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Sunday, August 23, 2015

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Future energy policy for NZ

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NZ has in recent years experienced some significant increases in electricity prices. These rises can be attributed to several factors:
1. Latent inflation in exceedingly low capital and operating costs in an era of low interest rates. This is destined at some point to change; whence-forth, we can expect a rise in energy prices.
2. Capital cost structure or framework for distribution and transmission cost pass-thru
3. The high marginal cost of new generating capacity - High because anyone attempting to build a new generating unit has to recover costs without knowing when competitors are commissioning their capacity 
4. The need for all energy businesses to focus on yields rather than profits in a growth restricted market. If you can't cut costs or increase sales, then you are compelled to raise prices in order to achieve the profit growth that shareholder want to see;  but  more importantly the growth executives want  to see so their option incentives deliver the gains that will put them on par with foreign enterprises and other sectors which are able to deliver those gains. 
5. The high cost of natural gas. NZ has small resources of gas and those resources are concentrated in the Taranaki area. Eventually the nation will develop more competitive supplies from other fields, and this will mean cheaper fuel. The benefits may flow through to electricity prices. This assumes however that new supplies are competitive and in a state of oversupply; and that  their geographic location will allow for interconnection through the NZ grid. There is good reason to expect that a new gas resource will be off-grid or too small in size for the resource to make a competitive  difference. If it is so large to support export sales, then the imperative to offer cheap gas is undermined by export prices. This of course will not preclude lower long term contract prices to win an energy supply agreement.

What does this mean for NZ energy policy? Well it probably supports:
1. Energy market reform to encourage more privately owned electricity generation to supply local communities;  which store surplus capacity for timely sale into the grid or captive consumption. This will make more sense as battery prices fall, whether they support wind, wood or solar capacity. Reform of the Resource Management Act (RMA) and council management and land use facilitation will also be important. 
2. The reform of the distribution and transmission pricing so that it does not result in over-investment in said infrastructure.  Observe that under govt patronage NZ capital spending has gone from under-investment to over-investment. From crippling black-outs to pillaging of customer savings. What can we say of NZ energy sector management? We can say that political intrusion has been a huge mistake.

The only political party in NZ which has an energy policy consistent with lower energy prices in the short term is the ACT Party. In the long run, one would expect National policy to increase gas exploration to eventually increase competition, but that could be decades.  Private syndicate investment in generation offers the greatest scope for cheaper NZ energy supplies.  The impact of such an energy policy would:
1. Increase competition in the power market;  resulting in more money in the consumer's pocket. The gains would not however be equal. The disparity can be expected to impact residency decisions. Even in a town or city, you might welcome living in a community with captive power generation and supply arrangements. 
2. Increased energy generation at point of use; reducing transmission demand. Sadly this will have meant prior capacity development was wasteful and that consumers reliant on said supplies will have to pay more.

The prospect of higher costs for some is not a justification for an aversion strategy by government, simply because government just adds to the distortion.
There is an opportunity for governments to optimize this investment however by easing the RMA rules. Ie. If community development was easier,  more people would be living in optimized villages. Why? The reasons for living in communities with identity and connectivity has never been stronger. We don't have the regulatory setting to achieve that. We have dogmatic proscriptions understand which Gibraltar proscribe what is a healthy lifestyle. The practical outcome has been the exact opposite. The justification for adopting private planning is not the fact that the private sector always makes better decisions; it's that the private sector pays the costs of its mistakes - not you the consumer.

Another element of energy policy concerns the locating of generating plants and power lines. Said infrastructure raises two issues:
1. Property ownership - People have a right to compensation for disturbance of person or property.  i.e. Build a generating facility in proximity to a house and people should expect compensation. I would however argue that there should be no compensation for land beyond disruption from use. I would argue that people own the property improvement,  not the land. There is a tendency to consider property rights as intrinsically good; therein failing to ask why they are valued, and therein what actually constitutes property. 
2. Property values - Any investment in property is for the sake of certain values or enjoyment. We might properly ask whether latter parties have the right to undermine the enjoyment of smothers property. In the same way that a person cannot undermine your right to live, they cannot undermine your ability to be productive or to enjoy one's labour. Again, there is a tendency to see property boundaries as intrinsically the basis of property disputes. The shortcomings of this regime have contributed to the collectivisation of property rights such that they have come to be defined as social mores. This development occurred because libertarians failed to provide an adequate solution to contemporary land use conflicts over previous  centuries. Practically they folded and allowed the stat is talk to rule. This was understandable because if the mystic Christian roots for socio-economic values even dating back well before classic economics even developed.

It can only be hoped that sufficient numbers of libertarians will be able to politically advance a common law style of property rights rooted in rationality. To do that libertarians will need to differentiate themselves from 'small government' conservatives who have merely failed to identify the nature of the contradiction that has prompted their political brethren to sell out.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Who to vote for in New Zealand's Sept 2014 national election

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There are a great many political parties offering their services in this coming Sept 2014 national election in NZ. I will at this point offer my thoughts on each of the parties. I'm not going to offer a comprehensive outline of all their policies simply because that would be a waste of your time and mine. The reason we can quickly dispense with some parties is simply because of their values. So lets begin.

The Labour Party, the NZ First Party, the Mana Party and the Greens Party are a pack of extortionists who seek to incite their constituents to threats of violence through political sanction. By that I mean they give people a political justification to think that its ok for them to extort wealth from taxpayers for their benefit. This is why:
1. Labour Party has union affiliation; why they seek minimum wages which are above the market rate, and basically jump on every issue which gives them an 'angle' to incite fear in people's minds. The most recent example is the TPPA. I actually have some sympathy for their position; but their position is to elicit a fear response; for you to vote for them. They are not going to solve the problem.
2. Mana Party is of course an extortion party for Maori in NZ. Their intent is to instigate claims of injustice and entitlement. Of course, if you were here first, then you can make all-manner of claims because you are the start. In the same way that, if you believe in Jesus, you created everything, so everyone should be beholden to you. There is no end and no limit to how much you can claim. It can border on the ridiculous, and it does, simply because 'more ridiculous' equals more votes, since supporters can feel morally vindicated by compromising from the ridiculous. Every claim to spiritual deprivation strangely reduces to a question of money and property claims, despite being a culture that never recognised such concepts.
3. NZ First peddles the same type of policy. In their case, they like to appeal to the fears and apprehensions of a different group of anti-intellectuals, namely people who covet national pride or patriotism as virtues. These people hark back to the good old days when NZ had a national railway system, a prosperous agricultural sector, and a great standard of living. They don't ask why this has all turned to dust; they just want it back. Now NZ First's solution is to disparage people whom they consider to have caused the problem. So immigrants are bad for stealing jobs and buying up NZ land. This type of policy proscription does not solve the problem; it treats the 'symptoms'. We need Asians because Kiwis are going abroad. The issue of how to make NZ a better place is lost on them. They are clueless, and have no sound arguments to resolve the grievances of their constituents; but since their members are clueless too, its a compelling myth.
4. Greens Party are a package of deceit in the sense that they have two schemes on the go. They each resolve around certain issues - and good examples are:
      a. Animal rights - This issue is appealing for them because its an appeal to emotion and altruism. People love their pets. They have an intrinsic love of life; so the idea of caring for animals is a lovely source of joy for them. The idea is that we would all be better off it we cared for our animals. The fact that we mistreat animals because we renounce 'self', and the greatest expression of self, is the application of one's mind. Anyway, that's too much 'cold hard logic' for them. That's not to say all of them are morally ambivalent. Some of them have evolved as well...which is a good thing, because it means they are more deceptive in their 'honest' engagement. Their illusion is more sophisticated.
       b. Climate change - The strategy is a scare campaign. What is more interesting with this issue is that it arises from the fact that liberals have evolved. A decade ago, it was hard to take liberals seriously because they did not care for rational arguments, evidence or debate. They simply knew bad things were going to happen. End of the earth from asteroids, ice age, and now greenhouse effect and of course contagion. Now, however these liberals have 'evidence' and 'arguments' that at face value 'look scientific'. They cite scientific papers, they use big words, and by shear weight of their numbers, they convey that there is a considerable weight of support behind their view. You are supposed to simply conclude...."So many people believe it; it must be true". The problem is that science is not a matter of popular opinion. Science is not conducted in the newspaper, and even imminent scientists, or those who profess to be, are not special. They just have an opinion. The implication is that it only takes one opinion to discredit all others. Ask yourself why these liberals are taking their argument to the media. The reason is because they want to 'extort' influence. They are really non-scientists who were given a 'green card' by an academic institution.

Now, in fairness to these parties, they don't have completely illegitimate or ill-founded issues to resolve; the problem is the manner in which they go about things and why. For instance, the Mana Party seems completely satisfied to have land locked up in trusts where it does not help its people, but as their people's leaders; they have complete control, and are able to pay themselves nice salaries, as well as paying themselves loans as well. The same for Labour Party. The Labour Party is taking on the TPPA issue, and it can incite a lot of fear over a document which is destined to prove contentious; but the reality is that its never going to address the real nature of that problem, and that is that statutory laws cannot resolve legal conflicts. Its context-dropping dogma that invites loopholing and injustices for both sides on any issue. The Green Party is not unwarranted in seeking clean rivers, kindly treatment of animals or the preservation of the earth. We cannot dismiss the fact that there is more plastic in the oceans, mistreatment of animals and polluted rivers. The problem is their approach to the issue. Its based on extortion, and the reason you can question their intent is because of the nature of their proscriptions for solving the problem. Its about renunciation, taxation and its always targeted at 'big business'. Big oil is a popular target. "Big oil" only produces the stuff; they never target the consumer. They are not interested in educating the consumer; they want to use politically-sanctioned government to extort power. By doing so, they get you paying money and potentially more lucrative amounts from corporations. Their 'feel good' campaign becomes a 'brand' to extort. If you want an inkling of how insidious it is, you can see how 'Cancer Foundation' brands can be used to vet products. These foundations can be used to 'extort' support. You give them money, and they give you profile. You as a consumer are probably not inclined to examine the legitimacy of the claims to 'good health'. That value is open to the foundation's interpretation, or a paid academic perhaps. Its all pretty sordid. It may not be illegitimate; but the risk is there. Some will argue that these are voluntary associations, so they are ok. I will however argue that their scam is akin to defamation, and should be open to prosecution for the same reason. This is an intellectual failing within the libertarian movement that rests on not identifying the underlying principles justifying their values. But that problem is not going to be resolved before this election, so let's put that aside.
I would also mention that groups of extorters can team up like bullies in school, or gang bangers in a football team, in an attempt to gain the balance of power. The problem is that the less credible smaller parties tend to get treated with disdain, so these members are destined to 'behave' for a time, and join the National Party. By joining the Nationals, Mana gains more influence with Labour in coming elections, but given that National posits as the 'prudentially' responsible party, Mana is actually winning credibility from that association as well. And aren't they well-behaved!

This brings us to the next group of candidates. Now, these parties tend to be defenders of individualism, aspiration and wealth creation. The first group of parties want to reshape the distribution of the 'wealth pie', whereas these parties are more interested in 'growing the pie'. Their focus is on economic growth, and to varying degrees, upon property rights to achieve that. There are several parties in this latter category, namely: National Party, Conservative Party, NZ Tea Party, Internet Party and ACT Party. Looking at them individually:
1. National Party - The National Party is a centerist party. They attempt to be all things to all parties. Their game is 'keeping it real'; simple practical/pragmatic messages to keep the balance of power. Their focus is on aspiration and austerity because its a source of credibility and 'faith' in a better future. But if there is a big-spending Labour Party; watch how quickly they abandon that premise. Fortunately after a period of largesse, they can normally count upon their fellow 'aspirants' who are peaceably retaining the 'faith'. You are not going to see libertarians or conservatives out in the streets campaigning. They are more likely to repress their disdain, or throw a tantrum and head off overseas.
2. Conservative Party - This is a new party, and of course you'd need some Christian faith to expect small government. The problem for this party is that Christian Conservatives simply lack the intellectual fortitude to defend their policy, so they are always destined to lose credibility. Their dogmatic proscriptions will draw attention to the lack of defensive for their ideas. Its not to say that all of their ideas are indefensible; but simply that they don't display the intellectual coherency to confidently and realistically assert their policy ideas. In fairness their counterparts on the left are equally impaired; but the scepticism on the left at least means that they retain the tragic vote when ideas prove unfounded. The Conservative Party has a solid lead so far. Like Family First in Australia, expect them to get a big lead in this election, but watch how their support base flounders in the next election.
3. NZ Tea Party - This party is not getting any profile yet - maybe it doesn't have the members to even be a party, but it is really just another Conservative Party. Looking at their policies it is apparent that they suffer the same illusions as the Conservative Party. They will sink without a high profile supporter with money.
4. Internet Party - Speaking of money and high profile, we have Kim Dotcom's party. There is a lot to be concerned about, but also a lot to praise with the Internet Party. Foremost, you have to love the charisma of the guy. But charisma tends to lead a party into a bubble mania that ends up exploding like a space shuttle. The problem is policy integrity or credibility. He is a guy who is associated with copyright breaches. In fairness, its not as if its a fair regime, but then he does not seem to be adding to the dialogue for a better system. He is making a lot of money out of it. A digital currency - that's great! The problem is that we effectively have one now. That's not a source of discipline. Spying is actually not a problem either; its the arbitrary law that makes it possible. He wants to support high-value tech jobs. That's fine, but he wants to subsidize such practices. The reality is that its not a bad idea if it works, but why is this a role for government. We are to believe because an internet guru is canvassing it. But can he make money without facilitating piracy? Now, the fact that politics gives Dotcom profile cannot be lost as he backdoor lists his Mega company. He also stands to benefit from political influence, but really at issue is the use of populist proscriptions, and the lack of detail. There is no question that the nation needs competition in political discourse, but it needs more 'rational' details people, not rhetoric from populists. In Dotcom's defence; he means what he says, but he's not saying much, and he's ultimately going to be serving his own agenda. His policy proscriptions attempt to bridge left-right anarchists, so there is no question he is appealing to the youths of NZ who hate their conservative parents, and older ambivalent souls. I think there is a market for them, as long as they don't stray into broader policy subjects. If they attempt to be more than their 10 point plan, I think they will lose their market. I can see them getting 4-6%, which is perhaps why they are talking to the Mana Party to make sure. This however is a dangerous move; and likely a mistake because it takes the party out of its '10 steps' to success. I think this party will be forced to evolve, and in doing so, I think it will be forced to turn left or libertarian. I think it will be left, and I think it will amalgamate with probably with the Greens Party.
5. ACT Party is perhaps the weakest party at this stage, however I would argue that is actually a positive for them because they are a 'cleaner' party in terms of the values they espouse, and the identity they project. This is the first time I have observed a libertarian party spurn its 'conservative roots' in an attempt to develop coherent policy. It is however not all good news because they are still beholden to MMP for Epsom. Its akin to a dirty secret (actually its no secret at all) that everyone accepts because it keeps the 'aspirants' in power, and of course that is a good thing. ACT will develop a very loyal following if they continue on that path. The problem is that their support base is youths who don't take the time to vote, and they don't necessarily develop their minds to a point where they can sustain the belief. This party cannot just be the 'party for principle', it has to be the party for 'principled education'. It more than any other party needs to develop campus groups, and to spread those to other communities. The problem is that there are too many conservatives in the party looking for 'results'. It is their influence which is destined to see conservatives placated. They need to abandon that tact because conservatives will vote 'Conservative', and that is where they belong. Is there hope of 'educating' conservatives. No, there is not. The political system does not permit that. That will only happen in the community when there is an on-going engagement with people. Such influence cannot be rushed.

In conclusion, I believe people should vote for an aspirational party; and I think that whilst there are a number of them, ACT is the only one who can defend their policy platform, and thus act as a meaningful defender of 'liberal principles'. This they do to varying degrees of success. For instance, I was rather disappointed with ACT's debate (Jamie Whyte vs Norman Russell) with the Greens Party. I shall post a link to my repudiation of the Greens position. This however is Greens flagship policy, so it was critical for ACT to undermine them on this because there are a lot of votes in Greens for ACT. The problem is that Jamie is not a scientist; he comes from an economics/philosophy background. I'm all three.

There is an old adage from Edmund Burke that reads:
Edmund Burke: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing".
The problem is that the exponents of good values are only as useful as their last battle, and if they have not confronted their opponents, then they are not always prepared for their policy, and they may not get another opportunity to rectify it. ACT in its glee at getting exposure has given Greens a lead, and they may not get the same exposure to correct that mistake. They need to be prepared on these issues.

Disclosure: It was a tantrum that brought me to NZ. It was Australian politics which caused it.

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Dr Jamie Whyte is the new leader of the New Zealand ACT Party

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It seems Dr Jamie Whyte is the new leader of the ACT Party. I have mixed views after reading his book and his latest news statements. Certainly he is a shift in the right direct in terms of ideology; though I suspect he might fall prey to the idea that the electorate is stupid, so you have to pull the wool over their eyes.

In any case, I can understand the desire to 'placate conservatives' who are perhaps an important element of the party. The problem is that I suspect this is a precursor to a wholesale sell-out. I'm not sure the extent to which is 'posturing' or 'coaching' conservatives, who would otherwise be destined to join the Conservative Party. I actually think it would be a good idea if religious and other dogmatists joined Conservatives and left ACT to intellectual libertarians, then they might both get 5 seats. There is a large market to be developed here; particularly among youths, and particularly online.
Went to the beach today; surprised that a former National Party supporter now votes Green (a former farmer). Unbelievable how they are losing supporters....to the Greens???

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Jamie Whyte preserves the ACT Party's conservatism - libertarians left estranged

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I consider it a fatal flaw in the direction of the ACT Party that they are pursuing a course of action which best depicts the folly of the National Party - the only difference being that their sanction for 'extortion-based' politics is contrived as support for 'small government' when in fact, at issue is:
1. The legitimacy of representative democracy and the extortion it invokes. They support this political game when they cease to make member or constituent views worthy of consideration, simply because they are not popular.
2. The role of government - and not simply the size of it. You cannot know the size of government until you have decided the role.

Now, such issues are seldom discussed by governments, parties or even political commentators. This does not mean that they don't have a view, but it means something; and it can only mean that they think it 'impractical' (or ideological) to consider such issues, or that they are conservatives all to happy to welcome their fate as participants in our contemporary 'representative democracy', which I describe as an extortion racket. They don't see it that way. They think they can redeem the system by appealing to the logic of their counterparts. Nevermind the fact that their opponents don't sanction or entertain reasons; they sanction 'authority' measured in terms of 'numbers' and 'credibility' measured in terms of 'number', 'organisational or hierarchical influence' or plausibly whether you have a 'PhD', but then many people have those these days, and every side has at least one.

So where is the evidence of the ACT Party taking this path. Well, it comes from a recent interview with their two candidates in the forthcoming leadership challenge - to be decided. I have made the argument that the debate or 'battle' has already decided 'epistemologically'; but in a few days, they will make a political decision. So let's examine what was said in an interview with the NZ Herald, and why its important.
“ACT leadership hopeful Jamie Whyte says he does not want to impose his own views about drug liberalisation on to the Act Party. Dr Whyte has been a vocal advocate in the past for the legalisation of drugs on the basis of personal liberty. But he told the Herald this week he was not going to "hijack" the party with a libertarian agenda and push drug legalisation on it”. 
My initial reaction was to say “What is it about politics that makes people sell-out their values”. Jamie Whyte says “He doesn’t want to impose”? Why not, that’s what the ACT Party, in fact all parties, are doing, imposing. That’s what political parties that support ‘popular franchises’ do, they impose their popular views on minorities. That’s how the system is structured. Why can’t Whyte impose his view of drugs on the party with an underlying respect for facts? Is that not what parties are supposed to be about? The ‘virtue’ of the ideas, and not their legacy of historic popularity. At the end of the day, it is the outlawing of drugs which is the 'imposing', and supposedly his role as a 'moral authority' was to defend people's right to smoke pot. For this reason it perhaps requires clarification as to what he means by 'not wanting to impose'. After all someone is deciding ACT Party policy, and if its not a rational perspective, there is no question of avoiding imposition. At issue is whether its justifiable imposition, or simply your garden-variety subjective extortion. But having argued that he supports the right of people to use drugs, he seems to be stepping away from that view because its unpopular with his constituency.
Personally, my love affair with Dr Jamie Whyte was always going to be brief. He has good ‘street cred’ on economics, but his philosophy was always going to disappoint. Sadly, he might not regard himself as a conservative, but he just identified himself as one. i.e. As an intellectual coward. Am I being too hard?
The notion that he is not going to 'hijack the party' might be posturing to placate conservatives. But I would in fact prefer it if he actually just honestly acknowledged that his views are different from most conservatives, and that he would offer explanations for why he holds the views he does, and I'd hope that he would attempt to reconcile his views with others inside the party, and that constituents or members had the opportunity to challenge party policy. That doesn't seem to be happening. This is after all a party 'with an agenda', its just that Whyte is 'disavowing' his hold on it. Maybe its John Boscawen's because he is the main party financier.
"You could not make that Act policy [drug legalisation] and carry the party with you so I am not going to try to make that Act's policy”. 
It bothers me less that he ditched the issue, but rather I’m concerned more by his reasons for doing so. That’s what political leaders do; they make moral cases on issues. i.e. The collect evidence, they make arguments, they listen to arguments. If you can’t make a case to defend the policy, then don’t participate in politics, or alternatively, you castigate the system for not allowing you to make a case to your constituents. There is unquestionably people in the party who are conservatives who belong in the National Party; with a  greater proclivity for "smaller government" than the National Party. But ACT should not be about small government; it should be about government taking its ‘proper role’, whether that role is 'big government' or 'small government', or plausibly 'big government' today but shrinking to 'small government', if at all government in the future.
He says he is not going to try to make [drug legalisation] ACT Party policy because it would estrange members of the party. Clearly Whyte has decided that he is not a libertarian. I don't think you can claw your way back from that position.
“Act held itself together around economics and the role of the state. Focusing on discrepancies within the party was silly”.  
Actually it didn't hold itself together so much as stand on a popularised policy, and fail to deal with less popular, more contentious issues. The reason why it did not deal with the 'drug legalisation' issue is because there had been no resolution. You had party leaders debating their own personal views without having reconciled their views, or made a case within the party to defend them. The problem with this approach is you sabotage debate if you say you won't hold certain values as policy. Calling these contentious issues' or party divisions "discrepancy" is ludicrous. What is the role of political organisations if not to debate the issues. If there is a discrepancy then please elucidate it. That is not an argument for anything. It is an intellectual surrender; a 'conservative' concession to the mindless journalists and voters outside of the party, and those inside the party who retain a conservative perspective, and who don't belong in a libertarian party. If indeed this was ever a libertarian party. Well, it seems therefore that ACT is NOT a libertarian party. It is official. ACT is a 'small government' franchise of the National Party, where people hope for smaller government, but they never achieve it because ideas are vaguely threatening. 
"We don't want to be like the bloody People's Front of Judea [Monty Python's Life of Brian] or whatever it is and splitting off. It's bad enough already”.
No, but we need to ask why people take off and form all-manner of ‘splinter organisations’, and consider the fact that that has already happened. The reason is that there is no attempt to reconcile values. And maybe Whyte is not the person to reconcile arguments if his view is, not to be radical, but to be a ‘National franchise for small government’. My vision of ACT was that it was a party for ideas, a party that honesty and openly entertains different ideas, and by having some respect for people, facts, evidence and arguments, it arrives at policy, using that evidence to defend those values outside the party. But instead, we seem to have adopted the mantra of a conservative party where 'the vaguely threatening, unintelligible, inextricable external world' decides policy because we don't have the confidence to project honesty, integrity or certainty. Perhaps the folly is to think that the debate is to be held in the media, i.e. That the party needs to convince the media that their ideas are good, and therein people like the media's interpretation of the party. This strikes me as a bad approach because the people who take that approach are not going to like the ACT Party's values. This might appear to be a strategy for maligning the ACT Party, but in fact it builds a fan base among those who actually respect ideas. Maybe this party needs to construct its 'constituency' or loyal following among internet friends, and the like, and to simply to circumvent the media, which is becoming an increasing irrelevancy to questions of politics, cited only for talking points rather than for controversial ideas. The contemporary parties are media instruments. I think its folly that drives people to sanction and support these 'media puppets'. That is what they are. The media decides whether a party lives or dies. ACT is dying because it allows the media, who deplores its values, to shape how the world perceives it. Rather than define itself another way, it has instead decided that its going to malign itself to remain 'relevant' to the media. 
"So I have no intention of hijacking the party and ramming a radical libertarian agenda down its throat."
An intellectual defence or argument is not hijacking; its respecting the facts of reality, and making a case for them. The implication is that Whyte’s vision is that he is entrenched in a sceptical view of the world, where, if he can’t reconcile his ideas with others, he just defers to the power of the extortionist, unwittingly giving sanction to the political system of extortion that keeps his ideas at bay. Libertarianism will remain ‘at bay’ as long as he and others ‘sceptically acquiesce’. Now, of course, we as libertarians can go off and form our own groups. Maybe that is indeed what we need to do. We need to stop looking outside; to stop looking to political parties to define our values, and to organise as a group of people without political identity, but with a shared set of coherent & correspondent values, which when we have the support of 5% of the electorate, we might seek representation on the political stage. This is I think a better way to go about this purpose. For this reason, I have established a website and Facebook page. At some point the political system has to be challenged, as constituents in Thailand are currently doing. Democrats in Thailand are standing up to government. Despite having the military on their side, they are not even able to articulate an intellectual argument for their views, and yet they are certain they are against the current system. It may well be that some leaders in fact have a 'purpose' but they don't want to 'impose' their views because people might question the vision. They are not ‘coercing’ they are defending their right not to be a victim. Whyte needs to similarly ask ‘who is imposing upon whom’? Possibly the vision needs to start with his supporters rather than with the general populace. 
Whyte adheres to the principle that "something is good for you if its benefits exceed its costs. Otherwise it is bad for you".
One would have to argue that this is not a profound philosophical statement; it is in fact, a part definition of ‘self-interest’ or ‘the good’, but it’s not even complete, since it neglects to offer an epistemological foundation for one’s interests. This was always the folly underwriting Whyte’s scepticism. This is why he is of the view that life is about leaving other people alone, but he can’t bring himself to defend the idea, because he hasn’t got a working model to go by. He therein renounces his mind, and becomes a conservative. 
“Drug users are simply people for whom the pleasure outweighs the risk of death, illness, addiction and all the rest ... the same is not true of everyone”.
No. Drug users are not thinking about the risks of death, or even getting caught for drug addiction. They are seeking a 'expedited' benefit rather than a long-term one, in the same fashion that a lonely guy might sleep with prostitutes, or a guy lacking self-esteem, might sleep with prostitutes. Its not because they have appraised the risks of prostitution, i.e. Getting aids, otherwise we would all be having sex with kids as they turn 18 years of age, free of the knowledge that they are 'legal targets'. The truth is that most people expect the pleasure or benefits to outweigh the risks; that what acting in one's self-interest entails. This is the type of analysis that makes me question Whyte on psychology. 
“People have just got to believe that it isn't just a vehicle for either careerist politicians or to be used by other parties for their goals - that it is more than that. It really is a party in its own right with strong principles”.
Well, perhaps sceptics need to ask themselves what caused them to become ‘careerist politicians’; how they came to be used by other parties. The reason is:
1. There is no private ‘market’ for skills in extortion and dishonesty that plague ‘practical politics’
2. These people were idealists when they joined the political movement; but in the process of being ‘changed’ by politics, they defined themselves and career direction. In so doing, their values were ‘cemented’. 

The ACT Party has historically defined its ‘strength’ as lying with the balance of power. That is a role vested in extortion. Did the party use that ‘power’ to misappropriate value? Perhaps not, but it apparently uses the same standards to appropriate power, as its unwilling to entertain ideas that it considers ‘unpopular’. The reason why drugs does not get on the table is not because its bad policy; its because no one is prepared to make the case to support it. Jamie Whyte has backtracked on this issue, as Brash and Banks previously did. 

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ACT Party confronts leadership choices before Sunday

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In recent weeks I have been excited with the prospect that NZ's ACT Party would have a new leader. More exciting perhaps was the prospect that there was the knowledge that there was a candidate that did not come from a traditional political background; a 'careerist politician', but rather someone who'd lived in the world, knew economics, philosophy, who had a real job, and moreover, had sensible values because of it. More refreshing still was the fact that that he had written a book 'Free Thoughts', so I would have the opportunity to get inside of his mind. This was a rare opportunity. I've never known a politician to be so open at the start of their career. Most wait until the end before they'd ever allow themselves to be 'pegged'. Well, its probable that Jamie Whyte never intended to be a politician. Still, honesty is a great path, but can he stay on it.
I am speaking of ACT Party presidential candidate Dr Jamie Whyte. His book is available at the Adam Smith Institute. I have not only read the 220-odd pages of this book, but I have critiqued it. This is what philosophers should do. In doing so, I was able to arrive at some startling conclusions:
1. Jamie Whyte has a magnificent capacity to make complex issues seem simple. This is great for articulating ideas; as long as you do justice to the ideas.
2. Whyte has a great understanding of economics, and he's pretty handy at politics too. I am less comfortable with his understanding of psychology and philosophy, but then that debate will have to wait for an issue to make the point.

Now, I am a person who really gets excited when someone like Whyte comes along. Maybe my expectations were always too high; or maybe I simply did not identify what was destined to become of him. i.e. How he was destined to reconcile the views outlined in his book with this political system. On some level I was apprehensive or suspicious about his intellectual roots. He identified himself as a supporter of Frederick Hayek. In some respects, I was always going to have a problem with his views. Indeed, I expected it. I in fact told myself that Whyte was a necessary precursor to people like me. I must say that, having been confronted his views, I'm having less success reconciling and accepting them as I see the concrete implication. Not because 'I'm extreme', but I'm having trouble accepting that any good can come out of his strategy. This strategy of placating 'popular support', or conservatism, arises from the belief that 'you can't change people's minds. You need to compromise. But you might ask whose views are changed, or what values are served, when:
1. You betray your values
2. Your views are examined by journalists who have no compunction but to deride you (because they hold opposing views) because they find contradictions
Why is it that no one gets to argue that "Its not my fault; its the systems?"
"The system made me betray my values".
Its an understandable argument that never gets made. I wonder if Jamie Whyte will get the chance to make this argument, and whether anyone will listen or care. I guess its ultimately the journalists who will decide if anyone cares, by thinking him important enough to write an article about him.

Based on this interview in the NZ Herald, my initial critical view was that 'this is not good', that this is a sell-out, or a betrayal of party principles. Well, its hard to argue that because this party has long been a 'sell-out' defined by 'conservative interests'. This is the price it seems that ACT pays for its coalition with the National Party, or is the problem simply that the ACT Party executive and board want to be 'more relevant', and to them that simply means being 'popular', by appealing to the self-evident values of people. The problem I have with this argument is that parties therein become 'creatures of populism' rather than ever acquainting themselves or their constituents with any values. Show me a party that discusses values. They don't. They extort or command influence, or demand it. They appeal to the 'common good' as if they knew what it meant, or they spoke for it. I know they don't, because I know that there is no such thing as a 'common good'. There is only the presumption of some person's good to be won at the expense of anothers. That is what extortion does. It does not win the argument; it circumvents the need to even discuss ideas by threatening people with adverse consequences if they don't agree, or it can simply presume to represent the interests of anyone who subscribes to some aspect of their policy position. This 'rough & ready' perspective of "representation" is a failure when any system of representation. It is ultimately an argument for voluntarism. Jamie Whyte says in this article:
“He does not want to impose his own views about drug liberalisation on to the Act Party".
The implication is that this is not a party for debating ideas; that this is a party where some people's ideas take precedence over others, even someone seeking to be leader. The acknowledgement by him is that you have to sell your soul to be leader, or that practicality (in terms of populism) in this party trumps facts, evidence and argument. Unless a philosopher, Jamie Whyte, is concluding that he doesn't have one. Is he arguing that he supports drug decriminalisation because he 'feels its a good idea'. The implication is that this party demands that he acquiesce. The question is to whom, or to what moral imperative. This sounds like a betrayal. Is that the best we can do? Apparently so. It appears that people are apprehensive about what an intellectual debate actually looks like.
On Sunday, the ACT Party will decide its new leader. It sounds like the deciding vote has already been lost. It was an epistemological 'cliff-hanger'; the political decision is now perhaps a foregone conclusion. Man overboard.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

From Xero to mining investing - a leap of faith?

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In 2010, I recommended a stock listed on the NZ Stock Exchange called Xero Ltd (NZE:XRO). The NZX is a very small market so I'm not inclined to trade it. I do however like to assist people to trade markets. I wish I could say that I have a wide following of people for these recommendations, but sadly I think that's unlikely. There are two reasons:
1. Its a small market
2. People are cynical about anyone making claims
3. People are cynical about any 'conflict of interest', whether actual or implied.

For the record - I do have a conflict of interest. I am asking for a payment of $70 for a book on 'Global Mining Investing', which was in its first edition about 460 pages long. Its an eBook I am currently updating. Normally, I don't trade stocks like Xero, however it was a 'stand-out' buy at the time, and whilst I was not willing to set up an account, I obviously stand by the recommendation. I would however note that, the stock is now a technical sell. Being still a growth company, it probably has more upside, but I would argue that it also has a lot of downside in the short term. We originally recommended the stock around $1.60 (see Google Finance in 2010), and its now $28.61, at this date.

It is going to be rare that any person investing in a company like Xero will get a chance. Any IT company like Xero in future seeking to raise money will be compared to Xero, so professional insiders will get the opportunity, so they will not be listed until those 'insiders' want to take their profits from an illiquid market. Expect the founder of Xero to be backing these new market entrant companies. Investors like to go to executive billionaires like him because they want the 'investor profile' that these people bring. Its a sad reality of the capitalist system. Success sells to success and the little guy becomes cynical and marginalised. This not need be the case. The mining industry is a great industry for making money, and they need the money. There are plenty of small companies, and metal prices are volatile. We don't just tell you which stocks to buy, we help you identify them. We can hold your hand through your investment journey on Facebook and my personal page (because I love what I do - as a mining analyst), and we'll even appraise the companies readers like so that ever 'learned' investor improves their skills. Learning how to make money builds commercial acumen, and that means NZ has more business-savvy people to advance this country.

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