Sunday, May 29, 2016

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Matt Ridley: Genetic modification of plants is safe and good for the planet

The exhaustive and cautious new report from the American National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine leaves no room for doubt that genetically engineered crops are as safe or safer, and are certainly better for the environment, than conventionally bred crops.

The European Union was wrong to reject them 25 years ago and is wrong to continue rejecting this beneficial technology. The European Commission conceded in 2010 that GM crops are not per se more risky than, for example, conventional plant-breeding technologies, but still makes it all but impossible to grow them.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Frank Newman: Budget 2016

Budget 2016 was safe and predictable, pretty much like the persona of Finance Minister, Bill English. This is the eight budget Bill English has delivered.

Some say his budgets lack vision. It may be true to say they lack excitement but it's not fair to say they lack vision. His long-term objective is very clear, it's just that it happens to be a vision that most people don't get excited about.  His goal is to have net debt down to 20% of annual GDP (gross domestic product - the value of goods produced by our economy) by 2020. That net debt is forecast to peak at 25.6% of GDP next year and drop below 20% by 2020/21.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Viv Forbes: The Real Energy Deniers

When man first appeared on Earth he had no implements, no clothes, no farms and no mineral fuels – his only tools were his brains, hands and muscles. Everything that enables mankind to live comfortably in a world where nature is indifferent to our survival has been discovered, invented, mined or created by our inventive ancestors over thousands of years.

The history of civilisation is essentially the story of man’s progressive access to more efficient, more abundant and more reliable energy sources - from ancestral human muscles to modern nuclear power.

Matt Ridley: Why eugenics won't come back

This summer brings the 50th anniversary of the full deciphering of the genetic code — the four-billion-year-old cipher by which DNA’s information is translated and expressed — and the centenary of the birth of Francis Crick, who both co-discovered the existence of that code and dominated the subsequent 13-year quest to understand it. Europe’s largest biomedical laboratory, named after him, opens this summer opposite St Pancras station.

At a seminar to mark Crick’s centenary at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, hosted by his famous collaborator Jim Watson, I argued that the genetic code was the greatest of all the 20th-century’s scientific discoveries. It came out of the blue and has done great good. It solved the secret of life, till then an enigma: living things are defined by the eternal replication of linear digital messages. It revealed that all life shares the same universal but arbitrary genetic code, and therefore shares common ancestry, vindicating Charles Darwin.

Brian Gaynor: Winners and losers in the generation game

The New Zealand workforce is changing rapidly.

Over the past 20 years there has been a massive 488 per cent increase in the number of those aged 65 years and over in employment, from 23,800 to 139,090, while there has been a mere 7 per cent increase in the number of employed 15 to 24-year-olds, from 324,200 to 347,700.

These trends, which are expected to continue, are having a big impact on the financial positions of our older and younger generations.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mike Butler: Pimping homelessness

Regular as clockwork, as the first chilly nights roll around every year the mainstream media binge-laments either child poverty, killer rental properties, or this year, homelessness. If you look at the scanty data, these stories are pimping homelessness, making it more impressive than it actually is.

For instance, the only figure cited in this latest round of handwringing came from Prime Minister John Key, who said just over 400 people went to Work and Income saying they were homeless in March. (1)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Gerry Eckhoff: Recovering Mayors

The Mayor of New Plymouth Andrew Judd’s choice of words in defining himself as a “recovering” racist is cute, somewhat unusual but entirely his to make. Mr Judd’s mistake however was to describe and imply his personal opinions are indicative of what he assumes are also the racist opinions of the wider public or indeed councils on Maoridom throughout New Zealand. 

He appears not to understand that what is actually at stake here is the relationship between the public's widespread and long standing acceptance of one person one vote and the erosion of that fundamental principle by appointed representatives based on ethnicity. It has also been reported that Judd wanted half his council to be Maori as of right which could well be offensive to many Maori who may wish to stand as a ratepayer - not defined by race, cultural or any historical grievance or connection.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Matt Ridley from the UK: Broadband will drive a rural revival

Compared with most countries, Britain has a fairly healthy rural economy. Barns have been converted into homes or offices rather than left to tumble down, as in parts of France. Remote areas have job vacancies in picturesque villages, rather than drug problems amid piles of dead cars, as in parts of America. The demand for second homes in St Ives and the lack of affordable housing in villages (both in the news these past few weeks) are the result of too much demand for rural assets, not too little.

Yet there is now a golden opportunity to make the rural economy work even better, to make the countryside an engine of growth rather than a theme park and retirement community — and without spoiling it. That opportunity’s name is broadband. The government’s sudden decision to stop rolling fast broadband out for the last 5 per cent of people is madness.

Lindsay Mitchell: Unemployment rate - how NZ stacks up

The unemployment rate rose slightly from 5.4 to 5.7 in the march quarter. I have only just had chance to look at the tables. What interested me most was the global situation.

That wonderful semi-socialist paradise of Scandinavia  has only one country with a better unemployment rate than NZ - Norway. Denmark is just behind on 5.8; Sweden trails with 7.1 and Finland tails with 9.2 percent.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mike Butler: The Waikato River taniwha tax

A taniwha tax, indigenous to New Zealand, describes payments to tribal groups to make demands disappear. A closer look at the Waikato River Five Year Report 2015 shows that 44 percent of clean-up funding went as payments to five tribes that claim deep connection to the river.

This report details $22-million worth of funding to 170 clean-up projects and also contains the Report Card that gave the catchment a C+ rating, as reported in Waikato River clean-up awaitedl

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Richard Epstein: The Hidden Virtues Of Income Inequality

There is little doubt that income inequality is one of the great issues of our time. A new front has opened in the battle over whether the richer and the poorer should have differential access to various forms of common facilities.

The New York Times recently ran a front-page exposé of segregation by wealth in the booming cruise business. The article, by Nelson Schwartz, was entitled “In an Age of Privilege, Not Everyone Is in the Same Boat.” 

Richard Rahn: The High Cost of Slander

Endless cruelties have been and continue to be committed on the basis of group slander. The communists and socialists imprisoned and slaughtered many of their merchant and property-owning citizens on the basis of a gross slander, not to mention what the Nazis did to the Jews. In America, blacks, gays, many ethnic groups and women were first stereotyped, then slandered, and then discriminated against. 

But the fashion of which groups of individuals can be slandered has changed to such people as Wall Street bankers; pharmaceutical, coal and oil company executives; conservative scholars; those who question the global warming establishment; and white males, among others.

Matt Ridley: The many attempts to stifle free speech on climate change

The editor of The Times newspaper received a private letter last week from Lord Krebs and 12 other members of the House of Lords expressing unhappiness with two articles by its environment correspondent. Conceding that The Times’s reporting of the Paris climate conference had been balanced and comprehensive, it denounced the two articles about studies by mainstream academics in the scientific literature, which provided less than alarming assessments of climate change.

Strangely, the letter was simultaneously leaked to The Guardian. The episode gives a rare glimpse into the world of “climate change communications”, a branch of heavily funded spin-doctoring that is keen to shut down debate about the science of climate change.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Frank Newman: Property prosperity and interest rates

The NZ Herald recently ran an interesting article about a young lady from Auckland, who despite the stories of housing un-affordability has, at the age of just 24, managed to own a property in Auckland and a bach in Pauanui (a swanky beach resort on the Coromandel).

How did she do that? " wasn't having rich parents that got her there - she's worked since she was 13, sacrificed nights out and saved like crazy."

The back story is interesting, but essentially it comes down to a strong work ethic, and a commitment to saving.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Barend Vlaardingerbroek: The nebulous right of self-determination

All peoples have the right of self-determination.  By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
  Article 1.1 of both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966.

Mike Butler: Water claimants fight themselves

Over the past few months, Keep Water Kiwi campaigners have been treated to the spectacle of water claimants fighting among themselves -- in this case both the New Zealand Maori Council and Ngai Tahu.

Over the past two weeks, the High Court was used to resolve a leadership dispute at the Maori Council and Ngai Tahu leader Sir Mark Solomon resigned in face of a no-confidence motion.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Matt Ridley: Bourgeois Equality

It took me two months to read this 650-page, small-type book, Deirdre McCloskey's feast of words on the "great enrichment", Bourgeois Equality, the third volume in a trilogy. In that time I read several other books, absorbing Bourgeois Equality in small doses on trains, ships, Tubes, sofas and beds. If that sounds like faint praise, it’s not. I wanted to savour every sentence of this remarkable feast of prose.

It is a giant of a book about a giant of a topic: the “great enrichment” of humanity over the past 300 years. It is so rich in vocabulary, allusion and fact as to be a contender for the great book of our age.

Stephen Franks: Aus research says bigger not better in local government – will business leaders notice?

Do mergers make for better councils? The evidence is against ‘bigger is better’ for local government“. That’s how The Conversation on 31 March summarised some unequivocal Australian research findings.

They confirm just how lucky Wellington region, Hawkes Bay and Northland were to dodge the amalgamation bullets prepared by the nobs of New Zealand local government, and recent Ministers. The Australian research is consistent with international evidence reviewed by economist Phil Barry of TDB Advisory before his advice confirmed for Hutt City Council that resisting amalgamation was in the interests of their city and ratepayers.

Karl du Fresne: Trump vs Clinton - a democratic malfunction?

You have to say this much for Donald Trump: no aspirant for political office in America has created so much interest in distant New Zealand.

In fact you’d probably have to go as far back as 1964, to the contest between Lyndon Johnson and his arch-conservative Republican rival Barry Goldwater, to find a US presidential election that aroused more interest worldwide. Trump can take credit for that, if nothing else.

Mike Butler: Work risk grossly exaggerated

A current work safely television advertisement campaign claims that last year there were 23,000 deaths and serious injuries in New Zealand when the actual figure is 450.

Wellington risk specialist Ian Harrison smelt a rat when he saw the adverts so reviewed the evidence to find that the claims were grossly exaggerated. He filed a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority.