Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Annie Fox

After an entire month of inactivity on my behalf on this blog, I have some very sad news for the NZ blogging community: fellow libertarian Annie Fox (Anna Woolf) died from her cancer at 12:05 pm today.

My thoughts are now with her family and friends - they have lost a great women. Her courage and strength, in the face of something as awful as cancer, has been inspirational.

May she rest in peace.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Straitjacketing Students?

Although the National Government's introduction of new, across-the-board national standards may have some positive short term benefits, little good can come of further straitjacketing of New Zealand's educational system.

The new national standards are merely the latest in a long line of governmental reforms aimed at curbing the deteriorating quality of education in New Zealand. However well intentioned the latest reforms, the government needs to wake up and realise that the true problems lies with the continual packing of pupils into schools which merely exist for the sake of bureaucratic convenience.

The children and teenagers of New Zealand, like any nation, are an incredibly diverse group of people, with many different talents and abilities that don't reach their full potential. The only way to get pupils to shine, is to treat education as a genuine value.

Education has its greatest value at the individual level, which then rubs off on the rest of society later. How can we expect the youths of the nation to thrive, if they themselves are not taught to see it as that themselves?

The only way to do this is to, once again, get education to be a task of parents and teachers, not of bureaucrats in Wellington. In short: the government needs to butt out of educational arrangements.

So, however well intentioned and well informed National's education reform is, the government simply cannot drastically improve education levels without realising the basic truth: education, fundamentally, is a value. Until the government treats it as such, and gets its head out of bureaucrat-run doll houses known as public schools, continue to expect educational standards to fall into the abyss.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

2016 Olympics

Well, after hearing about Chicago's unsuccessful bid for the 2016 Olympics, I can't say I'm too saddened by the result.

Watching on Fox News, Chicago's presentation seemed very politically correct. If Glenn Beck's figures are anything to go by, the Olympics would've cost Chicago taxpayers a fortune over the next seven years (and for years to go afterward).

A Rio Olympics will be a lot more interesting than Olympics in any other cities that put in bids - after all, the Brazilians are known to put on a party! Of course, there would be downsides to the Rio Olympics: crime, and trying to get tourists to avoid the infamous favalas.

But the real test for Rio will be to see if they can pull it off without excessive bureaucratic pen-pushing. If they can, I might have to pack my bags!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Reply to Richard Goode

The following is an excerpt of a discussion on the Libertyloop. Although a larger variety of topics are being discussed, I decided to take issue with one particular statement by Richard Goode. Below it is my reply.

Now, from the viewpoint of our many philosophers on SOLO, I would like to get an opinion on it - especially the last part.

> > Libertarians, if they act with integrity, apply the principle of
> > non-initiation of force in their dealings with other people.
> > Libertarians who are Objectivists apply the zero aggression principle
> > because they hold that rational self-interest in the pursuit of
> > happiness is the morally correct way to behave.
> >
> But the NIOF principle doesn't follow from "rational self-interest".
> IOFIYCGAWI (initiation of force if you can get away with it) does.

Richard, Ayn Rand's metaphysics wasn't for nothing. Indeed, the most fundamental idea behind her entire philosophy is that reality cannot be faked; therefore man, in complying with his nature as a being with a conceptual consciousness, needs to develop a system of morality that recognizes this (it is also upon this principle that Ayn Rand put so much emphasis on man's ability to reason: logic, briefly, is the process of rationally identifying the world around us, through the very use of concepts).

Following from this, it is only through the application of the mind to the external world that human values can be gained (the origins of values being a topic for another time). The reason why actions such as theft, murder, etc. are contrary to Rand's morality is that they deny this principle. Rather than man depending on the use of his own mind, he is reduced to the position of a second-hander - someone who, in denying the conceptual nature of man (even if he doesn't know it consciously) declares himself unfit for genuine productivity that results from the proper use of the mind, and therefore proceeds to live off the fruits of others' labour, that being his only possible course of action.

In Randian terms, this is the ultimate form of altruism - the complete reduction of man to an complete parasite. Similarly, the differences between the Randian use of the word "altruism" and the common use of that word is a topic for another time.

Now, in response, you may say something like this:

The situation is, group A has more of something than group B. Wouldn't Group B therefore "use their minds" and go and pillage group A?

The answer of course, is no. This is because that particular situation is only peculiar to the time period it's happening in, and Group B may well become richer than Group A through perfectly rational means later on.

The conceptual nature of humans, however, is a fundamental aspect of humanity, completely regardless of who's got the bigger share of the pie. Therefore, such a statement would be trying through non-essentials, much like the people who talk about Capitalism in terms of profit and ownership, rather than the NIOF principle. It is also where the difference between the metaphysical and the man-made comes in, which is another essential part of the Objectivist philosophy.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

A Reflection on Modern Russia

The 1st September in any year ending with a nine is always a good time to look back on the war that, 64-70 years ago, claimed millions upon millions of lives. It is also a good time to analyse the thoughts about the War that come from some of its key participants. Out of those nations, the views that stand out the most is those of Russia.

At today's ceremony to commemorate the War, Putin put the blame for the War solely on the Western nations, notably Britain and the US, for making deals with Hitler that led to the start of the War. That is, of course, without mentioning the most important pact of the times - between Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. Similarly, a Russian documentary last weekend justifies Stalin's invasion of Poland by making the claim that Poland and Nazi Germany actually entered into a secret alliance. (!)

Unfortunately, too many Russians today believe in this nonsensical idea of Russian patriotism - many even look up to Stalin admirably, and use Russian actions in WWII to justify Russian imperialism today.

Which is really a sad reflection on modern Russia.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The Wonders of Road De-regulation

In response to the increasing number of traffic fatalities in this country during the year, the government has been considering the idea of raising the minimum driving age from 15 to 17, and putting in some other regulations concerning alcohol into practice.

I have a better idea. How about stripping NZ roads of most street signs, getting drivers to focus on the movements of drivers around them, rather than focusing on those signs?

This idea is called "Naked Streets", and has been tried with success in many Western countries, including the US, UK, the Netherlands and Sweden. In removing traffic signs, it successfully gets drivers to voluntarily cooperate with one another to ensure smooth traffic flow.

In those countries, the concept of shared space has been tried out alongside the "naked streets". Shared Space would work in downtown areas and suburban shopping areas where pedestrians are common sights, although for arterial routes the road does needs to be for cars to facilitate large-scale transportation. Some signs (for instance, signs signifying exits on motorways) would need to stay, but the majority (speed limits being the main example) would not.

Similarly, the give-way rules would still apply -but note that these are already used voluntarily by drivers to ensure smooth traffic flow anyway- as well as some traffic lights.

The effect of this would be to ensure that drivers are a lot more cooperative with one another one the road. Now isn't that the best way to ensure against large-scale traffic fatalities?

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Rioting in France

Hmm. Looks like the French are at it again.

A shame really, that a nation with a culture like France should fall into relapses of this violence every few years. I suppose, that's the price you pay for the society of moochers which has always been the end product of socialism.

Unfortunately, this has always gone hand-in-hand with the idea of "liberty". The combination of the two has never been pretty -case in point: the French Revolution.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

The Evil of Appeasement

Today, 6 August 2009, marks 64 years since the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

Unfortunately, the West has failed to learn the lessons of Hiroshima. Leftists everywhere use it to demonstrate the horrors of war, and talk about how great world peace would be - one of the school notices today was entitled "Pray for World Peace".

Indeed, as Ayn Rand points out, war is a terrible thing. It has taken the lives of many millions of people just over the last century, and left countless more in mourning. But what the leftists refuse to recognize is that the root of war lies in something worse than war: in statism and tyranny. When a government has declared war upon its own citizens, it is never long until the surrounding nations are next. This is the way a tyranny works: it constantly needs victims.

And this is exactly what happened in World War II. The Third Reich and Japanese Empire brought war to an unprecedented new scale throughout the world. Trying to turn a blind eye to the devastation, it took until a direct attack on American soil itself for the US to enter the war. Even then, it took the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to show the Japanese the evil of the philosophy that had grasped their nation.

What this represents, as well as military appeasement, is a far greater philosophical appeasement of tyranny; after all, military force is no use without proper philosophical backing; without the forces acting for good knowing that they're acting for good. Chamberlain's pragmatism is what allowed Hitler's Germany to take over so much of Europe so quickly. Because the ideals of the Western enlightenment were thrown into jeopardy after the First World War, for several years Germany and Japan were able to spread their Empires almost without interference, whereas before the British Empire would've intervened.

One of mankind's greatest follies is the persistent belief that evil is omnipotent; that humans are born sinners and man's natural state is that of a barbarian; that evil will always be here to stay. But evil runs at the sight of good -at forces who know that they are fighting for what's right.* Unfortunately, on August 6 1945, it took an atomic bomb to instill that message in the Japanese.

If anything, the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren't a lesson about peace, they were a lesson about the evil of appeasement.

*By this, I don't mean some fanatical suicide bomber. I mean a man who has genuine positive beliefs about his philosophy, not someone who kills out of fear from an eternal Hell or the frustration of emotions without a basis in reason.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

The "Rights" of Beneficiaries

Not surprisingly, the MSM has been all over the case recently of some (not-so) "private" information of some beneficiaries being released into the public sector by Paula Bennett. Although one lady has already realised that her little gesture actually did little to compromise her security at all, the other is still unrepentant.

What she, the public and the MSM are forgetting is that the lady in question is a beneficiary -she lives off public money that has been forcibly extracted from taxpayers. As thus, the taxpayer has the right to know about the people they're paying for!

I suggest something like this, to be available online free of charge, for every beneficiary:

marital status
no. children
which benefit they're receiving
benefit income per month
other income per month (this could be family income for stay-home mothers)
how long they've been receiving government funds.

This would not apply to pensioners, or children under the age of 18. Once an individual has stopped receiving government benefits, their information is removed from public access. Although the information will allow taxpayers to see how their money is being spent, it will not compromise the security of the beneficiaries.

The database will not include money for tax rebates.

Any beneficiary complaining about the new system will be told that they're receiving public funds; the taxpayer has the right to know who they're paying for, and make decisions accordingly.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Videos on the Stimulus

(Hat tip Not PC and Shane Pleasance for links)

Now that the TARP (Toxic Assets Relief Programme) in the US has cost over $27 trillion (according to the inspector-general for the programme), now seems a good time to post some videos on the subject -they often explain more than many essays.

Here's what 1 trillion (let alone 27 trillion) can buy (sorry for the size):

Here's how the thing started in the first place (although it probably doesn't stress the governmental role as much as it should:

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Ben Bernanke's superb foresight:

And last but not least, Ron Paul in the US Senate, who's currently trying to pass a bill to audit the Federal Reserve.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Rating the World's Tourists

Now for a bit of lighter news: according to a new study by the world's hotel industry, the French have been ranked the world's worst tourists. Meanwhile, the Japanese have been ranked tops, followed by British tourists (which may come as a bit of a surprise!)

40,000 hotels from around the world participated in the survey. Rounding out the top 10 were:

1) Japanese
2) British
3) Canadians
4) Germans
5) Swiss
6) Dutch
6) Australians
8) Swedish
8) Americans
10) Danes

Meanwhile, us Kiwis were in the middle of the pack, tied 14th with Austrians. The 5 worst were:

22) South Africans (tied with the Poles)
24) Turkish
24) Greeks
26) Spanish
27) French

Given the usual stereotypes, I was surprised to find the British, Americans and Australians up there. Nothing else really surprises me, although perhaps the hotels surveyed were a bit mean on the French -most French tourists in downtown Wellington, for instance, seem perfectly fine.


Saturday, 11 July 2009

Skyscrapers: American International Building

Few people know of the American International Building -one of New York's tallest skyscrapers. Yet as well as being one of the foremost Gothic skyscrapers in New York the American International Building (AIB, for short) underwent fierce competition in the early 1930s to gain the title of New York's tallest with the Chrysler Building (only for both to be outdone by the Empire State Building, which was completed in record time. The AIB was the last skyscraper in New York to be completed before the Second World War, and was the tallest in downtown Manhattan until the completion of the World Trade Center in the 1970s. Since 9/11, it has regained that title.

The AIB is 290 metres tall, or 952 feet, and contains 66 floors, with 36 elevators. It was one of the first buildings in the world that was built with double-decker elevators, but due to low popularity these were scraped by the building's owners. Although originally owned by the Cities Service Company, the building is now owned by AIG and is in the process of being sold again.

Monday, 6 July 2009

The Place of Principals

As a consequence of the National Government’s policy to publicly display school performance data, hundreds of New Zealand Primary School Principals are threatening to boycott literacy and numeracy standards.

As a Libertarian and Objectivist, of course I do not support the governmental interference with matters that rightly belong to schools, teachers, students and parents. But as it stands we are stuck with government’s foot firmly in the door, and millions of taxpayer dollars go to fund primary schools.

As a result, those principals threatening to boycott the standards are public servants –the public has the right to know how good our schools are, as we are paying for them! The taxpayer is their benefactor, so principals have a duty to release information about school performance publicly. Of course, the information doesn't tell all details about every aspect of schooling -but the use of it is at the discretion of parents, not principals.

In a free market for education, principals would reserve the right to release information about their schools. But in a competitive marketplace, it would be a wise decision to release information, to be better able to compete for students and the business they bring. But as parents are forced, through no choice of their own, to fund schooling whether they like it or not, it is their right to choose the best school for their children.

Luckily, Education Minister Anne Tolley believes that parents do have a right to know how about school performance. But principals, in a taxpayer-funded education system, need to remember their place as servants of the public, not masters of their children.


Happy B-Day America!

On July 4, many millions of Americans, as well as many others around the world, gather in a spectacular display of solidarity to celebrate the world's first -and only- nation conceived and built on the idea of individual rights and freedoms.

The American Founding Fathers envisaged a nation where, following enlightenment philosophy, people were in control of their government which was solely dedicated to the protection of their rights -not the other way around, which is commonly accepted nowadays. In doing so, they laid the foundations for two centuries of unprecedented human development.

Of course, America (like all other nations) has its share of problems, and the out-of-control government that now resides there is certainly not what the founding fathers had in mind (except, maybe, for Alexander Hamilton). Yet, think of how much poorer the world would be without American minds in science, philosophy, arts, and literature.

So, without further adieu, a happy belated birthday to the nation that, not without reason, is indeed the greatest. The challenge now is keeping to the magnificent legacy that the founding fathers created.

Friday, 3 July 2009

One Year On

Finally, something good comes out of Washington DC: just one year after District of Columbia vs. Heller, DC homicides are on track to reach their lowest levels since 1964 -before the ban came into effect.

The Washington Post reports that DC had 66 homicides during the first half of the year, down from over 80 this time last year. If the trend continues, DC should report about 130-135 homicides for the year - well down from 189 last year, as well as the 494 back in 1991.

Perhaps, critics may argue that it is too early to tell if Heller vs. District of Columbia has finally turned DC's murder rate on its head. Nevertheless, the early signs do look promising.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Michael Jackson's Death

Although, of course, the world is shocked at Michael Jackson's death (and news of it spread like wildfire), judging by the state he was in it shouldn't come as a great surprise. If he hadn't died now, certainly the 50 concerts would've put him over the edge.

Nevertheless, all his personal problems aside, he was certainly one of the most important musical figures of the 20th Century. He was extremely influential for people born ever since the 1950s (!), and even though Thriller, for instance, came out over 10 years before the birth of most people at my school, it wasn't uncommon to hear it being sung, or played on phones and I-Pods.

It's easy to see why many people are upset over his death. However, life will always go on, even without our best and brightest.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Open University for Maori?

From the same people talking about the horrid amount of racism that exists in New Zealand society, comes this: no need to have any qualifications to get into University! Unless, of course, you're anything other than Maori.

This is also the same group of people who talk about how they're better than everybody else in New Zealand, because they're "tangata whenua"; essentially, mysticism justifying racism. Somehow, being the first people to migrate here means you deserve more rights than everyone else.

Similarly, they support segregation of seats in Parliament, based on race. A policy that Nelson Mandela may have abhorred, but apparently it's okay because of... skin colour.

The fact of the matter is, you simply can not choose your race, ethnicity, or skin colour. This is a fact that the majority of New Zealanders seem to have grasped by now. Therefore, we should be calling the "tangata whenua" of the Maori Party what they really are:


Allowing access to University based on race: racist. Discussing how much better your race is over others, due to mysticism: racist. Supporting seats segregated on the basis of race in Parliament: racist.

Indeed, this group thinks based on lines of race. According to them, if an idea is in support of racial equality by not granting preference to people based on race, it's racist. There does not have to be any objective means of proving the racism; this is the absurdity of thinking in terms of race.

Therefore, I think the Maori Party needs to be branded for what it is, once and for all: racist. It can be denied, but the basic truth behind their rhetoric cannot be hidden.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Iranian Elections

It looks like Ahmedinejad has won.

This election reminded me of a book I read recently -"The Future of Freedom", by Fareed Zakaria, which talks about how liberalism (the rule of law, free markets, free speech, etc) leads to democracy, but how democratic elections in countries without those institutions often leads to dictatorship and the complete abrogation of rights.

Ever since the Iranian election and the rise of Islamic theology, this has been the case in Iran. In times gone by, I've posted pictures here of Iranians accused of being homosexuals being hanged, not an uncommon practise in Iran. The West needs to learn that the rise of Islamic ideology in Iran has led to this, and the continuing descent into absolute dictatorship in that nation.

Zakaria talks about how liberal institutions can act as a deterrant to the rise of extreme Islamism. Although in the short term this can be true, the introduction -by some miracle, no doubt- of liberal institutions in Iran would simply be showing a practical side to Persia. But at the end of the day, Islamic extremism will rise again -no country can be based on a contradiction for too long, and as political institutions merely express an underlying philosophy, they will be the ones to lose out.

This is what I fear is happening in the West, and Western intellectuals need to take note: with the philosophy of altruism still present in every part of Western society (art, politics, and religion being just a few examples), the West is also based on a contradiction, which has nearly spelt its end, in World War II, for instance. Although we are lucky to have survived for so long, we need to be very cautious, especially with economic crisis on our hands, where we tread.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Labour Can't Talk

With all the hoo-hah over a rather unknown politician (Richard Worth), it is unexpected that Labour should jump on the bandwagon, to discuss the "corruption" and "hypocrisy" of the National Government.

But while I am not a great fan of the eternally Labour-lite National Government, for a party that deliberately overspent nearly a million dollars on pledge cards during the 2005 election and decided to change the law to make it all legal, the Labour Party is hardly in the good book when it comes to political honesty.

After all, this situation involves the private situation of one MP; not only did the pledge cards use money from public coffers, it was an out-and-out political affair.

Perhaps Labour should keep its mouth shut, lest memories of the controversy surrounding their use of finances during that election come back to haunt them.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

An Irony of Sorts

The Green Party has elected Metiria Turei as their number two -the lesser of two evils, as her rival was Sue Bradford, of Anti-Smacking Bill fame. In response, Tariana Turia, the Maori Party leader, has called the election of a Maori women to the post "a political coup".

Meanwhile, in Porirua, a suburb close to where I live filled with state housing and mongrel mob members on what could've been the prime suburb of New Zealand, we have an arena named after local Maori murderer Te Rauparaha, and no one raises an eyebrow.

Perhaps the real coup would be deliberately naming a new town or infrastructure (an arena, maybe) after, say, William Gladstone. Maori chiefs can do no wrong, surely?