Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mine Your Own Business !

I just finished watching this interesting 2006 documentary that exposes the environmental movement's horrific anti-development and anti-growth attitude, and their complete hypocrisy.

Mine Your Own Business begins in the village of Rosia Montana, Romania, where a Canadian mining company is facing huge opposition from the environmental NGOs about their plans to develop a gold mine. The environmental movement issue statements that the villagers will suffer under this plan, the pristine environment will be devastated and that 700 villagers have been forcefully removed from their homes, and that it is deeply unpopular and unwelcome by the locals.

The documentary exposes all these claims as bald lies. The villagers were extremely eager to sell their homes voluntarily. The local environment was not quite so pristine and untouched, with polluted rivers from the era of a state run mine. And most interestingly, the villagers were very keen on having a mining industry in their local area for employment and income.

The same scenario was showed as the documentary makers travelled to 2 other mines that were opposed by environmental NGOs. One mine in Madagascar, and another in the mountains of Chile, were both welcomed by the impoverished locals, and fiercely criticised by the environmental activists.

On a technical note, the documentary is produced in a bit of a Michael Moore style, although obviously the political statement doesn't resemble anything Michael Moore has ever produced. A poor Romanian drill operator, eager to work, is taken to visit the other mines and is interviewed at length about his willingness to work and how his entire village depend on trade and commerce to survive and to be happy.

Key leaders of environmental NGOs are interviewed, and they are easily shown to be dishonest or deluded. They either claim that they "really know whats best" for the local villagers, and they even stretched the truth by claiming that that they have visited and lived in these rural villages where mining operations are being proposed, when they have never set foot in the area. They are exposed as wealthy and comfortable people who possess the delusion that they know what actually makes poor villagers happy, and one even spelled out his twisted opinion (I paraphrase here)

"We cannot measure happiness for these people the way we do for ourselves. Health, living standards, income - these aren't valid. We need to look at culture, environmental factors and their way of life"

After watching the entire documentary, this ridiculous claim is destroyed. Some terrific interviews with Deepak Lal and Frank Furedi give an insight into what drives the environmental movement, and I'd have to agree with them in viewing it as nothing more than a secular religion.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The ACCC hurt consumers yet again

Courtesy of the Daily Reckoning comes this interesting report:
Late last week the ACCC told supermarket chain Coles that it mustn't offer customers a 40 cent discount on fuel. You've probably read the news articles covering the story. But not surprisingly none of them point out the idiocy of the demand by the ACCC.

Of course, the Coles special offer had strings attached. Customers would have to spend over $300 to get the discount, but still, the chance to get your petrol at 70 cents per litre rather than $1.10 isn't a bad deal.

Sure, you could argue that Coles just inflates it's prices to pay for the cheaper fuel. If you think that then you don't have to take them up on the offer. But if you shop at Coles all the time anyway, then it's a pretty good deal.

However, according to the ACCC it's a bad deal and it had to be stopped.

Why? Here's what the ACCC had to say about the offer:

"However there is a balance to be found between providing consumers with discounts on the one hand, and on the other offering significant price cuts for sustained periods or repeated offers which might have deeper impact on competition in the long term. The ACCC is not satisfied on information currently available that this promotion struck the right balance."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Goddess of the Market by Jennifer Burns

Here's a book I'll add to my shopping list - Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right.

The author, Jennifer Burns, was just on the Daily Show to promote her book, but rather than act as a passionate supporter of Ayn Rand, she presented her as some type of character of interest or fascination for conservatives.

John Stewart proved once again why he just doesn't quite "get it" most of the time. On the one hand, he seems to frequently tear into politicians (however the target is more often right wing ones than left wing targets) and ridicule their nonsense and broken promises. Whenever he has the attention span to fact check a claim, he usually does a terrific job of making fun of it. But it seems like he doesn't have enough attention to understand why conservatives are skeptical of big government, and instead interprets it as a shallow trick to rouse emotions and opposition to Obama.

He seems to flippantly and casually dismiss libertarians and free marketers as an angry emotional and irrational mob, whilst senior Democrats like Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi are treated like sincere, virtuous public servants who give themselves to the greater good.

How did John Stewart describe Ayn Rand ? As an "elite", an "intellectual" who has a philosophy that works for the elite but not for the rest of us. And he mentioned that she upset the mainstream conservative movement in the 1950's with her atheism.

And immediately after, he mocked 'conservatives' Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, saying that they are anything but intellectuals and therefore today's conservatives have nothing to do with Ayn Rand.

But all the while, he failed to acknowledge that the Republicans don't exactly always represent the libertarian school of thought, to put it mildly. And that those who associate themselves with the right are not necessarily traditional conservatives.

I sat aghast at the fact that the author, Jennifer Burns, sat quietly through this slanderous attack on the Ayn Rand and the conservative movement, and she allowed a TV host in the space of 2 minutes, to totally misrepresent the subject of her book, and the philosophy of liberty.

Liberty and individualism is not a system to benefit elites. In fact, communism is the only system which promotes the elites above the proleteriat.

Liberty and individual rights make sure that merit is rewarded and laziness is punished. Capitalism and free markets, as a system, doesn't "believe" in any kind of outcome. It does not promote the smart above the stupid, the strong above the weak.

It helps foster one very important outcome - that people face the consequences of their actions. And with that incentive, the capitalist economies have made people work harder, care for their families and build prosperity far more succesfully than any command economy like North Korea or Cuba.

John Stewart just doesn't get liberty, he even described it as a philosophy of extremist individualism, to be contrasted and compared with communism, another extremist ideology. And according to him ..... somehow, its up to today's talk show hosts, political pundits and talking heads to find the middle ground between freedom and totalitarianism.

I don't quite buy it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

There's corporatism, crony capitalism and then there's free markets. has an excellent piece which sums up the idea that there is a huge difference between free market capitalism and between so called "deregulation" which ends up handing out government contracts and establishing cozy monopolies for private businesses.

I've heard far too many leftists decry huge calamities ( such as the financial crisis, Enron, the bailouts, failing education and health standards) as being due to deregulation and privatization. In the case of Michael Moore, he just blames capitalism, property rights and free enterprise as being behind the problems of the US health system or the financial crisis.

This piece rebuts that nonsense far more eloquently than I ever could.

On Education:

Consider Philadelphia's failed attempt to "privatize" education. The city hired the services of a supposedly private corporation called Edison to oversee it. All the schools were taken over by Edison and the city paid it to manage them.

With no competition in sight and a guarantee of payment by the government regardless of performance, Edison's operation was completely inefficient, and it promptly failed.

The proponents of public education were ecstatic. They could say to the world, "See — we're open-minded. We tried using the market to educate children and it failed; capitalism failed." Wrong! Capitalism didn't fail; corporatism failed.

On Enron:

And who can forget California's "energy deregulation" scheme? That fiasco began when voters passed a ballot measure mandating energy deregulation. Well, the legislature together with a handful of private corporations (including Enron) devised a system guaranteed to fail: they partially deregulated energy supply while keeping consumer prices tightly capped.

As was to be expected, energy sold on the spot market increased overall costs for suppliers, due in large part to manufactured shortages by energy brokers like Enron. Consumers gobbled up more and more wattage in the comfort of prices that government regulators kept artificially low, and the entire system began to collapse. Moreover, the government made it impossible for anyone to construct new power plants, thus ensuring that no one would be able to meet the rising demand for energy.

On the bailouts and financial crisis:

And don't get me started on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These quasi-private corporations may benefit from privatized profits but their losses are socialized, creating a huge moral hazard. Where does it all end?

Whether we are discussing farm subsidies, bailouts, corporate favoritism, or licenses and privileges given to certain companies, we are in fact seeing the myriad ways that government has reared its head into the markets. Government and corporations invent scheme after scheme to ensure the superficial appearance of free enterprise, line the pockets of each, and shield the government from any blame.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Why government run health care really is scary

The Mises institute have a terrific post written by Yuri Maltsev about the perils of Soviet healthcare.

Here are some key excerpts:
The system had many decades to work, but widespread apathy and low quality of work paralyzed the healthcare system. In the depths of the socialist experiment, healthcare institutions in Russia were at least a hundred years behind the average US level. Moreover, the filth, odors, cats roaming the halls, drunken medical personnel, and absence of soap and cleaning supplies added to an overall impression of hopelessness and frustration that paralyzed the system. According to official Russian estimates, 78 percent of all AIDS victims in Russia contracted the virus through dirty needles or HIV-tainted blood in the state-run hospitals.


To improve the statistics concerning the numbers of people dying within the system, patients were routinely shoved out the door before taking their last breath.

At the end of the socialist experiment, the official infant-mortality rate in Russia was more than 2.5 times as high as in the United States and more than five times that of Japan. The rate of 24.5 deaths per 1,000 live births was questioned recently by several deputies to the Russian Parliament, who claim that it is seven times higher than in the United States. This would make the Russian death rate 55 compared to the US rate of 8.1 per 1,000 live births.

Having said that, I should make it clear that the United States has one of the highest rates of the industrialized world only because it counts all dead infants, including premature babies, which is where most of the fatalities occur.

Most countries do not count premature-infant deaths. Some don't count any deaths that occur in the first 72 hours. Some countries don't even count any deaths from the first two weeks of life. In Cuba, which boasts a very low infant-mortality rate, infants are only registered when they are several months old, thereby leaving out of the official statistics all infant deaths that take place within the first several months of life.


After seventy years of socialism, 57 percent of all Russian hospitals did not have running hot water, and 36 percent of hospitals located in rural areas of Russia did not have water or sewage at all. Isn't it amazing that socialist government, while developing space exploration and sophisticated weapons, would completely ignore the basic human needs of its citizens?