Saturday, October 31, 2015

Matt Ridley from the UK: The benefits of carbon dioxide

France’s leading television weather forecaster, Philippe Verdier, was taken off air last week for writing that there are “positive consequences” of climate change. Freeman Dyson, professor emeritus of mathematical physics and astrophysics at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, declared last week that the non-climatic effects of carbon dioxide are “enormously beneficial”. Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace, said in a lecture last week that we should “celebrate carbon dioxide”.

Are these three prominent but very different people right?

Richard Rahn from Cato: Destroying the Economy in Order to Save It

If  one phrase encapsulated the Vietnam War, it was this: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” Those in the political class in Washington have learned nothing, but perhaps more accurately, many don’t care if their policy proposals and actions cause more misery than benefit.

On Sept. 29, Congress held a hearing on the rules proposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that would likely destroy much of the small-dollar loan industry and drive many low-income and poor credit-risk people into the arms of loan sharks.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Bruce Moon: Rangiaowhia incident

As long ago as 1815, J L Nicholas observed that "amongst the moral vices to which many of the New Zealanders are prone, may be reckoned the odious practice of lying, in which they too frequently indulge ... [it is]seldom of a harmless nature ... to serve their own interested purposes".[i]

There is much evidence to show that today, two hundred years later, the same practice continues.  The Tainui tribes are one such source, a 2014 example under the heading "The Latest Tainui news from Eraka's Blog" being the following.

Mike Butler: Keep the flag flying

A country’s flag is not a branding logo to be changed every generation, according to publisher John McLean in his 20-page booklet titled Keep the flag flying.

McLean, who has written several books on New Zealand history and was an officer with the Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve, is adamant that a country’s flag is an enduring symbol of an enduring nation.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Gerry Eckhoff: Climate Change Lecture

The recent lecture by Sir Geoffrey Palmer on climate change held at Otago University does highlight some rather interesting issues. It also appears that scorn and derision inevitably follow a question from any intrepid soul brave enough challenge the latest circulating theory on climate change.

The venerable Sir Geoffrey is something of an authority on NZ constitutional law and related legal matters. It is a rather heroic assumption however that his status within the legal profession qualifies him to deliver an address at the University as any sort of authority on the environmental science of climate change.

Matt Ridley from the UK: Some policies to fight climate change have done more harm than good

The Volkswagen testing scandal exposes rotten corruption at the core of regulation. Far from ushering in a brave new world of cleaner air, the technologies adopted by European car makers, driven by policy makers in Brussels, have been killing thousands of people a year through an obsession with lowering emissions of harmless carbon dioxide, at the expense of creating higher emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides.

There is a lesson here that goes much wider than the car industry, the clean-air debate and even the regulation of business. The scandal is a symptom of the political world’s obsession with directing and commanding change, rather than encouraging it to evolve.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Karl du Fresne: A light-bulb moment in Arkaroola

Years ago, I watched a rugby league test on TV in a remote tourist spot in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia. The match was between the Kiwis and the Wallabies and I suspect I was the only New Zealander among the 20 or so people in the TV lounge.

When the Kiwis scored, I couldn’t help letting out a triumphant whoop. It was probably not a smart thing to do.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Karl du Fresne: At least he's consistently barmy

Jeremy Corbyn, the recently elected leader of the British Labour Party, has been described as a throwback to 1970s-style socialism. He even looks like one, his face being adorned with what one commentator described as a 1960s political beard.  
You could describe him as the accidental leader. When his name was put forward, few people took his bid seriously. His 32 years in Parliament were distinguished only by his record of voting against his own party whenever it deviated from cloth-cap leftist orthodoxy.

Matt Ridley from the UK: How to cure old age itself

Squeezed between falling birth rates and better healthcare, the world population is getting rapidly older. Learning how to deal with that is one of the great challenges of this century. The World Health Organisation has just produced a report on the implications of an ageing population, which — inadvertently — reveals a dismal fatalism we share about the illnesses of old age: that they will always be inevitable.

This could soon be wrong. A new book, The Telomerase Revolution, published in America this week by the doctor and medical researcher Michael Fossel, argues that we now understand enough about the fundamental cause of ageing to be confident that we will eventually be able to reverse it. This would mean curing diseases such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease and osteoporosis, rather than coping with them or treating their symptoms.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Brian Gaynor: How KiwiSavers react to a market downturn

There have been a large number of letters in the media over recent weeks from concerned KiwiSaver investors. These investors are worried about the downturn in the world’s equity markets and the impact this will have on their portfolios.

Comments include; “we are a bit concerned we’ve bitten off more risk than we can chew”, “we have some concern about our KiwiSaver accounts”, “why would I not change to a lower-risk fund now, before the market truly takes a beating?” and we want “the flexibility to move into cash quickly when the market takes a dive”.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Rick Caddick: Rates - the Elephant in the Room

Criticism of the property based rating system has become more intense in recent times, as rate demands have outstripped the cost of living, wage increases, and inflation.  But criticism of the system dates back to the 1930s. 

The late Sir Ross Jansen, probably New Zealand’s most experienced and knowledgeable authority on local government, for a long time advocated for the abolition of rates, which he described as “antiquated – long past their use-by date – unfair and unpopular, hurting the elderly and those families on low incomes.”

Lindsay Mitchell: Paying out benefit-liability $ to Tuhoe

MSD has released a commissioned report about decentralising welfare to Tuhoe.
"Tūhoe is a relatively young population with high levels of unemployment, welfare dependency and low incomes....
In 2011 the Crown entered into a relationship agreement with Tūhoe in which it acknowledged the mana motuhake of Tūhoe and its aspirations to self-govern. Tūhoe have their  aspirations to become independent of the Government, generate its own revenue and become self-sustaining. MSD has asked whether or not it is feasible to transfer a portion of the Crown’s liability to Tūhoe."

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Richard Rahn from the Cato Institute: Hillarynomics

If Hillary Clinton were to be elected president, what economic policies would she propose and what would be the effect on the economy? To try to get an answer, I have looked at her statements, her campaign website, and her Senate record.

Mrs. Clinton has recognized the major economic problem of slow growth and stagnant incomes, and her economic platform is called, “A plan to raise American incomes.”

Richard Epstein from the US: The Economic Fantasies Of Robert Reich

The United States has seen better days. The political and economic fabric of the country is unraveling, yet there is little agreement about how best to move the country forward.

My own position has long been that the culprits of slow growth and social discontent are the increased levels of taxation and regulation that suck the productive lifeblood out of society. That position today is in the minority. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Richard Rahn: Why Estonia Is a Country for the Future

Estonia is arguably the most advanced country in the world when it comes to use of the Internet and related technologies. Estonia is a most improbable success, in that a mere quarter of a century ago it was still under domination of the Soviet Union as a very poor backwater on the Baltic Sea. Now it is a developed country and a member of both the EU and NATO.

Estonia is a Scandinavia country, having been part of the German-led Hanseatic League, and was ruled by Denmark, then Sweden, and then Russia beginning in 1721. In 1918, it received its independence, only to be invaded by the Soviet Union in 1940. The Germans kicked out the Soviets in 1941, but then the Soviets reoccupied Estonia in 1944 until it again achieved its independence in 1991 after the “singing revolution.” Tallinn is only 43 miles from Helsinki, Finland, to which it is connected by a high-speed hydrofoil and other ships.

Matt Ridley from the UK: Charities in need of reform

David Cameron, luxuriating in the prospect of weak opposition, has a chance to think about radical reform of both the private and public sectors. But there is a third sector that requires his attention even more urgently. He is well known to want to harness the generosity of Britain. To do that effectively the charity sector needs some big thinking — because after decades of regulatory neglect it is starting to unravel and is in crisis.

The collapse of Kids Company and the British Association for Adoption and Fostering should ring alarm bells throughout the sector: fear of failure or takeover is one of the things that keep private companies effective and, for too long, charities have not felt that breath on their neck. They have been given the benefit of the doubt because of their noble intent.

Frank Newman: Rateable valuations

Within the next few weeks property owners will be receiving their new rateable valuations in the mail. It’s an exercise carried out by Quotable Value (QV) that happens in the Whangarei district every three years, solely for the purposes of establishing how much you pay in rates, relative to other property owners in the district.

Relative is the key word because it’s the local politicians that set the total amount of rates collected, but it’s the valuation that determines how much of that burden falls upon each individual property owner. Here’s a simple example to explain.

Brian Gaynor: Silver Fern Shareholders risk being shanghaied

The Notice of Meeting and Independent Report for the acquisition of 50 per cent of Silver Fern Farms by Shanghai Maling are revealing. The documents clearly show that the banks are playing a major role in the transaction and the shareholders’ agreement has a number of features that could be extremely disadvantageous to New Zealand shareholders.

First, a recap.

Silver Fern Farms Limited, which is 100 per cent owned by Silver Fern Farms Co-operative, is New Zealand’s largest livestock processing company with turnover in excess of $2 billion per annum.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Karl du Fresne: The strangely liberating experience of receiving money you haven't earned

I recently passed a personal milestone. I became a superannuitant. This entitles me to a Super Gold card and all the public transport perks that go with it.
A friend of mine, obviously with far too much time on his hands, worked out that I could travel from my home in the Wairarapa to Waiheke Island for $49. This would involve catching an off-peak train to Wellington, getting on a bus to Wellington Airport – all for nothing – then catching a cheap Jetstar flight to Auckland.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Frank Newman: Loopy rules

Local Government Minister, Paula Bennett, is tackling what she calls loopy rules and has set up a Rules Reduction Taskforce to look into the matter. It's appropriate that a review into loopy rules should be led by the Minister of Local Government, given it seems to be the source of many dumber than  dumb rules.

Here's a case in point, as reported by the Nelson Mail. It involves the Nelson City Council and a fence building property owner. To most people the fence looks like an ordinary fence, about 1.8 metres high with wooden palings, the sort you buy from your local DIY store.

Michael Gousmett: Ngai Tahu’s Charitable Status as a Land-Dealing Property Developer

The Press of 3 October carried yet another story on Ngai Tahu’s continuing successes, this time focussing on its property developments at Wigram Skies, the former air force base. 

The CEO of Ngai Tahu Property Limited, Tony Sewell, in responding to people who criticise Ngai Tahu’s income tax exempt status as a charity, stated that he thinks that Maori in New Zealand are easy to criticise for being successful, and in so doing misses the point altogether.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Richard Rahn from the Cato institute: A Nation Worth Emulating

Zurich, Switzerland — When you think of Switzerland what comes to mind? Beautiful lakes surrounded by the Alps; a rich country with happy people; the home of milk chocolate, expensive watches and discrete bankers; a peaceful country that has not been at war in more than two centuries?

All that is true, and even more. Switzerland is at or near the top of almost every measure of a successful country, including the just released Human Freedom Index complied by the Cato and Fraser Institutes, and others.

Matt Ridley: Genetics is good for you

Fifteen years after the first sequencing of the human genome, the genetic engineering of human beings is getting closer. Will that mean designer babies and the rich winning life’s lotteries from the start? And will we ever stop this slither down the slippery slope to playing God? My answers are: no, and I hope not. 

Despite dire predictions, almost nothing but good has come from genetic technology so far, and we’ve proved that we don’t slip down such slopes: we tread carefully.  The current excitement is over gene editing. A precise way of doing this, called CRISPR-cas9, is all the rage among the white-coated pipette-users. 

Barend Vlaardingerbroek: Polygamy’s prospects in Western society

One of the ‘slippery slope’ arguments often put forward by people opposed to same-sex marriage is that it will open the floodgates to other unorthodox marriage practices. “First, same-sex marriage; next, polygamy” is a dire warning we have all come across (probably many times). 

But what is the connection between the two? Frankly, there isn’t one.