Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Prices are stable?

 

The idea of a general price level is as stupid as the idea that inflating credit and the money supply with it doesn’t create inflation, yet the ‘Consumer Price Index’ that measures this imaginary figure has achieved virtual Holy Writ status, and is written into laws, contracts, and payment plans.

For Ludwig Von Mises, any decent analysis of this “inflation figure” would begin by “decomposing” the so-called macroenomic aggregates “into their micro-economic components by rigorously analysing the ‘transmission mechanism’ of a monetary injection.’”

But this is precisely what mainstream commentators wish to avoid. It would demand they recognise that the figure itself is illusory, and their practice credit injection damaging.

Let’s see what the aggregate figure of the general price level hides:

INflation1

Quite some disparity, eh?

Anybody who thinks there is such a thing as a single inflation figure should be warned. And anyone who reifies it should not be in charge of a baked bean, let alone of being any kind of bean counter. Especially one who constantly “warns” that we have no inflation in New Zealand.

The big lesson, as Hayek once explained: “Mr Keynes’s aggregates hide all the mechanics of change.” In this case, of destructive change.

There’s another important lesson to draw here. The items below the “index bar” all represent the result of of invention, of innovation, of productivity—of everything that makes real wages higher – of the Hank Rearden effect that makes prosperity more widespread and abundant -- all the things the central banks rely on to keep their own phony inflation figure down while their monetary inflation goes through the roof, all while screwing the Hank Reardens around.

Whereas the items in the top of the index bar represent things that the government subsidises, or heavily regulates.

Mind you, the graph is only for the US, although doing one for NZ would look very much the same.

And just to make ours more realistic, I added in the results of our rampant house-price inflation (taken from REINZ figures). Which puts a whole lot of things in perspective, don’t you think?

INflation2.

[Hat tip Catallaxy Files]

A little sense from Greens, a lot of nonsense from Little

 

I’m a little late in giving full credit here, and I doubt we’d agree on how it should or might be done, but for a politician Greens’s co-leaderene Metiria Turei shows more sense on this than many others in saying:

AUCKLAND HOUSE PRICES HAVE T0 DROP 50 PERCENT – GREENS

That would take them back to around 2009 levels. Hardly killing. And down to just five times median incomes instead of ten. Still not completely in the “affordable” bracket, but a good start.

"Auckland house prices should be deliberately reduced by up to 50 percent over a period of time to make the market affordable again, Greens co-leader Metiria Turei says. The average house price in Auckland has risen to nearly $1 million, or 10 times the median household income. Ms Turei said the only way to reverse that was to slowly bring prices back down to three or four times the median household income….

Mind you, like all the other politicians, she has no solution to do that.

She told Morning Report the Green Party was considering what timeframe would work without crashing the market and hurting people who already owned homes. "The only way to prevent a bust, and to protect families in the short and long term is to lay out a comprehensive plan, which means using every comprehensive tool that we've got so that we can slowly bring down house prices so that they're reasonable."

How? With a comprehensive plan using every comprehensive tool. Wow.

Sounds like a non-plan.

The Auckland Council's chief economist had suggested bringing prices down to five times the median household income by 2030, she said.

Yes, he did. Mind you, he had a few solutions too.

Labour leader Andrew Little said Ms Turei's declaration that Auckland house prices should be deliberately reduced was irresponsible.

It’s irresponsible to say houses should be affordable? What a prick.

There was no way a Labour-led government would consider the idea, he said.

There’s no way Labour would consider the idea of making housing affordable? What a dick.

"We have a very clear plan. It's not about crashing house prices. It's about stabilising prices.

So what the hell does that mean. Dick.

"We don't want to cause undue economic harm to those who - in good faith - have bought homes, entered into mortgages. That's not a responsible approach." Labour and the Greens recently struck a co-operation agreement, including a no-surprises policy.

It’s probably no surprise to the Greens that Little is a dick. So that’s fine.

Ms Turei said a more comprehensive capital gains tax, restricting property purchases to permanent residents and citizens, and removing tax exemptions were also needed to cool the property market.

Mind you, it’s no surprise either that the Greens’s way to fix the intersection of three most regulated parts of the country with more regulation. And more tax.

Ms Turei said the government was not admitting there was a problem with housing prices, let alone putting in place a plan to deal with it to protect families.

And that much is true.

Mr Little said a Labour-led government would build affordable housing, as outlined in recent policy announcements.

And that much is untrue, because their plan involves being able to build each stage by making profits from each earlier stage – but with costs as they are those profits are as illlusory as their plan. In short, their affordable housing plan is literally unaffordable. Mind you, if they were to make it work, if they were to achieve the impossible, it would do more than just “stabilise” prices now. It would also help build the slums of tomorrow.

What’s wrong with just taking off the vice grips and letting folk build how and where they want. That’s not just one plan, that’s a hundred-thousand plans.

And what’s wrong with a liltle churn? It makes better houses as well as it makes good butter.

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No, don’t free Anjem Choudary

 

Arsehole2
Free Anjem Choudary? No, let’s not.

 

Here’s how not to defend free speech: by defending the jailing of “Islamist hothead” Anjen Choudhary – that “Bin Laden without the balls.” Spiked’s Brendan O’Neill, now on a tour of Australia and often quoted here, argues that “he’s repulsive, but he shouldn’t be sent to prison.”

What Choudhary dreams of doing — smashing freedom of thought and demanding conformity to his ideology — is done by the British state to him. In seeking to solve the Choudary problem, we become like Choudary:.

This is errant nonsense.

Yes, O’Neill is right that we shouldn’t have people arrested simply because they’re odious. And he’s very right that Choudary’s arrest and conviction now is largely “a displacement activity, a legalistic performance of toughness against the problem of Islamist extremism in place of any serious ideas for how to confront the growing influence of such anti-Western, anti-liberal ideas among young Muslims, and others”:

How much easier it is to hold up the likes of Choudary as infectors of minds than it is to ask what it is about 21st-century Britain that means a significant number of our young people can be drawn to profoundly unenlightened thought. The showy conviction of Choudary, ridiculously branded ‘the most dangerous man in Britain’, is a sad stand-in for tackling the crisis of British values and liberal thought, which is so strong that we’re losing — rather than Choudary actually winning — young people to a depressing, death cult creed.

The death cult Choudary supports exists in a vacuum created by the west itself – Islam always has. Choudary’s gleeful sponging on British taxpayers is almost a metaphor for how Islam has always survived and flourished, right from when it first began. He’s a parasite, as his religion always has been. As O’Neill identifies so well, Choudary and his fellow creatures are not winning young peope to their nihilistic stone-age cause, the west is generally losing them by failing to fully uphold, defend and identify its own founding values.

We do love life as they love death, but you wouldn’t know it from all the cringing. Getting up of our own knees would be a good way to begin fighting back against the death cult.

But it’s not true anyway that Choudary was guilty only of loose lips.  Like other cowardly inciters of the suicide killings they might have done themselves but didn’t, Choudary was fully implicated in mass murder. Writes Maajid Nawaz, who has followed his career for years, this jihadi joke was in reality a terrorist mastermind:

Over the course of his 20-year jihadist freefall, Anjem’s group al-Muhajiroun and its “Sharia For…” offshoots have been deemed responsible for half of all U.K. terrorist attacks. Anjem himself has been directly linked to the RAF Lakenheath plot, to radicalising Jihadi John’s British successor Siddhartha Darr, the Anzac Day plot in Australia, the plot to behead a British soldier, the murder of drummer Lee Rigby at Woolwich in London, the Royal Wooten Basset plot, the London Stock Exchange Plot, and suicide bomber Omar Khan Sharif’s 2003 attack in Tel Aviv. Anjem has also been indirectly linked to London’s 7/7 bombings, the shoe bomber, the ricin plot, the fertilizer bomb plot, the dirty bomb plot, and the Transatlantic bomb plot.
   Around 6,000 European citizens don’t just get up out of a vacuum
and leave to join the worst terrorist group of our lifetime. Anjem Choudary was a key voice responsible for cultivating what eventually became this ISIS support network in Europe. And he acted with impunity.
    No surprises, then, that police revealed his link to
500 British jihadists fighting with ISIS in Syria.

So, much more than just an evil clown then.

Arsehole4But evil itself is impotent – it “has no power but that which we let it extort from us.” So like the vermin he is, has survived midst the cracks and crevices of civilised life – surviving midst the self-imposed western disarmament of cultural relativism, of welfarism, and in the holes in people’s understanding of what free speech entails. The simple relevant fact about free speech here today is this: You are entitled to say anything you like. We all have that right. But you are not entitled, to borrow Raymond Chandler’s feliitous phrase, to become a killer by remote control. That right belongs to no-one.

There is one reason however not to lock him up, and one reason only. That reason, says Nawaz, is that prisons themselves have now become hotbeds of radical recruitment, so

now that Anjem is in prison, another challenge confronts us. He will be held for a while at HMP Belmarsh, previously described as a jihadist training camp. How will he be stopped from playing his wicked tune through his crooked flute in jail? This time his audience is made up of hardened criminals.

Nawaz maintains that “action to at least neutralise his recruitment efforts must certainly be considered. And any plan should form a blueprint for building such intervention to scale, globally.”

The way in which my path eventually forked from Anjem’s symbolizes the split at the heart of the civil war playing out within Muslim communities, and beyond: Islamists against secularists. Muslims with varying levels of devotion, and even non-Muslims, sit on both sides of this divide. They straddle a largely passive Muslim majority that values its religion and culture but just wants to get on in life.
    Islamist theocrats will not allow them to do so.
    A civil war has unfolded within Islam, and none of us can any longer afford to remain neutral. First and foremost, this is an ideological war. The state, private companies, and civil society must intervene on behalf of secularists
.

Intervening on behalf of a terrorist mastermind to help free him would put you on the other side that civil war. Not to mention on the other side of the war against us all declared by Islamist theocrats themselves.

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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

John Key really doesn’t want affordable housing

 

The Affordable-Housing Theatre continues, with politicians feigning interest in the problem they’ve helped cause, while signalling to house-owning voters that, “no worries,” their house prices will be safely high with them.

Yet almost everybody who owns a home has relatives who can’t, and wishes they could. and surveys show that nearly two-thirds of Aucklanders and more than half of those who own a home would prefer that house prices either “fell a bit” or “fell dramatically” over the next year. And more than four in five understand we’re in a bubble.

And any economist who understands that prosperity doesn’t grow in a bubble knows that unaffordable housing costs us all in the end.

But does that bother the PM? Nah. Not a bit. Anybody who thinks house prices should fall is “crazy.”  And yesterday in the parliament he said Metiria Turei’s quite sensible observation that house prices too high represented “a war on the poor.”

Logic has gone totally out the window. It’s out there on the wind, along with the rising price of houses, and the promises to do something about it.

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Sometimes a banana is just a banana

 

The sport of AFL never gets reported in NZ, except when something non-sport happens. Latest non-sport news: A Port Adelaide fan is banned for throwing a banana at Eddie Betts after kicking an impossible (winning) goal for the Crows. (Eddie, by the way, is aboriginal.)

A banana? At ‘The Footy Almanac' Earl O’Neill writes’:

“The banana has me intrigued.  Did she plan on throwing it at Eddie?  Was she thinking, when looking through her kitchen for a convenient, healthy football snack, ‘Apple, no racial connotations there; orange, no; banana, yeah, awright!  Eddie will cop it!  The other Eddie will love it!’
    “People may have objections to cultural practices like clitoridectomies but to hate someone purely because of their ethnicity is something I just don’t understand.  Eddie Betts is a player who has always seemed to be well-loved by all for his freakish skills, big grin, baggy shorts, except when he’s kicking goals against your team.  Then you hate him like you’d hate any other player, i.e., until the end of the match or until you’ve properly vented your spleen.
    “‘Goddamn you Betts, ya flipping bastard, kicking four impossible goals outa yr arse!’
    “No need for boong, nigger, etc.  … What if the next Eddie Betts was named Tran Tinh Nguyen or Ahmed al-Heraza?  Would the likes of Banana Woman be packing egg noodles or felafels?  You can buy both at the Showground, meat pies and burgers too, in case you have something against Anglo-Celtics.
    “I’m pretty much a free-speech absolutist and incidents like this illustrate why.  How are you gonna call out petty bigotry if you don’t know it exists, if you don’t have examples like Banana Woman? And, on top of that, how are you gonna fluff up your own self-righteousness without her and her confreres?”

Which is what the AFL head honcho and sundry Melbourne journalists were doing all day yesterday.

I can’t help wondering what cigar-loving Sigmund Freud might have said about it all. But I’d bet he would have enjoyed round 22’s best moments (including Eddie’s out-of-his-arse goal at 4:40):

 

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Save the rhino by privatising it

 

The best way to save dwindling species? Eat them, skin them, save them.
Guest poster Nathan Keeble looks at the dwindling of rhino populations, being killed for horns now more valuable than gold.

Rhino populations are facing a very serious threat. The International Union for The Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reports that poachers in Africa killed at least 1338 rhinos during 2015 – part of a continuing crisis that has resulted in a total of 5940 rhinos being poached to date. With a 9000% increase in occurrence since 2007, this has rapidly become the greatest threat to the populations of white and black rhinos, two species whose numbers have recently been brought back from the brink of extinction thanks to extensive conservation efforts.

This raises two questions. Why are so many people illegally killing rhinos, and what can be done about it?

Asian Demand for Horns

The answer to the former question lies in the most distinctive feature of rhinos, their horn. In Asia, rhino horns are used for traditional medicines, allegedly holding the cure for a multitude of ailments ranging from hangovers to cancer. It is also increasingly becoming a symbol of status and success in these emerging markets, where many people have disposable income for the first time. This has clearly created a very strong demand for rhino horns in Asia, particularly Vietnam, which has warranted prices of $60,000 per kilo. By weight, that’s more expensive than gold. That’s some serious bling.

A Black Market and Its Consequences

Where there is a demand for something, a market will form to meet it. This will happen regardless of any government prohibitions to prevent it from occurring. Of course, this doesn’t stop politicians from trying, and black markets are formed in response. This is precisely what has happened with the markets for drugs, prostitution, and, yes, rhino horns. It is illegal to buy or sell rhino horns in Africa and most of Asia.

Rhino2Prohibitions are created by well-meaning (and sometimes not so well-meaning) protectionist politicians to try stopping a certain action they deem evil, such as profiting from the sale of rhino horns. The problem is that the consequences of these prohibitions are, without fail, worse than the actions they are intended to eliminate – and they often exacerbate those actions as well. The rhino horn prohibition is no exception.

It is the government’s prohibition of the horn trade that is the root cause of the disastrous increase in poaching. If it is illegal for the rightful owners of rhinos to sell the horns of their rhinos, the only way to meet the demand is to resort to poaching rhinos instead, particularly wild ones located in state-run reserves, .

Oddly enough, it is not illegal to remove the horns of rhinos if they are not later sold, prompting both governments and the few private owners to saw off the horns of their rhinos in attempts to keep them from being targeted by poachers. The South African government has vast amounts of horns sitting in storage. This poses the crucial question. If the laws aren’t actually to protect the rhino’s horns, why do they even exist?

Privatisation And Legalisation

If governments and animal rights activists wish to put an end to the poaching epidemic, the solution is clear, private property and free markets. All laws criminalising the trade of rhino horns should be repealed and as many rhinos as possible should be put in the hands of private owners. Not only would this solve the poaching crisis, it would solve any worries of rhino populations dwindling in the future.

If the trade of rhino horns was legal, it would no longer be necessary for poachers to kill rhino under the cover of darkness for their horns. Merchants could simply purchase them from rhino farmers, just like grocery stores purchase cuts of sirloin or pork. The welfare of rhinos is further guaranteed because it would be hugely important for the rhino’s owners to provide them with as much care and safety as possible, as the rhinos now have a realisable economic value to them. If a rhino is harmed or killed in any manner, its owner stands to lose a large sum of money. The farmers’ livelihoods would depend on their rhinos, and vice-versa. It should be stressed further that it is far from necessary that a rhino be killed for its horn to be removed, and if properly done a horn will regrow.

Rhino3Not only would the lives of existing rhinos be securer than ever under a system of private ownership and free trade, it is conceivable that the total population of rhinos would increase as well. It is clear that at the current extremely high prices being paid for horns that demand for them greatly outweighs the available supply. Legalising trade will immediately do a great deal to change this with existing rhino populations. However, it is very possible that the current rhino population is wholly insufficient, and if so market forces would motivate farmers to breed rhinos, increasing their population, until the market was brought towards ‘equilibrium.’

This reveals why it is also of the utmost importance that private owners and not governments handle the rhino trade. Government management makes the whole system fall apart, as it lacks the necessary tools to effectively manage profit and loss. The welfare of governments does not depend on the rhinos and they have very little incentive to care for them or preserve them. As trade in rhinos themselves can’t take place if the government is the sole owner, it is also impossible for market prices to form, making it impossible for them to determine the proper population of rhinos or how much resources to devote to their care. This is a perfect concoction for waste, mismanagement, and devastation.

In the absence of government and in the presence of free markets, the demand for a rhino’s horns would be the greatest insurance of the animal’s survival, not its greatest threat. Nobody, after all, worries about the extinction of chickens or cows. The time has come to legalise and privatise rhinos and their horns.


Nathan Keeble helped start the Campaign to End Civil Asset Forfeiture in Tennessee.
This post first appeared at FEE.

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Monday, 22 August 2016

What we mean by "Let the market handle it"

 

tools

Guest post by Don Boudreaux

On this excellent EconLog post by Alberto Mingardi, a fellow called “Phil” comments:

In his book ‘Economics Rules,’ Dani Rodrik says “The hedgehog’s take on a problem can always be predicted: the solution lies in freer markets … Foxes … sometimes … recommend more markets, sometimes more government.” It’s better to be a fox than a hedgehog, according to him.

(I add that “Phil” does not seem to endorse Rodrik’s point.)

I’ve not read this Rodrik book, but I’m familiar with the argument. The argument is quite common. It’s also wrong. Its error is that it incorrectly identifies the set of choices for dealing with problems (and with “problems”).

Rodrik’s argument appears to be the height of reasonableness. “It is dogmatic and dangerous,” the argument’s champions rightly note, “to assume that one solution or one approach is the answer to every problem. Some problems call for the use of screwdrivers, others call for the use of hammers. Only a benighted fool insists on using a screwdriver to hammer in nails and on using a hammer to insert screws. The wise, non-ideological, enlightened, open-minded, reasonable, and scientifically aware person sometimes uses a screwdriver and other times uses a hammer. What could be more reasonable?!”

Tools1The error in this formulation is that markets are many tools. Markets are a toolkit with far more tools in it than government has access to. While government has only a few tools – mostly hammers (some sledge), saws, and clamps – the market is filled with many, almost countless, tools. And the market’s tools are much more varied, nuanced, specialised, and creative than are the government’s simple set of tools.

Put differently, to say “let the market handle it” is just a shorthand way of saying “Let whoever is most willing, most able, most experienced, most knowledgeable, and best equipped be free to try his or her hand at dealing with each specific problem.” And to say “let the market always handle it” is not – contrary to what Rodrik’s argument suggests – to propose a single, simple fix for all problems; it is to propose that the field be left open for as many fixes as are feasible to be tried. To say “let the market always handle it” is to warn that using government as a fix crowds out – prevents – experimentation with many other possible fixes.

In short, the choice is not between only two alternative possible fixes: the market or the government. Instead, the choice is between a gigantically large and varied set of possible fixes (the market, with its many detailed specialized carpenters and master builders) or a tiny set featuring one possible fix (the government, with its hammering, sawing, and clamping officials, none of whom – unlike the case with market participants – can be reasonably presumed to know enough of the finer details of any of the problems that they are called upon to ‘fix’).

The truly reasonable person – the one who understands the benefits of having access to as many ‘solutions’ to problems as possible – supports the market because he or she knows that to turn to government solutions is to drastically reduce the number of ‘solutions’ that will be tried.

Below the fold is a post from ten years ago that addressed the same topic.

Friends don’t let friends listen to Stefan Molyneux

 

13962511_858290450938395_5615636067149177085_n

One of the least attractive phenomena in more than a decade of unattractive things is the re-emergence into what passes for polite society of eugenics and explicit white supremacy. Even in places and from people I once thought I knew. (If you’re wondering, then I probably do mean you.)

Trump is partly to blame. “By launching his campaign on a ‘Mexican immigrants are rapists’’ platform,” Donald Trump flushed these things back up from the sewers and made them safe to talk about again. Turns out that dressing up economic protectionism, white supremacism and tribalism as a defense of western civilisation has flushed out many things you thought were long sunk, and many things even in friends (now former friends) you hadn’t realised existed.

But he’s only partly to blame for what was probably already latent. Also to blame is the phony equation that being politically incorrect also means being noxious;  the un-thinking that says if “they” are against it, then “we” must be for it – and anyone else is a “cuck” -- or the non-idea that the appropriate response to “their” racism is to go hard out on your own.

With some it’s genuine (and genuinely unwelcome). With Stefan Molyneux, it’s a career move. Who’s Stephan Molyneux? He’s one of the other reasons you’re seeing more and more of this stuff around. Molyneux is a dickhead with a following, that for some reason some of you keep recommending. For the record, Molyneux makes videos of himself talking. Talking interminably, often about himself. Hardly riveting. For many years he talked about anarchy, seeking to become a bigfish in this small pond. Then seeing a gap in the much bigger phony pastor market he began telling his young followers to abandon their parents and instead devote their lives, their honour and their sacred fortunes to his cause. Which was his wallet.

His arse very publicly handed to him by a woman known as J. Ravin/“TruShibes,” he hunkered down to re-emerge as a promoter of white supremacy who, I Iament, has become unaccountably influential even with people I formerly knew and/or admired.

Strange are the things people turn to when they think that the world is on fire. Stranger still how they think eugenics and white supremacy would help extinguish and not fan it.

Stuart Hayashi has researched Molyneux’s rantings, should you have any doubt this is what the wanker promotes, and I heartily recommend his post if you’re wondering why you’re seeing this stuff or Molyneux’s name around the traps so much. Hayashi identifies two premises the toerag promotes that are rarely heard together (a strategy of deniability, you see), but when combined form the argument, such as it is.

Premise One: Your genes, as associated with your race, are the main determinant of IQ. That is, your racecauses you to have a particular IQ number….
Premise Two: Your IQ number is the main factor determining whether you are economically productive or criminally violent.

From those unprepossessing ingredients Molyneux makes a very unedifying stew: We should therefore deduce, at his behest, that a person’s race is what determines whether they are economically productive or criminally violent, therefore policies should be adopted to bar the many non-white “low-IQ races” from immigrating, from breeding, from generally being around.

This is not called out-and-out eugenics, these days, or even white supremacy – although that’s what it is. It’s called things like “race realism” or “human biodeversity,” which is they way you may have heard it promoted on websites and fora in which you once participated – or from people with whom you were once friends.  And while Molyneux is just a vector for this disease, not the main source, he’s unaccountably influential.

One thing relied upon is an ignorance about the basic distinction between race and culture, about which Thomas Sowell has written so widely and so well. Culture, explains Sowell, should be understood as “the working machinery of everyday life” and like any machinery should be open to criticism and improvement. Some cultures are more productive than others, some less; this is true, but race itself is irrelevant.

One of the eugenicist’s aims is to collapse this distinction between race and culture, insisting instead that only race is relevant – that the two are deterministically entwined, with IQ being the measure of superiority.

Yes, it truly is this facile. As Robert Tracinski points out, these are people who understand Western civilisation “not as a set of ideas, but as some kind of symbol of their racial identity.”

Hayashi briefly counters this odious nonsense, noting the very basic fact for example that even if you were to accept IQ as any measure of anything (about which there are huge problems) the causal arrow goes from  wealth to performing well in IQ tests, not the other way around.

He then plunges into a veritable long-drop full of excreta on this topic that Molyneux has spewed out since his dramatic rebirth, leading to the conclusion that “because skills and abilities have not been distributed evenly by Mother Nature among various ethnicities,” the only cure to the impending collapse of western countries is closed borders and racial separatism.

It’s like a prepper’s version of a national policy.

Why is this important? Because I keep seeing this stuff in places and around people I once frequented. And friends don’t let friends believe this stuff.

But if they do, there’s a very simple message for you, and it appears at the very top of this post.

Please take it literally.

Intellectual hygiene demands it.

MORE READING:

StefanMolyneuxWarriorGeneRacism02

  • “I take Stefan Molyneux to task for his promoting white supremacism. And I quote him to prove that, yes, that is what he is promoting.”
    Quotations from Stefan Molyneux Showing His Promotion of Eugenics, Pseudoscientific Racism, and Bigotry Against Blacks – Stuart Hayashi, STU-TOPIA
  • “The fetid end of the political spectrum is rising up to support statism in the name of protecting IQ – on the basis, say the fetid-swamp warriors, that the “low IQs” will only destroy the culture and are too dumb to deserve freedom anyway. Vile enough, but does their chosen proxy even merit serious consideration? No.”
    The Intellectual Conceit of IQ Ideology – Jeffrey Tucker, NOT PC
  • “It's not pretty, and it's sad that this person has any influence at all. In summary, and as a TL;DR: the left is bad, so things the left thinks are wrong by definition and opposition to the left is good by definition. [and more: “…the genius of the Trump campaign has been to convince people they’re defying the elites when they live down to the elites’ worst expectations of them.”]”
    The winner of the summarise-Stefan-Molyneux competition – NOT PC
  • “Robert Tracinski ably explains the fetid sewer of support flushed out by Donald Trump – people who understand Western civilisation not as a set of ideas, but as some kind of symbol of their racial identity. They’re calling themselves alt-right; he’s identified them simply as The Other Left. Or even more simply: Yes, The Alt-Right Are Just a Bunch of Racists…”
    “White Sheets and Red Golf Caps” – NOT PC

NB: From now on, I shall be taking this post’s conclusion as my policy on commenting here at NOT PC. The principle of free speech does not demand that I supply eugenicists with a microphone. If you insist on promoting ordure with mine, then fuck off and get your own.

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The world’s most powerful central bank has its own Facebook page, and it’s hilarious

 

Zero Hedge reports:

The US Federal Reserve may have gotten everything wrong, as recent “research” by John Williams confirmed earlier this week, but when it comes to what’s important the Fed is right on top of things. Things like starting its own Facebook page.”

It’s fair to say the comments received so far have not been entirely positive:

Fed3

Fed1

Fed2

 

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Friday, 19 August 2016

Friday Morning Ramble, 19.8.16

 

Joyce

In 2005, the Fifth Labour Government stopped charging interest on student loans. It was a superb decision in political expediency. It was historically the country’s second-biggest electoral bribe. But has it improved tertiary outcomes?
Decade of Debt: The Cost of Interest-free Student Loans – NZ INITIATIVE

“I utterly resent religious people imposing their views on me via legislation - especially as pathetically expressed as these are.”
Anti-voluntary euthanasia submitters overwhelm – LINDSAY MITCHELL

He helped transform a quality paper into an unreadable rag, but he may have just authored an important book.
Gavin Ellis on the slow deterioration of New Zealand’s freedom of speech – Gavin Ellis, SPINOFF

Auckland’s Unitary Plan writers are banking on public transport to reduce congestion. Realistic?
Congestion and Auckland Council's Transport Evaluation: What difference will Public Transport make? – Matthew Webster, MAKING NZ

“After fighting for 2 years to protect the democratic and property rights of all Auckland citizens we also won two other important battles…”
Someone should DO something! Well, Democracy Action did – WHALE OIL

We’re not alone in having a city we couldn’t legally build again. “Did you know that 40% of Manhattan buildings couldn’t be built again today because of zoning restrictions? Christina Sandefur explains how cities have subordinated private property rights to bureaucratic control.”
"The beautiful neighborhoods we could never build again" – Christina Sandefur, FEDERALIST SOCIETY

“Rhetoric from parties right across the political spectrum have prioritised housing. On the Left, housing is now regularly ranked up with education and healthcare as their main area of focus. While the Right have in the past campaigned that affordable housing is important to them and they want a home ownership democracy. Yet both the left and the right have historically supported other goals in the planning system” – all of which raised prices and reduced home ownership.
Housing: New Alliances, New Battlefields- Brendan Harre, MAKING NZ

Crippling tobacco taxes v marginal utility. Guess what wins.
How's that 'smoke free NZ by 2025' looking? – LINDSAY MITCHELL

America ends its experiment in uniting the dollar and the gun. “The Justice Department plans to end its use of private prisons after officials concluded the facilities are both less safe and less effective at providing correctional services than those run by the government.”
US Justice Department says it will end use of private prisons – WASHINGTON POST
Private Prison Stocks Crash On News DOJ To Phase Out Their Use – ZERO HEDGE

Yes, alcohol increases your risk of cancer. Moderate drinking still healthy.
Alcohol and mortality, yet again – Eric Crampton, OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR

9781780749501

Human progress v the doom delusion. “If you look at all the data, it’s clear there’s never been a better time to be alive.”
Why can’t we see that we’re living in a golden age? – John Norberg, THE SPECTATOR

“Over the last year, we have heard much about the intrinsic racism and homophobia in American society. However... you are twice as likely to be struck by lightning in the US than to be a victim of a mass shooting.”
America Is Relatively Safe and Tolerant – Marian Tupy, HUMAN PROGRESS

“’People are scum.’ ‘Mankind is a moral wasteland.’ ‘I’m ashamed to be human.’
    “Whenever cynics express themselves, I’m tempted to retort that philosophy is autobiography and they should put their claims in the first-person.”
Why Humans are Born Fit for Freedom – STEPHEN HICKS

Human progress.
Revolutionary steel treatment paves the way for radically lighter, stronger, cheaper cars – NEW ATLAS

Still the best news in decades, and still no one talks about it:

poverty

“It’s not in the nature of government to shrink. Looking for a chief executive to cut government is like looking for a boss who is good at running off customers and driving down the stock price. It goes against the grain.
    “Might doing that take some expertise? Probably. And that comes from actual experience. Hence does this American political season seem to be adding some nuance to the simple conclusion that experience in government doesn’t matter.”
Cutting Government Is an Exceptional Skill – Jeffrey Tucker, FEE

Critics of Gary Johnson’s running mate should read this.
William Weld: The Last of the Barry Goldwater Republicans – LIBERTARIAN REPUBLIC


 

“Wealth is the product of
man's capacity to think”
~ Ayn Rand

 

“AMERICANS do it guiltily, Russians casually, Africans lethally and the French habitually. Stereotypes about adultery are as common as research about it is flaky. So Pamela Druckerman's thoughtful and myth-busting study of infidelity deserves to be widely translated and read… Americans are so guilt-ridden, she writes, that they don't even enjoy what should be the pleasurable bit. Better, she reckons, to take a lesson from the French, who Who Built That Modern Houses Blog 1believe that monogamy is optimal, enjoy the lapses when they happen but try not to escalate them, and never, ever, confront a spouse for cheating.”
International relations – ECONOMIST

Answering the big questions.
How Big Is A Fart? – GEEK PRESS

““There is a ‘sensitive period’ for naming things…and if adults respond to the hunger for words in an appropriate way, they can give their children a richness and precision of language that will last a lifetime.” ~ Dr Silvano Montanaro
5 Montessori Language Tips For Toddlers – MONTESSORI BLOGGERS NETWORK

“When researching Montessori at the start of your journey, you may read things like “Montessori is not for boys, ASD children can’t do Montessori, Montessori is too structured, Montessori is too free,” and so on and so forth. After three years of running classes, observing schools, managing centres and talking to parents, I strongly believe Montessori is for EVERY child.”
Why Montessori is for All Children – MONTESSORI ROCKS

Montessori is for all parents! And this if the perfect introductory course.
AMI 6-12 Montessori Assistants’ Certificate Course – MMEF (NZ)

iPads? Smart Phones?
Want Your Children to Be Successful? Keep Them Away From These as Long as Possible – Justin Bariso, INC.
Here’s Why Steve Jobs Didn’t Let His Kids Use iPads and Why You Shouldn’t Either – THEUNBOUNDED SPIRIT

These are what they really need! “A few runs through these books at bedtime and your child will be able to talk about Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles Eames as effortlessly as if they were Pokémon.”
Turn Your Child Into the Next Frank Lloyd Wright with These Illustrated Guides to Architecture – ARCHITIZER

Who Built That Modern Houses Blog 2

So what are you waiting for?
How You, and You Alone, Can Build Liberty – Jeffrey Tucker, FEE

“Sadly, world historians may one day record that Americans let go of the best thing human history had ever seen. And one of the ironies of the early twenty-first century, they will record, is that millions of people fleeing Latin American welfare states came to the United States, only to find a bigger and more corrupt welfare state awaiting them as the once great country declined.”
Welfare State Socialism, Not Immigration, is Killing America – Michael Hurd, LIVING RESOURCES CENTER

“Breaking bad laws to build a better life is not dishonorable; it is admirable, provided breaking the law involves no use of force. Coming here in defiance of unjust laws is a peaceful act; it is just the avoidance of the force our government would initiate against them. It is certainly wrong to wield private force; it is wrong to take the law into one’s own hand. But these are not involved in illegal immigration…
    “It is not enough to give ‘illegals’ amnesty. These long-oppressed individuals deserve an official apology from our government.”
Amnesty for Illegal aliens is not enough, they deserve an apology – Harry Binswanger, HBL

WesternValues 001 (1)“To let the market solve problems is to leave the field open for as many fixes as are feasible to be tried.”
What We Mean by "Let the Market Handle It" – Dn Boudreaux, FEE

“There is a newly-discovered version of the legend of Pandora’s Box…”
Michael Newberry on the sublime in art – STEPHEN HICKS

“Olivia Pierson’s Western Values Defended: A Primer, is just what its title says it is, a primer for those unread in what those values are that need to be upheld and defended. It is a short book, just a general survey of the Western values that are rooted in ancient Greece but which came to fruition in the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment. It is only 71 pages long, but it is loaded with ideas which most people are not familiar with.” But should be.
Review: Western Values Defended – EDWARD CLINE

“’We’ve created this monster,’ he warned. ‘Look, I’m a conservative talk show host. All conservative talk show hosts have basically established their brand as being contrasted with the mainstream media. So we have spent 20 years demonizing the liberal mainstream media. And by the way, a lot has been justifiable. There is real bias. But, at a certain point you wake up and you realize you have destroyed the credibility of any credible outlet out there.’
“‘And I feeling, to a certain extent, that we are reaping the whirlwind at that,’ he continued. ‘And I have to look in the mirror and ask myself, ‘To what extent did I contribute?’”
Conservative radio host: ‘We’ve created this monster’ of fact-hating right-wing voters – RAW STORY

“Political correctness is not really about politeness, the giving or taking of offence, or freeing us from stereotypes. That’s the cover. Political correctness is part of a culture war, the roots of which go back to the 1920s. The culture war’s full-blown manifestation is what we are witnessing today; it has been ninety years in the making.”
Political Correctness is part of a Neo-Marxist Culture War – Vinay Kolhatkar, SAVVY STREET

“Unlike the ordinary criminal or the lunatic assassin, the terrorist . . . is not driven by the wish to line his own pocket or satisfy some personal need or grievance. The terrorist is fundamentally an altruist: he believes that he is serving a 'good' cause designed to achieve a greater good for a wider constituency—whether real or imagined—which the terrorist and his organization purport to represent."
Altruism: The Fuel of Jihad – Bruce Hoffman, OBJECTIVE STANDARD

 

“In questions of science the authority of a thousand is
not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual”

~ Galileo Galilei

 

“Celebrity physicist Brian Cox misled the Australian ABC TV Q&A audience on at least 3 points-of-fact on Monday night. This is typical of the direction that much of science is taking…
    “Much of climate science, in particular, is now underpinned with a postmodernist epistemology – it is simply suspicious of reason and has an acute sensitivity to the role of ideology in asserting and maintaining particular power-structures including through the homogenisation of historical temperature data.”
Rock star-scientist Brian Cox confused on more than global temperatures – Jennnifer Marohasy, ONLINE OPINION

Another renewables success story.
‘Hopelessly Insolvent’ Obama-Backed Solar Company On Verge Of Extinction – DAILY CALLER

”“Despite the warnings of leading experts, people around the world nearly doubled their use of fossil fuels.” Good.
How Opposition To Fossil Fuels Hurts The Poor Most Of All – Alex Epstein, FORBES

"The entire objective of those pursuing the political agenda was to create the illusion that current weather is abnormal and therefore unnatural."
How the world was deceived about global warming and climate change – Tim Ball, REBEL MEDIA

“Property rights and legal trade help protect imperiled species like elephants by giving local communities an incentive to invest in their conservation.” Burning ivory, the opposite.
Myth: Burning Ivory Discourages Poaching – PERC

 

"Racism is a barnyard or stock-farm
version of collectivism."

~Ayn Rand

 

TODAY’S MUST-READ:
“Broadly speaking, the purpose of what we call a liberal education was to expose students to a select body of accumulated knowledge and wisdom about the world in which we live. It was a journey of discovery in pursuit of the truth about the human condition, and it was an education in what we might call high culture. To paraphrase Matthew Arnold’s famous definition, it was an immersion in the best that has been thought, said, and done in order to elevate our lives above the ordinary, the vulgar, and the savage. Such an education would enrich the lives of young people as individuals while also preserving the achievements of the past and endowing to the future the wisdom of the past.
    Tragically, with the exception of a few Great Books colleges and the Lyceum Scholars Program at Clemson University, the vision of higher education that once sustained the West for centuries now seems all but dead. The old-fashioned idea that the central purpose of a university is to lead the search for truth and to preserve and perpetuate all that is great in our civilization is now openly attacked, mocked, or simply eliminated…
    “Serious scholars—those who are the intellectual curators of Western civilization’s repositories of knowledge and high culture—are now marginalized on our campuses. The sad reality is that very few people left in American higher education have the interest and courage to defend and perpetuate the humanities. In fact, we are fast approaching a period in which people qualified to teach traditional humanities courses will be virtually extinct. The few who still take the life of the mind seriously and spend their days reading old books with young people and discussing with them the ideas that have shaped Western culture for millennia—they will be strangers in a strange land.
    “What we are witnessing today on our campuses is akin to the Afghani Taliban bombing out of existence two giant Buddhas carved into a cliff in the Bamiyan Valley nearly two thousand years ago—or ISIS fighters leveling Nimrud, a three thousand-year-old Assyrian city; and ransacking museums in Iraq and Syria, destroying their antiquities with sledgehammers. The efforts of leftist administrators, faculty, and students to remove Western civilization’s great works of literature and philosophy from curricula, to rename or tear down important historical buildings, to censor or ban certain ideas from college campuses, have the same effect.
    “Much is at stake in this battle of ideas. A civilization that does not know and appreciate its great achievements has lost its raison d’être. It cannot defend itself from enemies (external or internal) who seek to destroy it.”
Liberal Education and the Quest for Truth, Freedom, and Greatness – Bradley Thompson, OBJECTIVE STANDARD

 

SageAdvice

 

“If you are looking for a really effective source of knowledge on induction then you can’t go past this course.”
Objectivism Through Induction by Leonard Peikoff – Anoop Verma, FOR THE NEW INTELLECTUAL

 

“The opposite of racism
is individualism.”

~ Will Spencer


 

[Hat tips etc. Peter Schiff, Australian Centre for Montessori Studies, Louise Lamontagne, Olivia Pierson – Author, Kiwi Frontline, Marvin Adams, Monica Beth, Phil Oliver, Jeffrey Perren, Carbon Dioxide, Anoop Verma, Shaun Hendy, Famous-Quote.net, Jaime Jessop, Rita Panahi, Son of John Galt]

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Thursday, 18 August 2016

When did homes start becoming unaffordable?

 

When did homes start becoming unaffordable? Good question.

From 1957 to the late-1980s the median New Zealand house price was between two-to-three times the median annual household income. Back then they were affordable.(A city’s housing affordability is generally defined as having the median house price less than or around three times the median income.)

By the late 1990s, the average house price had already risen to four times the average household income, and houses began becoming inexorably unaffordable.

It wasn’t until 2008 however that headlines began happening and home-buyers became seriously worried, as prices peaked at a seriously unaffordable six and a half times the median household income in 2008.  

Houses11

They peaked in other places. But in Auckland they just kept on going up. In Auckland now, they’re rapidly approaching a severely unaffordable ten times the median household income.

Houses14

If you're paying for your house out of your average income, I think you'd agree that's a very rapid rise into the territory marked as "severely unaffordable."

Great if you’re a home-owner.

Murder if you're not.

So what happened in the 90s to begin that tick up into unafforability?

Well, the 1992 Building Act is one. Far from being deregulation, as some still risibly claim, it implemented a new multi-volume building code, a new building bureaucracy, and an ageing and failing superbureaucrat to oversee it all. He failed very soon, as it happens, but we are left with the rotting bureaucratic system he left us that adds months to a consent preparation and application, and many thousands to the building cost of every house. (And as costs became higher and profits lower, fewer spec builders bothered to even try building-to-sell the new houses they had previously.)

Another thing that happened in the 1990s was National’s Resource Management Act, introduced by Simon Upton and then administered without change by Nick Smith (yes, children, that Nick Smith now insisting he must change it), an Act that brought about the greatest attack on property rights since the war and, with it, the most severe restrictions on the supply and use of building land ever seen before in this once nearly-Freeland.

So those are two reasons for home-buyers to weep right there. (Three, if you include the thought of Nick Smith.)

And what happened in Auckland around 2011? If you answered “Rodney Hide’s super-fucking-bureaucracy began really kicking in,” I reckon you might just get the prize. The new super-bureaucrats have made the city more expensive, building more difficult, and planning a development infinitely more uncertain – especially with the six-year process of implementing their Unitary Plan, which has created tremendous regime uncertainty1 among property owners and investors.

Even with an earthquake that destroyed most of its inner city and eastern suburbs, Christhurch has done better – which makes Rodney Hide’s amalgamation a bigger bloody housing disaster than their earthquake.

Auckland2

And while the city has always been ring-fenced by the central planners, it is only perhaps in the last few years that the ring-fence has become a serious constraint – one that the new Unitary Plan is reported to retain!

The story remains that unaffordable cities are generally cities that are constrained from building, and constrained from expanding.

More tomorrow.

NOTES:

1. Regime uncertainty is a concept developed by Robert Higgs describing a pervasive lack of confidence among investors in their ability to foresee the extent to which future government actions will alter their private-property rights.
    Higgs uses this concept to explain the seriousness and prolonged duration of some economic crises, like the Great Depression or the current 'Great Recession.‘
    According to Higgs, regime uncertainty explains at least in part the sluggish pace of the current economic recovery.
    Regime uncertainty pertains to more than the government's laws, regulations, and administrative decisions. For one thing, as the saying goes, "personnel is policy." Two administrations may administer or enforce identical statutes and regulations quite differently. A business-hostile administration [such as Len Brown’s] will provoke more apprehension among investors than a business-friendlier administration [sorry, can’t think of one], even if the underlying "rules of the game" are identical on paper.

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Too few unemployed

 

Controversy in the Parliament this week as politicians accuse each other of lying.

It would be a rarer thing if they weren’t.

Labour’s Grant Robertson accused National of manipulating unemployment figures to make them look better.

In a media release Robertson, Labour’s finance spokesman, said National was “actively massaging official unemployment statistics” by changing the measure for joblessness to exclude those using websites, such as Seek or TradeMe.

There was manipulation going on, but not any that Robertson was headline-hunting about.

Statistics New Zealand had certainly changed the way it measures unemployment to diminish the number actively seeking work. This, of course, makes the figure look better for any government, but there is every reason to believe they were simply bringing the measure into line internationally as they say they were, and zero evidence the Government encouraged it– and zero adduced by Robertson, who has now climbed down.

In short, he was lying.

But so too were National ministers in crowing that unemployment is down. There are still 131,000 unemployed, 26,000 more than when National took office, which an astute opposition politician would have poiunted out, and and honest govt politician would have acknowledged. Instead, knowing the figure had been adjusted downwards, these toerags instead claimed credit for a drop attributable only to a statistical change.

So they lied too.

How do you know when a politician is lying? Their lips are moving.

Why do you keep taking these entities seriously? Dunno. You tell me.

There should be more of them unemployed.

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New book

 

One of the good guys of local economics, Paul Walker, has just had his new book published: on the firm. Good on you, Paul.

cover4

He calls it “the greatest book ever written’ which, if you didn’t believe as an author, you wouldn’t be one.

Having a book like this published by a leading international textbook publisher is no small thing. (Mind you, neither is the price, but that’s what happens when you go with a leading international textbook publisher.) So the man definitely deserves some praise. So go ahead and give him some. And if you’ve got some dollars, buy it.

Oh, and just to remind you, his topic is the very topic the Auckland Uni Econ Group are discussing tonight. Get along.

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Regulation check

 

We are such wusses today.

So shackled by regulation most of which we’re barely aware, like background noise.

Like frogs, we are boiled slowly without even realising the heat on us all is turned up daily.

I think of this when I see pictures like this, the deepest stairwell in the world in Rajasthan, India. Centuries old, people used to carry water up to the top.

CqB6sxfWgAEEFQk

There are two fences, one at the top and one halfway up, added a few years ago.

But can you imagine what safety rails you’d need there if you were to buiild this now? In today’s world of wall-to-wall clipboard wielders?

I’ll give you a clue. It would be covered with them. Just covered.

These are the things I think about when I see pictures like this.

[Hat tip for pic Vala Afshar]

Coffee increases life’s quality

 

coffee

This little graph above correlating rising coffee consumption with rising quality of life [hat tip Karl Sharro] prompts me to repost a little piece I researched and posted some years ago:

'Making the Genius Quicker':
A Complete Hiftory of Man According
to Hif Divers Delightf (Part Two)


Strong is a king who destroys all,
stronger still is a woman who obtains all,
but strongest is wine, which drowns reason.
Stronger still, however, is Truth and I who speak it.
~
Umberto Eco, from his novel The Island of the Day Before


So, to summarise (from Part One): in the beginning all that existed was savagery and raw steak.  With beer and bread was ushered in civilisation. (Bread and circuses were to come much later.)

Then, with the brief exceptions of Classical Greece and Julius Caesar (there go the bread and circuses), for the next several thousands of years human beings would celebrate the arrival of beer by being variously bladdered, blotto, blathered and blagged (to use just four of the over one-thousand English words for being bevvied). Talk about overdoing a good thing. For centuries, beer was the main source of nutritional value; as a ‘beer soup1 it was drunk by men and women and children at every meal including breakfast – indeed, in most cases it was the meal’ -- and the world looked like you’d expect it to look after several thousand years of a serious session.

[New scene]: The siege of Vienna2. Plague stalks the land.
We are inside a small shit-laden hovel with a filthy leprous woman in foreground. A dead horse crawling with maggots and flung by a Turkish catapult crashes through the roof.

Women (turns to camera): I can’t wait for the Renaissance!

Two things happened to bring on the Renaissance: after a millennia-and-a-half of drinking, a few scholars sobered up long enough to begin reading what those Classical Greeks had been banging on about. “Hey, this is good stuff!” they instantly hallelujahed. Artists and popes agreed, and celebrated by producing and commissioning (and -- in the case of the popes -- enacting) some of the finest erotica the world has ever seen. But the world didn’t see it: it still took several centuries and the invention of Gutenberg for the art and thought of the Renaissance to make a general impact.

It took one more thing – it needed the rest of the population to sober up for a moment to read and savour what the printing presses produced. What it took, in a word, was coffee.

From out of Islam came the great redeemer (where for centuries the consumption had encouraged a golden age now gone off). When the Turks in 1529 left behind after besieging Vienna a few bags of their coffee (Hallelujah!) we suddenly knew what to consume when in the grip of a thousand-year-old hangover, and our fuzzy brains finally began working as they should. Naturally, men began writing eulogies to the arrival of this exotic new intoxicant:

When the sweet poison of the Treacherous Grape3
Had acted on the world a general rape; …
Coffee arrives, that grave and wholesome Liquor
That heals the stomach and makes the genius quicker.
Coffee was the Great Redeemer:
It is a panacea…It dries the cold humours, dispels wind, strengthens the liver, it is the sovereign cure for hydropsy and scabies, it restores the heart, relives bellyache. Its steam in fact is recommended for fluxions of the eyes, buzzing in the ears, catarrh, rheum or heaviness of the nose, as you will.4
Coffee was great; coffee was everywhere; coffee was suddenly it. Coffee produced a new kind of man, Homo coffea, and with it a new society opposed to the excesses of the past, one in which reason was no longer drowned:
The massive, heavy body types of seventeenth-century paintings had their physiological explanation in high beer and beer-soup consumption… The insertion of coffee achieved chemically what the Protestants sought to fulfil spiritually [by] ‘drying’ up the beer-soaked bums and replacing them with ‘rationalistic, forward-looking bodies’ typical of the lean cynics of the nineteenth-century.5

People became sober and serious; thought and wit and rationality became valued; and business picked up as people stopped going around shooting each other and started talking seriously instead.

The popular pastime of besieging each other’s cities stopped -- the Thirty Years War came to an end -- and the population began instead desperately seeking overseas supplies of this new and wonderful drug. With coffee addiction came the immediate necessity of large scale foreign trade to keep the addiction fed: such was the beginning of the noble tradition of globalisation that Starbucks celebrates to this day (or tries to). Coffee at once energised the brains of entrepreneur’s and gave them a goal: more coffee!

As Ayn Rand observed, animals survive by adapting themselves to their environment, while humans flourish by adapting their environment to themselves. For too long people had concluded that all foods aside from beer quickly ‘go off’ so best just sup up and stay stoated. Although coffee itself didn’t replace the nutritional value that beer then provided, what it did do was sober people up enough to begin inventing ways of preserving foods, producing packaging and so making of food (and life) the man-made delight it had never been before. We today are the hearty beneficiaries of those sober and serious producers.

Western civilisation rightly fell in love with coffee and the enlightenment it literally ushered in. Historians were so excited they capitalised the era: coffee ushered in The Age of Enlightenment. Western civilisation was again transformed, and in the coffee-houses of Europe two revolutions were being planned, and executed.

To be continued ...


[1] The beer soups cooked by today's wusses with today's equipment with today's beer is mostly alcohol-free, since people now want it alcohol-free, use lesser-strength beer and boil it accordingly. But in those squalid times getting bladdered at breakfast was considered the best way to endure the woeful world in which they lived. They heated their beer, they didn't cook it, because too much heat would kill the preservative, ie., the alcohol (today's preservative, hops, didn't arrive in England until the fifteenth century). Preserving the preservative was necessary, as the soup often needed to last in-house for several weeks. And remember they made their beer at home so the soup was the last thing to be made after the beer had sat for a time fermenting.

Even Queen Elizabeth I indulged at breakfast, supping her beer soup and washing it down with a quart of the warm flat stuff - 'an excellent wash' she called it. I don't expect she wanted the life boiled out of it since that was the only way the Virgin Queen saw any life at all. And she craved it: "When she visited Hatfield House the Earl of Leicester hastily wrote to Lord Burleigh, ‘There is not one drop of good drink or here there. We were fain to send to London and Kenilworth and divers other places where ale was: her own beer was so strong as there was no man able to drink it.’ [Man Walks Into a Pub, Pete Brown (MacMillan, 2003) ]

The Scots (or Picts as they then called themselves) were even more serious about getting gewgawed: they made their beer soup one part malt to two parts heather. The heather, it turns out, contains a natural hallucinogen called fogg, which explains something about the Scottish enthusiasm for their beer - including the Tennents Super of today - and much about their tactics in battle.

Here, for your interest, is an eighteenth-century German 'recipe' for beer soup if you want to try a simulacrum of the real thing:

Heat the beer in a saucepan; in a separate small pot beat a couple of eggs. Add a chunk of butter to the hot beer. Stir in some cool beer to cool it, then pour over the eggs. Add a bit of salt, and finally mix all the ingredients together, whisking it well to keep it from curdling. [The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug, Bennett Alan Weinberg and Bonnie K. Bealer (Routledge, 2001) ]

And here's how they made beer for several centuries in Dark Ages England if you really want to give it a truly authentic try. It's a subsistence process, not an awfully sophisticated one. Try it some time:

Boil barley grain to get your fermentable sugars, then strain out the barley husks. Add your yeast (kept like a sourdough) and keep warm, and wait until it's 'gone off.' Drink, or add an egg or two and have it as soup. Or just tip it out and head down the road for a kebab.

The book Man Walks Into a Pub suggests this process was done daily, just like baking, and was the responsibility of the 'ale-wife' - so called apparently because of "ancient societies [whose] mythologies state that beer was a gift specifically to women from a goddess (never a male god) and women remained bonded in complex religious relationships with feminine deities, who blessed their brewing vessels."  Fellows allowed out today to sink a few quiets can often be found blessing similarly-favoured feminine deities, and for somewhat similar reasons.

[2] Yes, I know, the dates don’t exactly match. Don’t interrupt. But if you can remember from where this scene originates I’d love to be reminded.

[3] Our anonymous author clearly couldn’t find a word to rhyme with ‘hops’ so chose wine as his target. The point remains the same. And stop interrupting.

[4] The Island of the Day Before, Umberto Eco

[5] Tastes of Paradise : A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants, Wolfgang Schivelbusch [I swear I did not make that name up!]

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