being conservative economic management combined with growth from natural resource-based industries such as mining, water and energy.  He said that finance markets saw both Finance Minister Bill English and opposition finance spokesman David Cunliffe as fiscally conservative and I suppose when you compare them with Ben-$400Bn-QE-per-month-Bernancke in the United States and the new President of France who wants to increase the government's share of GDP from 50% to 60%, they do look pretty conservative. Personally, I see Bill English's expectation of a balanced NZ government budget by 2014/15 (on the condition that we achieve 4 - 5 % economic growth) as a long odds gamble, but it's all relative, I suppose.

The problem with Bagrie's solution to our grim economic outlook is that he was preaching to the choir.  The audience was made up of ANZ Bank's business banking customers.  These are predominantly owners and managers of small to medium sized businesses.  I imagine that almost everyone in the audience agreed with Bagrie - let's exploit our natural resources to drive economic growth.  But New Zealanders in general, and the National Government in particular, do not seem to really care about economic growth and would rather be dictated to by minority interest groups to whom exploiting natural resources is heresy.  In the past three years that it has been in power, John Key's Government has:

  • Backed down on opening up even very small areas of our national parks to mining
  • Allowed various interest groups to hold up the partial privatisation of energy companies, thereby stymying new investment in the sector
  • Brought in an emissions trading scheme that has made investment in the energy sector far less attractive
  • Got into a fight with Maori tribes about ownership of water rights.
If this type of political incompetence and spinelessness is any indication, New Zealand has as much chance of building economic growth through exploitation of natural resources as has the entire country of suddenly floating to the equator. 

So, where does this leave us?  I don't think there is much doubt that Bagrie's prognosis, in the absence of a radical increase in political courage by our leaders and a sudden Road to Damascus economic enlightenment on the part of the New Zealand voting public, is correct.  We are a train headed for a broken bridge - an economic wreck in the making.  And the problem with economic wrecks, as the likes of Greece, Spain and Portugual are discovering (or re-discovering in the case of all three countries), is that they quickly become social and political wrecks too, with riots on the streets and the rise of opportunistic political despots.

New Zealanders are complacent.  We think we're immune to the economic 'flu that ails the rest of the world.  You don't need to be a noted economist to know that we're not.  We are going to catch a very serious cold at least, and we are very poorly prepared to deal with it. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Inspiring speech, Paul, shame about the religious claptrap

Paul Ryan gave his acceptance speech for the US Vice-Presidential nomination to the Republican National Convention today. And what a speech it was! You can read the whole thing here but I'll provide a few of the choice tidbits, if you can't be bothered reading the whole thing:
  • On the incumbent administration: "I have never seen opponents so silent about their record, and so desperate to keep their power."
  • The key question for American voters: "Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different from the last four years?"
  • On Obama's economic policies: "The stimulus...cost $831 billion – the largest one-time expenditure ever by our federal government. It went to companies like Solyndra, with their gold-plated connections, subsidized jobs, and make-believe markets. The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate welfare, and cronyism at their worst."
  • More on Obama's economic policies: "What did the taxpayers get out of the Obama stimulus?  More debt.  That money wasn’t just spent and wasted – it was borrowed, spent, and wasted."
  • On Obamacare: "[It] comes to more than two thousand pages of rules, mandates, taxes, fees, and fines that have no place in a free country."
  • On Obama's political legacy: "It began with a financial crisis; it ends with a job crisis. It began with a housing crisis they alone didn’t cause; it ends with a housing crisis they didn’t correct. It began with a perfect Triple-A credit rating for the United States; it ends with a downgraded America. It all started off with stirring speeches, Greek columns, the thrill of something new. Now all that’s left is a presidency adrift, surviving on slogans that already seem tired, grasping at a moment that has already passed, like a ship trying to sail on yesterday’s wind. 
  • On Obama's tendency to blame his predecessor for everything: "The man assumed office almost four years ago – isn’t it about time he assumed responsibility?"
  • His answer to America's economic problems: "We need to stop spending money we don’t have."
  • His response to Obama's "you didn't build that" philosophy: "If small businesspeople say they made it on their own, all they are saying is that nobody else worked seven days a week in their place.  Nobody showed up in their place to open the door at five in the morning.  Nobody did their thinking, and worrying, and sweating for them.  After all that work, and in a bad economy, it sure doesn’t help to hear from their president that government gets the credit.  What they deserve to hear is the truth: Yes, you did build that."
Stirring stuff, indeed.  Makes me want to want to emigrate to America just so I can vote for him.  Only, there was a dark side to his speech that wasn't so appealing.  Witness the following words:
  • "The man who will accept your nomination tomorrow is prayerful and faithful and honorable. Not only a defender of marriage, he offers an example of marriage at its best."
  • "[Mitt Romney and I believe that] each one of us was made for a reason, bearing the image and likeness of the Lord of Life."
  • "Our rights come from...God."
The contrast illustrates the dilemma voters face in supporting the Romney-Ryan ticket: rational and necessary economic policies are coloured by medieval superstition and illiberal social policies.  Is the great economic stuff worth a little of the religious conservative mumbo-jumbo?  Is economic freedom that produces job opportunities worth it if you can't marry the person you love?  I'm not sure of the answer to the question.  But what I do know is that American can't survive another four years of Obama with what's left of its freedom intact.

On balance, if I had a vote in the November presidential election, I think I would cast it for Romney-Ryan.

Monday, August 13, 2012

8 Best Aspects of the Olympics

The 30th Olympiad has ended and having earlier set out the 8 worst aspects of the Games, I'd like to close my blogging on the subject on a more positive note - the 8 best aspects:
  1. The superlative personal efforts of the athletes
  2. The keen interest and sportsmanship of the largely British crowd towards all competitors
  3. Handball - what a great game!
  4. Usain Bolt - for his strutting, immodest joy at winning
  5. Lisa Carrington - for her gracious, modest joy at winning
  6. The British medal tally - a sterling effort from a country that used to be joke for its constant sporting failures
  7. The volunteers that carried out all manner of menial support tasks
  8. The unabashed celebration of the best at time that Western society tries to pretend we are all equal.

Friday, August 10, 2012

8 Worst Aspects of the Olympics

Let me make one thing clear - I love sport and have thoroughly enjoyed watching the best of human physical achievement over the last two weeks. But there are some things about the London 2012 Olympics that will make me relieved to see the back of them. Here are 8 of them, in no particular order:
  1. The London 2012 logo
  2. The inane and ill-informed television commentary on Sky TV New Zealand
  3. The endless coverage of table tennis - surely this is the most unwatchable sport ever with each rally over before you can make out what has happened
  4. The tedious Chariots of Fire theme song played at every medal ceremony
  5. The long celebration of Britain's National Health Service during the open ceremony - there has not been such a politicised opening since Moscow 1980
  6. The use of pompous, minor IOC functionaries to present almost all medals - the use of past successful athletes would be more creditable
  7. The jingoistic and self-indulgent nationalism ("didn't we do well?" - actually YOU didn't do anything)
  8. China's success - this is a dictatorship using the odious, near-child-slavery practices of the Soviet block to build its national image through sporting achievement, and therefore nothing to celebrate.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ethics in Business - A Little Case Study

You might have noticed that I'm a staunch defender of the free enterprise system and the right of individuals to pursue their self-interests unconstrained by government. I think private enterprise provides almost all goods and services better, more efficiently and cheaper than government does and I think that governments should get out of economic affairs, confining their role mainly to maintenance of law and order and defence.

I accept that business can get it wrong and that some people in business are unethical and even grossly dishonest. That doesn't make the free enterprise system bad any more than corrupt leaders make government inherently bad. But it also doesn't mean that I will sit by and watch businesses rip off their customers, especially when I have personal experience of their unethical behaviour.

Insurance companies, like banks, have had a bad rap recently. International bail-outs like AIG and the response of some insurers to natural disasters such as the Canterbury earthquake have provided plenty of material for those who would rather see insurance services provided by the state.

This morning I had a disagreement with my insurer, Tower Insurance, with whom we have all our insurances - cars, houses, contents, life, etc. It was a minor matter but it illustrates an ethical issue I have experienced with a number of large organisations - whether they are obliged to provide the customer with all information related to their pricing so that that the customer pays the minimal amount needed for the service.

We are entitled to a discount on all of our premiums because we have all of our insurance with the one company. One of our car policies, for some obscure bureaucratic reason, was not receiving the correct discount. This was a matter we had become aware of in the past and we had asked Tower to correct. Last week we had to make a small claim on this car policy and learned Tower were still not applying the discount. When I raised the matter with a Tower customer service representative this morning, he advised that it was my responsibility to check the premium statement every year to ensure I was getting the correct discount (despite the fact that there is no information on the premium statement to indicate whether this is the case). When I asked him whether he thought his company had an obligation to ensure the correct pricing applied without the customer having to double check, his response was "no". Of course, he was wrong both in law and in ethics.

This is not a case of 'caveat emptor' because we were aware of the previous error and had asked Tower to correct it, assuming in good faith that future premium statements would be correct. It is not the continued error that irks me, but the young man's attitude that the company had done no wrong.

I do not hold the young man responsible for his attitude. His views are clearly part of Tower's culture. This is a company that seems to teach its customer service representatives that if the company can get away with overcharging customers, well and good.  If the customer does not spot the error, that's the customer's hard luck.

It is this lack of ethics and integrity in some businesses that leads to the resentment we see in the Occupy Wall Street Movement. One of the reasons I defend the free enterprise system is that I see it as inherently moral compared to the inherently corrupt Socialist alternative. My incident was a trifling affair and does not change my view, but it indicative of an attitude I see in many, particularly larger, companies - an ethical elasticity that ultimately leads to Enron.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

You Didn't Build That...

Finally, the President of the United States has shown his true colours - and they are all dark shades of red.

Last week Mr Obama reiterated and extended the comments of Elizabeth Warren, a White House staffer who is standing for US Senate in November saying, "If you’ve got a business - you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen."  

Last October when I blogged on Elizabeth Warren's comments, I thought that they were the words of a peripheral extremist in the Obama administration and couldn't be the views of the President himself, but I was wrong.

These are the views of a Marxist-Leninist.  Marx and Lenin believed that the people provided the means of production, not the business owner, and therefore the people should be entitled to any wealth or profit associated with it.  Were Mr Obama a private citizen, he would be entitled to hold such views - after all, the United States is a politically free, pluralistic society that is perfectly able to accomodate people of all beliefs and creeds.  But Mr Obama is not a private citizen, he is the head of state of a country founded on the premise that all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  The "pursuit of happiness" bit includes material happiness, i.e. the right to acquire and own property without undue hindrance from the government.  Mr Obama's political views are diametrically opposed to those espoused in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. 

Mr Obama cannot in all conscience represent the principles on which the United States of America was founded and he should resign forthwith.  Given that is highly unlikely, I hope the good people of the United States have the sense to throw him out of office in November.  Assuming he lets them, because not only do Marxist-Leninists not believe in property rights, they don't believe in constitutionally limited government either.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Dotcom Decision Shows Rule of Law Still Alive in NZ

Just when all right-thinking New Zealanders thought the rule of law was well and truly dead in this country, replaced by the all-powerful and unfettered authority of the Nanny State to do whatever it sees fit, Justice Winkelmann of the High Court has proved that vestiges of ancient legal rights remain.  I am referring, of course, to Winkelmann's decision that that search and seizure of Kim Dotcom's Auckland property, under the direction of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, was illegal.

When this case broke with an avalanche of international media coverage and comment, I was immeidately concerned on several levels.  I am not an international law expert but I know something about copyright law, having been involved in many contract negotiations for IT software and services, and it seemed to me that even in the United States, the primary offence that Dotcom was being accused of - that of hosting illegal copying services - was a very grey area of the law. 

Fristly, even if Dotcom's Megaupload service has been used for wholesale copyright infringement, it is yet to be conclusively established in US courts that he can be held accountable for the actions of his clients. 

Secondly, even if he is proved to have knowingly colluded in copyright infringement, there is considerable doubt as to whether criminal sanctions can be applied or whether that is something that should be dealt with through the civil courts.

And thirdly, given his services were hosted in Hong Kong and not New Zealand, there is doubt as to whether New Zealand authorities have any legal interest in the case.

If proof were needed of the dubious nature of the offences alleged against Dotcom, the New Zealand authorities only needed to apply the time-tested rule of international extradition treaties - is it something that is illegal in New Zealand?  Dotcom is charged with racketeering.  Racketeering is one of those catch-all offences that United States authorities are fond of applying when no other charge seems to fit.  It is usually used for incarcerating murderous gangsters.  It is not an offence under New Zealand law and therefore would not be able to be used as grounds for extradiction.

All of the above means the New Zealand authorities should have had pause for thought before charging into Dotcom's house during a social event, arresting Dotcom and his employees, and seizing a whole raft of property, including cars, that had little or no connection to the crimes being alleged.

It is highly likely now that Dotcom will walk away from all this a free man, at least in New Zealand.  He will, however, be forever damaged by the illegal actions of the New Zealand authorities.  His business has been largely destroyed and he, his family and his employees are unlikely to get any compensation for their assault by the agencies of the New Zealand Government.  The US Government will never back down and apologise or stop trying to hound him, wherever in the world he may end up (as he will almost certainly be expelled from New Zealand for immigration issues).  Such is the nature of law enforcement in America these days.  The normal mode of operation for the FBI and other US agencies these days resembles the tactics of the gangsters or the terrorists they pursue. New Zealand authorities should not be drawn into this sort of intemperate, thuggish, so-called law enforcement. 

I am grateful for Justice Winkelmann's wisdom.  We might all need it one day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Paying Family Members to Care for Their Disabled Relatives is a Step Too Far

I have some sympathy for the plight of people like this gentleman who have to devote a considerable portion of their lives to looking after sick and disabled relatives at considerable personal time and cost to themselves.  But I think the decision of the New Zealand Court of Appeal that says the Government is discriminating when they don't pay such people for such care is a step too far in the constant expansion of the welfare state.

It is yet another example of the activist judiciary in this country going outside their constitutional role and making social policy law.  The judiciary should not make such law because they are not accountable to the public, as the legislative and executive branches are meant to be, for the funding and outcomes of such policies.  Unfortunately it is the poor taxpayer that once again will have to pick up the tab for the judiciary's largesse, as they have had to do with the flood of Treaty of Waitangi claims following Justice Cooke's infamous determination of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi (where no such principles previously existed).

This decision sets a dangerous precedent.  It seems there is now no limit on what is a reasonable claim on the welfare system.  Should adult children now be paid for the care of their elders?  Should teenage children be paid by the state for the babysitting of their younger siblings?

New Zealand, like most other Western nations, is already living well beyond its means.  Last year the Government spent a third more than it took in taxes and all this profligacy has to be paid for by current or future taxpayers.  The taxes that are required to fund the welfare state are already crippling personal and business enterprise and eliminating our ability to save and invest for the future.  Demographic factors (i.e. the aging population and proportionately ever-smaller number of taxpayers) mean that by any measure the current situation is unsustainable.  The Court of Appeal decision just adds to the unsustainable burden.

The appropriate response of the Government to the Court of Appeal's decision is to stop all payments to carers of sick and disabled people.  This would be tough on the current recipients of paid care and their families, but the Government must demonstrate to the judiciary the implications of such activist decisions.  If it is now  discrimatory to expect families to look after their own, then we must non-discriminatorily abolish all such benefits.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New Zealand Driving Rules

The inclement winter weather has brought out the worst craziness in New Zealand drivers, but it is not as if they need the catalyst of poor visibility and icy roads to show how appalling they are.

I have traveled extensively and driven on most of the world's continents and I have concluded that, given the relatively benign road and traffic conditions that New Zealanders are faced with, they are the worst drivers in the world. There seems to be an unofficial Road Code that parallels the official one in providing guidance on how New Zealanders should behave behind the wheel.  I haven't been privy to the secrets of this black book, but I have deduced that the following are some of its rules:

1) In a 50km/h urban area, slow down to 15km/h in case you miss a vacant parking space.
2) Never indicate that you are about to turn or pull over.  Never.  Especially if you are a taxi or courier.
3) On a narrow street, never give way to on-coming traffic.  Never.
4) On a multi-lane highway, stay in the centre-most lane, no matter what speed you are doing.
5) In a 100km/h open road speed zone, slow down to 83km/h, except...
6) Where there is a passing lane, speed up to at least 125km/h to prevent anyone passing you.  Resume 83km/h as soon as the passing lane ends.
7) When a multi-lane road reduces to single lane, never let any other car merge in front of you.  Never.
8) If there is a gap between your vehicle and the car in front of you, you are not following closely enough.
9) When approaching an intersection, check to see whether the way is clear and, if it is not, stop in the middle of the intersection thereby blocking all cross traffic.
10) Traffic light colours mean the following:
     RED - Go until the cross-traffic blocks your way.
     AMBER - Speed up. Do not stop.
     GREEN - Slow down and if in doubt stop in the middle of the intersection, thereby blocking all cross traffic
[Update: one more occurred to me:]
11) The dashed line in the centre of the road is for decorative purposes only.  You may drive on either side of the road.  Approaching traffic will pull over to the shoulder to make way for you.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Honours System is Anachronistic and Paternalistic

Once again in New Zealand we have had the announcement of the Queen's Birthday Honours, which of course are nothing to do with the Queen and are not announced on her actual birthday.  A more fitting name for them would be the "New Zealand Government Good Subject Awards" because they are a system of favours bestowed by the government of the day on those they consider to have been worthy.

The current honours system dates from medieval times when the monarch favoured those who supported him or her with lands, money and titles.  The good deeds that were considered most worthy back then would be regarded in most cases today as worthy only of a long sentence from the International Court of Justice, being acts of great cruelty and abuse of human rights such as the dispossession of the Catholics, the expulsion of the Puritans and the Jews, the subjugation of the Irish and the like.  The Queen no longer gives out land and money but her governments around the world still bestow titles on those who are in their favour. 

It has been interesting watching the changes over the years in the nature of the deeds considered worthy of honours.  As recently as thirty years ago, the ranks of the honours lists were full of successful businessmen.  In recent times, the selfish pursuit of wealth, with its consequential benefits to the entire nation, no longer merits honour.  If a businessman receives any recognition, it is only because of their service to some charity, sports foundation, or other 'worthy' pursuit.  Senior judges still get honoured almost as a matter of course, and similarly those from the senior ranks of the civil service.  The awards still remain a reward for political service, irrespective of whether the political colours of the recipient match those of the government doing the awarding (hence the National Government's award to Labour Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen).  It is a system of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" that members of successive governments dare not break for fear they will not get their turn.

The whole idea of a government honours system is inherently corrupt because it inverts the respective roles of government and citizen.  Governments should exist only to serve the citizen through a limited range of executive, legislative and judicial functions (which functions should be tightly defined in a written constitution - but that is for another blog).  The greatest statement of the role of governments ever written says, "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed". In other words, citizens should be the masters of governments, not the other way around.  A government that presumes to reward its citizens for what it regards as good behaviour regards its citizens as subjects, not as masters.  Citizens should not compete for the government's favour, rather the government should compete for our favour.

For eight hundred years years since the signing of the Magna Carta Libertatum (the "Great Charter of Liberties"1), we in the West have fought to restrain the executive power of the monarch in favour of individual rights and self-determination.  It is time we cast off this anachronistic and paternalistic vestige of unrestrained power that is the Queen's Honours system.

1 We seem to have lost the "liberties" bit along the way.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Greater Depression

It is with a horrified fascination that I watch the current political events in Europe unfold. The people of France and Greece, in particular, after years of enjoying profligate government spending, have decided to throw caution (and the tentative efforts by their previous governments at reining in the excesses) to the wind. They don't want to hear that they have been living beyond their means and can't see why they should stop enjoying the benefits of a lifestyle that they feel entitled to but can't afford. The new president of France, François Hollande, wants the EU to adopt a new form of borrowing called Eurobonds. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, is vehemently opposed to these new financial instruments and it is not difficult to see why. They are a liability that is incurred by an individual country but for which the repayment obligation is shared by all EU nations. As there is only one EU nation that remains at the highest level of creditworthiness, i.e. Germany, Angela Merkel and German taxpayers know exactly who ultimately will pick up the tab.

I have been saying for quite some time that the world is already in what some commentators are starting to call the Greater Depression*. We are following the exact same trajectory as the world followed in the 1930s - that is, an initial financial sector crisis followed by signs of recovery, followed by the deepest and longest economic downturn the world had ever seen. We had the banking sector problems starting in 2008, followed by signs of a recovery as governments have tried to spend their way out of the problem, and clear evidence now that it is not working and that a deeper recession is coming. I think the term Greater Depression will precisely describe what the world is about to endure. Like the 1930s, I predict it will be 10 to 15 years before we recover from the current economic malaise.

The reason I am so certain about this is because nothing is changing. There is no political will to address years of overspending by governments all around the world. It has already been proved over the last four years that the current economic crisis is not something that can be addressed by governments borrowing more money, printing more money, and spending more money.

No one will be immune from the crisis. The biggest casualties of all will be the United States and Japan, the two most heavily indebted countries in the world. The US, at least, can continue to service its debt for a few more years, even at current rates of growth. Japan's government is spending twice what it takes in tax revenues and the situation is getting worse every year. Even China, the world's great creditor economy, is now showing signs that its period of massive growth is over. China will suffer more than most as its export revenues dry up and its debtors default on their repayments. With Europe, North America and East Asia all hitting the wall at about the same time, no one will have the means to spend their way out of trouble. There will be a massive correction, with government spending and tax funded benefits being adjusted downwards by up to 50% all around the world, whether voters like it or not. This is what happened in the Great Depression and it is what is going to happen in the Greater Depression. I, like many sensible financial commentators around the world, believe it cannot be avoided, especially with voters only too ready to accept the fraudulent assurances of leaders like François Hollande.

What to do about it at a personal level? Protecting your wealth should be your focus. Seek investment safe havens like gold and countercyclical opportunities like shorting treasury bonds. Pay off all your debt as soon as you can and hunker down for the stormy times ahead.

* From Doug Casey of Casey Research via Not PC.

Friday, May 4, 2012

New Drinking Age Won't Work

A bill is before the New Zealand Parliament to raise from 18 to 20 the age at which alcohol can be purchased from "off-licence" retailers (i.e. anywhere you can purchase and take out).  This is justified on the grounds that young people are abusing alcohol consumption, despite the fact that there is little empirical evidence that people in this age group are any more likely to drink to excess than, for example, 80 year-olds (and in my personal experience, 80 year-olds tend to drink more than 18 year-olds).  But even if there were, this reversal of previous liberalising laws is, in my opinion, a foolishly retrograde step.

Eighteen is the age of majority for almost everything in New Zealand.  At eighteen, you can get married, enter into contracts, buy a house, start a business and be held responsible for your choices in almost every aspect of the law.  In some cases the age of majority is lower, e.g. lawful sexual consent is at the age of 16, and, in the matter of criminal responsibility, children as young as 12 can be tried as an adult.  In view of the fact that young New Zealanders are considered responsible enough to do all of these things at a younger age, it is hypocritical nonsense to say that a 19 year old is not old enough to responsibly buy a bottle of wine to take home for dinner.

The other reason it is downright stupidity to lower the drinking age is that all historical evidence points to the fact that the prohibition of social mores does not work.  I am currently writing a book about Prohibition in America in the 1920s and my research has shown that the misguided attempt to ban all alcohol sales in America had exactly the opposite effect of that intended (in New York, for example, the number of liquor outlets more than doubled from around 15,000 to an estimated 34,000 during Prohibition).  History tells us that if prohibiting 18 and 19 year olds from purchasing liquor for off-licence consumption has any impact on youth alcohol abuse, it will be to make things worse.

This knee-jerk, Puritan, paternalistic change is offensive and dumb.  It is about time we started treating our young adults as adults.  Let them make their own choices and hold them responsible for those choices.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Book Review - A Universe From Nothing by Lawrence Krauss

I have just finished reading the book A Universe From Nothing by Lawrence Krauss, in which he explains through the intersection of cosmology and particle physics how the universe could have come into existence without the need for divine intervention.  It is a brilliant book, a view that is shared in all the reviews I read on Amazon with the exception of those written by disgruntled adherents to the ancient mythologies that comprise the world's religions.  The motivation of the latter reviewers is perhaps understandable, given that Krauss does not shrink from challenging the need for the ancient mythologies when one is presented with such compelling scientific evidence to explain the origin of the universe we live in.  Krauss nailed his colours to the mast when he invited Richard Dawkins, the author of The God Delusion, to write the afterword.  Dawkins explains that those of religious faith are finding there are fewer and fewer epistemological places to hide when the light of scientific knowledge exposes the redundancy of their beliefs.

Religious dogma has always been exorcised by knowledge and logic.  The only difference today compared to, say, the Catholic Church's eventual accommodation of Copernicus's heliocentric view of the planets, is that religion is finding its ground getting smaller and smaller.  If religion is the preserve of that which cannot be explained by science, it is fair to say that the physical preserve of faith is approaching in size the Planck Length (a distance of approx 1.6 × 10∧-35 metres - the smallest conceivable measurable distance in physics).

I have heard Krauss debating cosmology with the religious faithful.  The latter usually resort to the argument that only God could truly create something from nothing.  In response to Krauss's argument that quantum physics allows precisely that, they simply retreat an order of abstraction by asking, who created the conditions or rules that allows quantum physics to do that?  Dawkins is perhaps better at Krauss at dealing with these specious arguments and his response is: if God created the conditions for quantum physics to create the universe, then who created God?  But God has existed forever, the theologians reply.

I have my own response to this theological question of First Cause, as it is known.  If God has existed forever, and if he is omniscient and omnipotent (not to mention omnipresent), why did he need to create the universe at all?  For his own amusement?  That hardly seems consistent with an omniscient and omnipotent being.  After all, if he is omniscient, he has perfect knowledge of everything that will ever exist and watching the universe unfold would contain all the amusement of watching an infinite number of reruns of a television soap opera.  And what was God doing before he created the universe?  If, as theologians assert, God has existed forever, he must have existed for an infinite amount of time before he created the universe.  Whether the universe was created 13.72 billion years ago (as Krauss and others have proven) or 6,000 years ago (as Creationists believe), it was an infinitely short time ago compared to the time God has supposedly existed.  So it appears he was sitting around for eternity doing absolutely nothing and suddenly decided to create the universe.  Was he bored?

Such theological arguments depart from the main argument of Krauss's book - that science can explain how the universe came into existence.  He does this more effectively that any other popular physics writer I have read (and I've read many) and does it in a way that makes you proud to be part of a race that can finally answer many of the big questions about its own existence.

There is one aspect to Krauss's conclusions that left me feeling dissatisfied, however.  In the final chapters, Krauss postulates a future where physicists will be unable to arrive at the same conclusions - about the Big Bang, Inflation and the existence of Dark Energy - as he does.  This is because the universe will have expanded to the point where only our local group of galaxies will be visible and even the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (which is part of the evidence of the Big Bang) will not be visible.  Future scientists will be literally in the dark regarding the origins of the universe.  Ultimately, the universe will die a cold death or collapse back into a singularity.  Krauss misses one important point, in my view - future scientists will know the history of the universe because they will be able to read about it in a book (of some form or other).  This is because human intelligence has reached a point where its survival is almost guaranteed, irrespective of what happens to human biology, the Earth or our galaxy.  Our descendants, who will certainly have transcended our biology to become something approaching pure knowledge or energy (and they are pretty much the same thing in physics), will endure for billions or even trillions of years.  They may even be able to save our universe from its eventual destruction or make the jump to another universe in the multiverse.  I am more optimistic than Krauss.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Ravin' about Trayvon, Diplomatic Indulgence and Lombard Convictions

The Trayvon Martin case in the United States seems to me to be typical of the lunacy that has possessed the Western world in the early 21st Century.  No one, least of all President Obama, seems interested in the facts - it has become a witch hunt reminiscent of 16th Century New England.  Listening to the media and the rhetoric of activists like the Reverend Al Sharpton and the Reverend Jesse Jackson (why are they so often priests?) you would think that a redneck had executed a black man in cold blood and with impunity.  Those are not the facts as I understand them.

What actually appears to have happened is that a local Hispanic community watch volunteer named George Zimmerman (dubbed a "White Hispanic" when his ethnic origin is mentioned at all) shot Martin while the 6 foot, 2 inch-tall Martin was beating and kicking Zimmerman on the ground.  But irrespective of the facts in the case, it is reprehensible for the President to interfere in a case that is sub judice.  How can the authorities and the courts possibly  determine the rights and wrongs of the case now when the President has waded in and called Martin "the son I could have had?"

In New Zealand, the cause du jour for the left-wing media in recent days has been whether a bunch of highly paid diplomats should keep their swimming pools, cocktail parties and chauffeurs.  The chief executive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade announced plans to reduce staff and diplomatic posts to help balance the Government's budget.   Never have so few owed their privileges to the indulgence of so many.  The worst aspect of this issue is that the chief executive of MFAT, John Allen, who was acting on the instructions of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully (aptly referred to as the "Short-assed Machiavellian" by blogger Peter Cresswell), is now being hung out to take the blame by said minister. So much for the  concept of ministerial responsibility that is traditionally such an important part of our Westminster form of government.

Talking of witch hunts, this week we have also seen the sentencing of the directors of failed finance company, Lombard, amongst them former National Party cabinet ministers, Doug Graham and Bill Jeffries.  As blogger-lawyer and former MP Stephen Franks points out here, this was a conviction under a strict-liability law that ignores whether there was any intent to deceive investors (and, in fact, the judge in the case conceded that there wasn't).  So, these directors were guilty of nothing more than being directors of the wrong company at the wrong time.  The directors themselves did not gain from their crimes and, in fact, a couple of them were by all accounts financially ruined by the failure of Lombard.  But this type of case brings out the schadenfreude in the media and public and the baying for more blood, such as the calls to strip Doug Graham of his knighthood, is a bit like quartering the condemned after they have already died on the scaffold.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

New Zealand's Precarious Economic Position

The New Zealand Government has announced in its Budget statement for the last two years that it expects to balance its books by 2014.  This seems increasingly unlikely.  Like a sunny weather forecast that is corrected as the storm approaches, the Government has been revising its numbers as 2014 approaches.  Last year the Government spent nearly 1/3 more than it took in revenue.  This year it is projecting still to spend more than 20% more than it takes in revenue and the numbers are still getting worse.

The main problem with the Government's financial outlook is that it is dependent on economic growth.  Last year the Minister of Finance was saying GDP growth would reach around 4% by 2014.  This seems increasingly optimistic.  Our current GDP growth is around 1% and even that is dependent on the highest commodity prices New Zealand has ever experienced.  Commodity prices are starting to decline and the trend is likely to accelerate.  Add to this the fact that Europe and the United States are still in the grips of economic stagnation in spite of a very tentative recovery in consumer spending and jobs and you have a very risky economic scenario for New Zealand.

The Government has proclaimed that it expects the Christchurch earthquake to add 1.25% to economic growth every year from 2012 to 2016, which is based on a economic misunserstanding known as the broken window fallacy.  Rebuilding Christchurch only diverts investment from other potentially more productive areas of the economy and adds costs to everyone (look at the rise in your insurance premiums this year, if you don't believe me).

I am normally an optimistic person but I am more pessimistic about New Zealand's immediate economic prospects than I have been since the late 1980s.  If everything goes our way, we may have a modest economic recovery over the next few years, but it won't see the 4% economic growth by 2014 the Government hopes for.  And if the world economy does not recover strongly and if commodity prices continue to fall, we will see a significant worsening of our terms of trade with a consequential negative impact on every area of our economy.

New Zealanders need to prepare for very tough economic times ahead.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Time to Abandon Fraudulent ACC Scheme

New Zealand has a socialised accident compensation scheme run by a government agency called ACC.  Originally intended as a workers accident compensation insurance fund, ACC has become anything but.  What it has really become is a parallel welfare system and an attractive prospect for those who think that someone else should support them.

There are several aspects of the scheme that, in my view, make it inherently corrupt.

The first is that when it was introduced, the right to redress for injury under common law was prohibited.  This has led to a culture of non-accountability in New Zealand.  Criminals can assault with little prospect of financial penalty for their actions, likewise negligent employers and traders have little incentive to ensure the safety of their workers and customers.

The second is that its original purpose seems to have been turned on its head.  It is now, in my experience, almost impossible to get compensation for a genuine work-related injury.  The only time I have tried to claim compensation in recent years (a small claim for physiotherapy on a neck injury) I was actually told that if I had incurred the injury on the sports field or the skifield I would be able to claim but because I got the injury at work, I couldn't.

The third issue is that it is hideously expensive.  Premiums for employers and self-employed peope are supposedly based on risk factors.  But I have a sedentary, office-bound profession and the only injury I have ever incurred is the one mentioned above.  Yet my premium, at around $4000 per annum, is twice what it costs me for full health insurance for my family, a policy on which we frequently make claims.  In my case it is money for absolutely nothing.

The scheme is meant to be user-pays but it seems to be selectively so.  Motor cycle riders are charged around $400 a year on top of their vehicle registration as an ACC contribution but bicyclists (or rugby players, to take another example) are charged nothing.  My premiums must be going to subsidise others who are in genuinely higher risk categories than me and I suspect the portion of premiums paid out of taxes for non-workers and non-work injuries does not cover anything like the true cost of these claim.

The worst thing about it all is the scheme's dishonesty.  It is not, and never has been, an accident insurance scheme.  What it is really is a parallel welfare system funded by an additional dollop of tax on the most productive is society and it allows the NZ Government to hide this extra tax under the pretence of an insurance scheme.  It is dishonestly abused by work-shy layabouts, who are occasionally exposed on video as perfectly capable of working when they have been drawing accident compensation payments for years.

It is time we abolished the pretence of this fraudulent scheme and returned to private insurance provision and the right to seek redress in the courts.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Maori must take responsibility

The following is, for the most part, a comment I posted on Lindsay Mitchell's blog Tip of the iceberg about the over-representation of Maori in crime, child abuse and welfare dependency.  Her posting was prompted by the conviction of a young Maori man, Raurangi Mark Marino, for the rape of a 5 year girl in a camping ground in Turangi, New Zealand.  Marino's father and mother are members of the criminal, violent (and predominantly Maori) gangs Black Power and the Mongrel Mob that are known to use rape as an rite of passage for young inductees.

In her post, Lindsay quoted Peter Buck, one of the most prominent Maori leaders of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, who said:

“The [Maori]  communism  of  the  past  meant  industry,  training  in  arms,  good physique, the keeping of the law, the sharing of the tribal burden, and the preservation of life. The communism of today means indolence, sloth, decay of   racial   vigour,   the   crushing   of   individual   effort,   the   spreading   of introduced  infections,  diseases,  and  the  many  evils  that  are  petrifying  his advance.”

The following (with minor edits) is what I said in response to Lindsay's posting.

The sorry state of Maori today, filling the courts and prisons for violent crime, overwhelmingly dependent on welfare and failing to perform by almost any accepted aspirational and moral measure, is a huge indictment on the resurgent Maori tribalism and the billions of dollars thrown at them by successive governments.

The problem is, I think, partly that Peter Buck and many contemporary apologists for Maori performance have got it wrong. Maori 'communism' (and I think that is a good term) in the past may have been about "the keeping of the law, the sharing of the tribal burden, and the preservation of life," but it was also about preserving a brutal, paternalistic, cannibalistic, genocidal Stone Age society with little going for it except for some fine primitive art. Black Power and the Mongrel Mob are the precise modern expression of this culture.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that a young Maori man brought up in such a culture feels it is acceptable to rape a 5 year girl because, as gut-wrenching as this crime is to you and I, it pales into insignificance compared to the wholesale female infanticide that was practiced by Maori society prior to the establishment of British rule.

The answer is not more Maori tribalism, tradition and culture, nor more handouts. Such policies are just producing more disaffected Maori youth who believe it is their right to take anything they want by force, even the innocence of a 5 year old girl. The answer is that Maori must be forced to take individual responsibility for being productive, moral members of society. The sooner Maori themselves and New Zealanders generally realise this, the better.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Is the Left-wing Media Consensus Finally Cracking?

I often blog about the state of the mainstream media, a favourite bugbear of mine.  I have complained in the past that the media in most Western countries, and in New Zealand in particular, is facile, politically biased and dishonest in hiding its real motives behind a hypocritical, holier-than-thou cloak of journalistic integrity.  Major global news organisations like the BBC and CNN are among the worst offenders, taking strong advocacy positions on issues of the day such as climate change and Middle Eastern politics without the slightest concern for impartiality.  The editorial views of such organisations are invariably left-wing - the answer to any problem is always strong, paternalistic, government intervention and individual rights are always dispensible.  Sure, they pay lip service to "human rights" but they are always selective about whose rights they are supporting.  The rights of Palestinian Arabs, for example, are deemed worthy of their support, those of Syrian protesters just a few hundred miles away, not so much (or those of Israeli families to enjoy life free of missile attacks). Of course, there are a few news organisations that take a more right-wing stance such as Fox News in the United States, but these are very much in the minority and in recent years they have become shrill advocates of religious conservativism rather than supporters of the small-government, maximum individual responsibility views of classical liberals like me.

There have been a couple of promising signs recently that the predominatly Socialist/statist/big-government consensus in the mainstream media is cracking.  On climate change, for example, the views of the many reputable scientists who question the consensus of catastrophic, man-made, global warming are finally getting some coverage in outlets previously staunch in their promotion of warmist propanganda - for example, this article in The Independent about Richard Lindzen's speech to a public meeting in the British House of Commons.  Even the Guardian, known for its overwhelmingly left-wing stance on all issues, recently reported in this article that the British public doesn't buy the continued expansion of the welfare state.  Here in New Zealand, I was surprised to see this opinion piece in The New Zealand Herald questioning why hardworking taxpayers should continue to pay taxes to support unworthy "work-shy drones" (hat tip to Lindsay Mitchell for bringing my attention to this).

I suppose a swallow doesn't make a summer but the signs are encouraging.  Perhaps a new wave of young journalists is finally questioning the years of brainwashing they received at the hands of Gramsci-ite journalism school lecturers, or perhaps editors are becoming concerned about their falling circulation figures and are realising they are out of step with mainstream public opinion.  I do not know the answer but it is encouraging to see we are finally getting a small degree of balance in the reporting of such issues by major news outlets.