03 September 2013

Surviving Angkar: Memories of Life and Death in Pol Pot's Kampuchea

Surviving Angkar is a compelling story of survival and deliverance, a penetrating insight into the nature of an inhumane ideology, and a timely resource of recent world history that needs to be remembered and understood in order to prevent it being repeated.
Surviving Angkar by John Dawson, as told to him by Leakhana Om

07 January 2013

Triumph of Les Misérables

What Les Miserables offers is the experience of fighting for something of supreme value, be it as lofty as "the right to be free" or as personalised as a child's doll, and of the panoply of emotions that may result depending on the outcome of the fight. But maybe the full impact of this emotional tour de force cannot be experienced from the screen version without first experiencing the written and staged versions.
Triumph of Les Misérables, by John Dawson

20 August 2012

The right to speak is fundamental

Australia’s senior politicians, judges, and opinion makers have received a book titled: In Defence of Freedom of Speech; From Ancient Greece to Andrew Bolt, by Chris Berg. They should read it. Read why here:
Berg's book concludes: "If freedom of speech is to be defended into the twenty-first century, it needs to be more than a motherhood statement. We need to understand where it came from – its centrality to the history of Western Civilisation. And we need to understand what freedom of speech actually means – why it matters, and why it is still our most important human liberty."
Free Speech & its Enemies, by John Dawson

02 July 2012

22 June 2012

An open letter to Cassandra Wilkinson


Dear Cassandra,

I am a big fan of your strait talking style and independent rationality, so it astounds me that you seem to have fallen for the anthropogenic global warming doctrine, to the extent that you defended the carbon tax in a recent Sky News debate.

You argue that even though the AGW doctrine might turn out to be nonsense, the tax is a good idea, because it will encourage people to use less energy and develop new energy sources (e.g. windmills or solar panels or other non-emitting technologies) that they can then market to the world. If that makes economic sense, I have another good idea that should be right up your alley. Let's have a wheel tax that will encourage people to travell less and develop new means of wheel-less transport (e.g. canals or hovercrafts or other non wheeled technology) which they can then market to the world. 

But maybe we should consider a few of the problems with such schemes:-

1. They depend on obsolete technology (e.g. windmills or canals), new but much more expensive technology (e.g. solar or hovercraft), or on not yet invented technology (e.g. carbon capture or beam me up Scotty technology). If such alternatives were better than CO2 emitting and wheeled technologies, they would be up and running by now, and if they ever do become economically sensible they will soon be running in the freest economies, from where they will spread to the rest of the world, just like the emitting technologies did. But in the meantime taxing existing technologies to subsidise less efficient and more expensive technologies can only shackle our economy to anchors it has to drag.  

2. Such schemes depend on the rest of the world shackling their economies to the same anchors. If other countries decide they want to gain what we have (e.g. China and India) or to increase their economic advantages (e.g. the US) they will not so shackle their economies, so our new technologies will have no market, and we will have lost our competitive advantage.   

3. The government's Orwellian named "clean energy future" depends on a world-wide CO2 emission detection, policing and trading scheme, to be administered by some UN type agency ! This plan, by the way, doesn't have us reducing our emissions; it has us buying carbon-credits from other countries, who are expected to reduce their emissions to reduce their own carbon footprint and then reduce them further to clock up the carbon credits to sell to us so we can keep emitting !! These countries will be doing this, mind you, without the incentive of our $23+++ carbon tax !!! While we continue to increase our earnings from our largest export - coal !!!! Where the hell will that go? Remember - practically every ounce of carbon extracted from the ground ends up as CO2 in the atmosphere !!!!! 

4. But let's assume, for a moment, that for the first time in history a government plan (in this case an inter-government plan) actually succeeded in achieving its objective (in this case a low emitting world, powered by windmills solar panels and yet to be discovered technology) - so that the coal and oil that raised the world's population from one to 7 billion and doubled life expectancy and offered most of us opportunities that pre-emitting generations never dreamt of, stayed in the ground. Can you begin to calculate the economic cost of such a success? In human livelihoods, lifestyles, and lives? And if this "clean energy future" does by some science fiction means keep the 6 billion people who wouldn't be here if it weren't for CO2 emitting energy alive, how much surplus energy would it produce to be used to adjust to detrimental climate change or capitalise on beneficial climate change - be it man or nature made? 

Climate has always changed. The 20th century changes were nothing unusual. The alleged consensus has failed to accurately predict changes two decades out. On the basis of its projections two centuries out, do you really want to consign the commanding heights of the world's economies to the tender care of Green senators, beholden PMs, UN energy Tsars, international carbon credit traders, third world emissions inspectors, Green lobby groups, Al Gore, Michael Mann, Tim Flannery et al?  If so, what is this destruction of the CO2 emitting world for?  If not, what is the carbon tax for? These are not rhetorical questions, I would really like to know. 

24 October 2011

Protest the Cronyism in Capitalism


If the Occupy Wall Street protesters want to move us towards the socialist side of our mixed economy, they should be careful what they wish for. If the capitalists want to move us towards the free enterprise side of the mix, they should be careful what they agree with.


The anti-capitalist protests are confused to put it euphemistically, but the pro-capitalist responses are not without their confusions either. In The Australian on 18 October, under the header “Business must engage in battle for hearts and minds”, Professor Peter Shergold argued that the "licence to operate" a business must be “rearticulated” to make “corporate social responsibility” a “core business activity” rather than a peripheral “bolt-on” activity, in order to regain “business legitimacy”; because: “giving back is no longer sufficient. Charity will not save capitalism”.  

Licence to operate? Social value? Business legitimacy? Giving back?

Read more here


When a corporation decides to give away part of its profits it should call it charity or public relations or corporate policy; not “corporate social responsibility”. Its responsibility is to those it deals with and who own it, and its right to operate is derived from their inalienable right to liberty. 

Protest the Cronyism in Capitalism, by John Dawson

14 October 2011

Pork Barrels & Green Pyramids

If the Australian government runs true to form and stuffs its carbon pricing scheme up we will lose and lose and lose; but if it actually makes its scheme work we will lose and lose and lose and lose and lose. When the ancient Egyptians squandered the toil of generations to build their monuments to the vanity of their Pharaohs, they at least left behind some pyramids for us to marvel at; but there will be nothing to show for the squandering of our productivity to Bob Brown’s and Julia Gillard's vanity except the wonderment of future historians that a country as sensible as Australia could have led the way down such a duplicitous, fallacious, despotic, inhumane, spin-doctored pathway.

Billions wasted painting pork barrels, by Don Argus 

12 October 2011

Left vs Right - to free speech

There was a time when the Left championed free speech, (and the Right opposed it on issues such as pornography). No more. Read a typical Left reaction to the Bolt verdict here and here (although Crikey at least posted my comments).

If freedom of speech is to survive it’s up to the Right to salvage it – read Quadrant, IPA, and The Australian, e.g.here, here and here. When it comes to freedom of any kind, the Left cannot be counted on for anything more than the occasional hypocritical platitude.

07 October 2011

No right to violate rights

BRIGITTE Dwyer (Letters 6/10) demonstrates how the vital concept of rights has been degraded.

Many things are valuable in society, including civility in public discourse, convenient transport for the disabled, and goodwill towards men and women. But these are not rights.

Rights are those essential values that the government must protect, the most fundamental being the right to live free from initiated force, which means free to use one's property and speak one's mind as one sees fit.

There can be no right to violate rights, no right to force a company to supply customers goods or services, or to silence a journalist.

The law that was used to silence Andrew Bolt is a shocking travesty that must be repealed.

(The Australian letters 7/10/2011
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01 October 2011

The Racial Discrimination Act is racist


In a clear cut violation of the right to freedom of speech, The Federal Court of Australia found journalist Andrew Bolt guilty of breaching the Racial Discrimination Act. Bolt’s crime was comments he made that “offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated” people, the said comments being made “because of the race, colour or ethnic origin of [those] fair-skinned Aboriginal people”.

The offending comments were made in Bolt’s column in the Herald Sun on April 15th and August 21st 2009. In those columns Bolt questioned why some fair skinned people identify themselves as Aborigines and implied it was because "it's so hip to be black" and because there were material advantages in being black.

Contrary to the attempts of some left-wing commentators to obfuscate the crucial issue of freedom of speech, the judgment against Bolt was not made because of some inconsequential inaccuracies in his columns. Reference to these errors was made in relation to a peripheral (section 18D) issue, the judgment itself was based on the (section 18C) prohibition of acts that are “reasonably likely” to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” people in a manner related to their race.

A right to freedom of speech that doesn’t offend anybody is not a right to anything meaningful at all. No one anywhere ever needs to defend his right to say what everyone likes to hear. It is precisely comments that offend, insult or humiliate someone that must be defended by the right to freedom of speech. Offended people have every right to avoid listening to or reading offending comments, but they have no legitimate right to use the force of law to stop such comments being said or written, or to stop other people listening to or reading them.

Read more here  

Ironically, it is the cultural apartheid enshrined in this Racial Discrimination Act that has injected racism back into Australia's legal system. It divides Australians into racial groups and hands each the means of censoring what anyone from any other group may say about them – by warning that they may be “reasonably likely” to be offended by speech they want to censor. Under this law feelings trump reality; multiculturalism trumps liberty, and race trumps individual rights….
Offended feelings are a small price to pay for freedom of speech, because without it no other freedom can be protected. In the name of equality before the law, justice, and liberty, the deceptively named Racial Discrimination Act must be repealed.
 


25 September 2011

Alarmist Arithmetic

Climate alarmists like to warn us that there is enough ice on Greenland to raise sea levels by 7 metres when anthropomorphic global warming melts it away, e.g. here.  So when the new Times Atlas depicted Greenland as having lost 15% or 1/7th of its ice during the last twelve years, and this claim was backed by a leading climate change scientist, alarm bells were sent a clanging e.g. here. 

How alarming is that? Well according to my primary school arithmetic: if all of Greenland’s ice would raise sea levels by 7 metres when melted, 1/7th of that would raise sea levels by one metre (actually a bit more due to growing expanse later, but let's not quibble)! Hmmm, I think I might have noticed that!

The Times, however, remains “categorical”. Some alarmists decided this one couldn’t “be winked away”. Their scientists claim that Greenland has lost 0.1% of its ice over the last 12 years – 1/150th of what the Times cartographers claim. The climate scientists who endorsed the cartographers, however, were just running true to form.

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21 September 2011

Counting the cost down the garden “pathway to a clean energy future”

The Australian Government made its best sales pitch for its “carbon price package” when it distributed the "pathway" booklet to every Australian household. …The more that is understood about the pathway to that deceptively named “clean energy future”, however, the more negative the public’s reaction will be. The government knows this; that’s why it covers the pathway with such a prolific overgrowth of propaganda. But let us try to find our way through the undergrowth and discover where the pathway leads and what it will cost our lucky country…. read more here

By 2050 we will have purchased over 9,300Mt of carbon credits at a cost of more than $750 billion….This is a lot of money - if we could have put a million dollars in a piggybank every day from the day Jesus was born until today we would not have accumulated that much. No Australian receives anything in exchange for this $750,000,000,000, except permission to emit CO2 into the atmosphere….

The USSR used to predict strong growth and prosperity according to five year plans; plans that depended on no economic forces beyond its absolute control – except for the weather. The Australian government predicts strong growth and prosperity according to a thirty-nine year plan; a plan that depends on the economic forces of the whole world, which it has no control over whatsoever - the purpose of the plan being control of the weather. The Soviets were not smart enough to make their plans work. But our government is smart enough to make its plan work for our future and for the world’s weather? …

The carbon price package will not drain CO2 and bad weather from the sky, but it will drain productivity and prosperity from the earth; it will jam a faucet into the economy and siphon an accelerating flow of funds - half to be poured down the long drop at the bottom of Bob and Julia’s garden, the other half to be channeled to where they and their political progeny direct it….

How could a couple of self justifying social planners in search of a nobel cause on the anointed sides of history to attest to their moral superiority and vision resist?
Carbon pathway to disaster, by John Dawson

06 September 2011

Insights of Václav Klaus

The Global Warming Doctrine is an ideology, if not a religion, which lives more or less independently of the science of climatology. Climate and temperature are used or more often misused in an ideological conflict about human society.
This doctrine, this new incarnation of environmentalism, is not a monolithic concept that could be easily structured and summarized. It is a flexible, rather inconsistent, loosely connected cascade of arguments, which is why it has so successfully escaped the scrutiny of science. It comfortably dwells in the easy and self-protecting world of false interdisciplinarity.
Everyone should read this - he knows what he's talking about
Climate Change the Dangerous Faith, by Vaclav Klaus

24 August 2011

The rain on Flannery's parade

Tim Flannery was chosen for his $3,000 a week job as Australia's Climate Change Commissioner for his expertise, his communication skills, and his track record in the competitive business of sounding alarms about the dire consequences of our “carbon polluting” ways. But how can his teachings and preaching ever be tested? Most of his apocalyptic prophesies are projected far enough into the future for him to be well and truly beyond accountability when they are proved right or wrong. When it came to Australia’s rainfall, however, Flannery threw caution to the wind and declared that the apocalypse is now. Read some of his predictions here 

If governments hadn’t been swayed by fanatical counselors like Flannery and intimidated by Green politicians, they wouldn’t have wasted billions of our dollars on white elephant desalination plants; but they would have allowed more dams to be built which would have reduced the need for water restrictions when it didn’t rain enough, and reduced the damage from floods when it rained too much.

When it started to rain the Greens quickly recalibrated their spin, claiming that floods as well as droughts are evidence of anthropomorphic climate change – which makes their hypothesis un-falsifiable. If both more rain and less rain verifies it, the only way it would not be verified is if rainfall remained consistent year after year - which really would be an unprecedented climate change in this land “of drought and flooding rains” as the poet Dorothea Mackellar described it a hundred years ago.
Damp Profit of Doom, by John Dawson
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20 August 2011

Vox Populi:

CO2 is world-destroying pollution. The tax will stop the pollution. And create a better economy. But it won’t cost you – just “big polluters”.  

Year right! You think we’re stupid?

Chorus
Get your hands off my wallet,

Take your hands off her purse,
Your ideas are a fraud and dishonest,

You think that freedom’s a curse
Back off just leave us alone,

Back off just leave us alone,
Back off just leave us alone,

Get out of the way
Convoy of no confidenec

08 August 2011

Now that's a scare campaign!

Highlighting the cost of the carbon tax isn't a scare campaign. 

An ABC documentary portents a global warming meltdown that will return the world to Jurassic park; Professor Robert Manne pontificates that our step into the fossil fuel age was “the most fatal misstep in the history of humankind”; Professor Clive Hamilton intones a “requiem for [our] species”; Commissioner Tim Flannery crusades to save “life on the planet”; Minister Tanya Plibersek warns that we are “losing the Great Barrier Reef, losing Kakadu National Park, losing the ability to feed ourselves”; Senator Lee Rhiannon preaches that  man made global warming is “the greatest threat we face in human history” (Greens praise newcastle anti-coal direct action) Author James Lovelock sermonizes that man made global warming will kill ten billion people this century - now that’s a scare campaign! And yet even in Lovelock’s apoplectic Book of Revelations more people are left on the planet than it could sustain before the “big polluters” made our “most fatal misstep”.

PS: Ridiculous things may be heard on the skeptic side of the debate too - when amateurs sound off. But on the warmist side it's national broadcasters, professors, ministers of the crown, senators and authors who sound off with the most unfounded, irrational, fallacious, irresponsible, preposterous, hysterical alarmism imaginable.

06 August 2011

Communalism claws individualism

Paul Keating once told me, the problem with your mob is you're like crabs in a bucket. If one of you starts climbing out and gets his claws on the rim, about to pull himself over the top to freedom, the other mob will be pulling him back down into the bucket. You all end up cooked.          Noel Pearson
Individualism versus communalism, by Noel Pearson

Individualism = liberty = reason = progress = prosperity.

Communalism = tribalism = conformity = stagnation = destitution

Our Fossil Fuel Legacy

Our ancestors had hunted and gathered for hundreds of thousands of years, then farmed for thousands more before they started burning coal and oil to power industries. During those interminable pre-industrial millennia our numbers increased slowly, haltingly, vulnerably, until there were a billion of us spread across the planet. That milestone was reached about two hundred years ago - soon after James Watt invented his steam engine. Now there are seven billion of us, and most of us can expect to live longer, less painful, more enjoyable lives than our ancestors ever dreamed possible.
Our fossil fuel legacy, by John Dawson

10 September 2010

Who's liberal now?

Has any ideological label been more contested, coveted and contorted than the term liberal? Its Latin root, liberalis, meaning "of freedom", is also the root of liberty; so how is it that lovers of liberty find themselves identifying enemies of liberty by calling them liberals? - See more at: 
Welcome return of the prodigal true liberal





25 February 2010

Climate Alarmism

The anthropogenic global warming alarmist crusade for governmental and intergovernmental intervention to curb the activities of the “big polluters” who supply our power and transport and food is an atrocious travesty.

Its scientific argument is fraudulent, but even if it wasn’t, it would still be a travesty because of its economics.

Its economic argument is fallacious, but even if it wasn’t, it would still be a travesty because of its politics.

Its political argument is despotic, but even if it wasn’t, it would still be a travesty because of its morality.

Its moral argument is inhumane, but even if it wasn’t, it would still be a travesty because of its philosophy.

At root the AGW alarmism philosophy is: anti-liberty, anti-progress, and anti-human.

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01 January 2010

Source of Morality

There are three possible sources of morality: faith; reason; authority. These usually take the form of: religion; philosophy; society or someone claiming to speak for it. The three can get mixed up; indeed, the morality of most eras societies and individuals contain elements of all three. But one of the three is usually dominant - faith/religion had its heyday in medieval Christendom; reason/philosophy in classical Greece; authority/society in twentieth century communism.


Few atheists have a reasoned philosophic base to their ethics. Most simply co-opt the moral precepts established by the authority invoked by Moses and the faith invoked by Jesus, then claim that you don’t need religious faith to follow the essence of those precepts. Nineteenth century philosophers such as Auguste Compte and Karl Marx took that approach, as do modern atheists such as Dawkins and sundry Leftists.


Unfortunately mainstream philosophy has disintegrated into ethical dead ends. Pragmatism tells us to act to achieve values but not how to choose which values. Existentialism tells us to do anything to authenticate the angst. Postmodernism tells us to tear everything down so another narrative can have a go. Greens tell us we infest the earth and if we won’t die the least we can do is make our footprints as few and small as possible. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone when youth turn away from morality as such - or towards a medieval source for moral direction.


But medieval faith is an abominable source of morality. Faith requires the suspension of our human means of survival – reason. And for a human to try and live by suspending reason is like a bird trying to live by suspending flight or an ant by suspending instinct or a plant by suspending photosynthesis. But isn’t Christianity the source of the West’s success? No - Christian faith dominated the West during the Dark Ages, it was after the Greek culture and reason was rediscovered that the West produced the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, rights, science, industry, and modernity. So where do we go from here?


Our task, I submit, is to discover a rational ethical system. Morality is not a matter of doing God’s bidding, because it’s God’s bidding; or one’s duty, because it’s ones duty; or what’s unselfish, because it’s unselfish. We are allowed to ask: why should we pursue this or that moral value? And, shock horror, what’s in it for me? That’s the sort of question the Greeks asked their philosophers. That’s what men started asking during the Enlightenment; until Imanual Kant booby traped their quest. But in the 20th century there was a philosopher who answered such questions. Her name was Ayn Rand. In a sentence her answers were: because this and that are required for reason to operate, and reason is your means of living on earth. So what’s in it for you is life.

27 September 2009

What's Left?

The equality that must be defended is equality before the law - the equal right of every individual to advance his or her life and pursue happiness in liberty, including the liberty to earn or produce property, and to keep it. But contrary to [the Left's] view, this sort of equality would prohibit one class of Australians being “harnessed” to provide a free ride for another
The Left, more equal than though? by John Dawson
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24 August 2009

Stolen or Rescued?

The number of Aboriginal children in state care far exceeds the number taken in the 1920s and 30s. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,,25964264-5006784,00.html . This means that either: another generation of Aboriginal children is being stolen; or more Aboriginal children than ever need to be rescued from neglect and abuse; or there never was a stolen generation, just rescued children. Given the fact that no one has been able to produce a credible list of children ever stolen for racist reasons, my guess is the latter. Which means that the apology was a cynical sham. 

Next time a posturing PM wants to say sorry to Aborigines let it be for a real sin, like abandoning assimilation in favour of separate development for Aborigines on their “homelands”. This absurd attempt to resurrect an ancient culture by providing native title, amenities and welfare streams to isolated settlements produced a catastrophe worth apologising for. Imagine where outback Aborigines might be by now if governments, educators, and cultural leaders had encouraged Aborigines instead to move to where farmers, miners and businessmen could offer them jobs and accommodation? Maybe, just maybe, Aborigines might have been persuaded to trade-in their politically correct tribal life for a politically incorrect but safe and private space in which to raise their children and educate them for a life in the modern world. 

“Oh no”, you say, “who are we to paternalistically impose our materialism, individualism and modernity on Aborigines? What they want is to rejuvenate their spiritualism, collectivism and traditionalism?” To hell they do!

13 April 2009

Reflections of a Neo-Liberal

Market-based economies are, after all, the only economic system that not only can provide us with the extraordinarily high standard of living we enjoy but is also the only economic system consistent with personal freedom. It is true that many people do get tired of having to look after themselves all the time. It is a great burden. But if they believe anyone else can and will look after them, they are in for a great and dismal surprise. Steven Kates
Reflections of a neo-liberal, by Steven Kates

02 April 2009

15 October 2008

Socialism: A Reminder

Those who never accepted the verdict of the Cold War are interpreting the current financial crisis as a verdict against capitalism in favor of socialism. They should be careful what they wish for.
The verdicts of all the socialist experiments of the 20th century were decisive and unequivocal. But younger generations aren’t being taught the facts, and older generations don’t want to know them, or know them too well to want to talk about them. The following is a timely reminder of what socialism meant in practice.

Socialism is a political system based on the principle that society is sovereign, rather than the individuals who make it up. At the dawn of the 20th century it was the ideology whose time had come. Even the 19th century pro-capitalist philosopher John Stuart Mill had conceded in his later years that: "We are all socialists now." By the 1930s socialism was the “wave of the future”. In 1948 the economist Ludwig von Mises lamented that:

Socialism is the watchword and catchword of our day. The socialist ideal dominates the modern spirit. The masses approve of it. It expresses the thoughts and feelings of all; it has set its seal upon our time….As yet, it is true, socialism has not created a society which can be said to represent its ideal. But for more than a generation the policies of civilized nations have been directed towards nothing less than a gradual realization of socialism.
The purest form of socialism was communism - its architects, Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels, used the two terms interchangeably. The communist Utopia was a world without private property, or private enterprise, or private aspiration; all values were to be the product and property of the amorphous intangible collective called society. It was this purest and consequently most revered form of socialism that produced its most terrible failures everywhere it was tried.


Marxism was contradicted by reality from the start. Proletarians never did spontaneously erupt against capitalist masters, certainly not in Russia. By no stretch of any rationalization was Russia a capitalist country when Lenin’s Bolsheviks seized power in 1917. Despite the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, Russia was basically feudal. In an attempt to modernize the country foreign investment and private ownership of farms and industries was being encouraged, but the essential class divide was still between the peasantry and the aristocracy rather than between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Nevertheless, the Bolsheviks inherited the modernized industries and infrastructure, and a vast empire rich in minerals, forests, rivers, farmland, an enormous workforce, and the greatest potential of any European power.


The Russian aristocrats could by no stretch be considered enlightened champions of individual rights - but as repressive tyrants go, they were amateurs compared with the Bolsheviks. Between 1825 and 1917, Czarist Russia executed 3,932 political prisoners - in 1918 Communist Russia executed over 10,000 political prisoners in a single purge. It was the first of many slaughters to come. But "you can’t make an omlet without breaking eggs", explained Western intellectuals, if they acknowledged the carnage at all. The Soviets, they said, were conducting a “noble experiment”, and they would soon surpass the capitalist West, without its alleged exploitation of the workers.


With massive Western aid supplied during its famines and wars, and wholesale expropriation of the capitalists’ technologies, both overtly and covertly, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics became electrified and industrialized, and for a while it seemed to be winning the space and arms races. But while it was being portrayed on the world stage as the morally superior and historically “progressive” superpower, what was happening back on the farm?


During the 1930s, while the USSR was being championed by Western intellectuals as the model society, the Soviets were systematically purging millions of aleged disidents and starving, enslaving and brutalizing many million of Ukrainians to death for the crime of owning means-of-production such as plots of land or cows. During the 1940s, while Joseph Stalin was cozying up to Adolf Hitler, British intellectuals, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, he was starving, enslaving and brutalizing millions of his subjects in the Siberian gulags for crimes such as absenteeism or anti-Soviet utterances, and herding millions more into cattle trains for “relocation”, due to their class, religion or ethnicity. During the 1950s, while all the Soviets’ atrocious failures were being blamed on Stalin in order to exonerate party doctrine, cycles of amnesty-uprising-purge-repression were entrenching a “psychology of fear” as the “stabilizing factor” of society. During the 1960s, while the Sputniks and Yuri Gagarin were being hailed as proof of Soviet superiority, the Soviet consumers were waiting in queues for scarce groceries, or for their name to come up on the list for their own family apartment, or for a privileged few: a motorcar. At a time when there were 100 million cars on American roads, the Soviets boasted they had doubled the number on their roads to 3 million. (They had caught up with America on one statistic, however: the road toll.) During the 1970s, while the Soviet Union sponsored communist terrorism and revolution on every continent and stockpiled nuclear missiles, hundreds of dissidents were show-trialed and sent to asylums or labour camps; free speech was equated with anarchy; and food shortages were, in Brezhnev’s words, “the central problem”. During the 1980s while the Soviets spied and armed and fought and bargained and propagandized their Cold War objectives, an average Soviet worker was earning as much buying power in a year as an average welfare mother in the United States received in a month.


In the 1990s, when the USSR imploded and the propaganda curtain was raised, Western analysts were astonished to discover how gullibly they had overestimated the potency of the communist economies. The productivity of East German workers was not 20% lower than the productivity of West German workers but 66% lower, and East Germany had been one of the more prosperous communist states. As for the respective productivity of the world’s two superpowers, Alan Greenspan notes an astounding statistic:


Throughout the late nineties the [US] economy grew at a better than 4 percent annual rate. That translated to $400 billion or so of prosperity – equal in size to the entire economy of the former Soviet Union – being added to the U.S.economy each year.
The American economy was the product of people free to choose their employment or business and consume or invest what they could earn in pursuit of their personal aspirations. Its power was derived from their free minds, fueling free enterprises, competing in free markets. The Soviet economy was the product of people subordinated to the needs of society, in which the accumulation of private property was tantamount to theft, and an instrument of exploitation. Its power was derived from their service and sacrifice for the good of society, as embodied by the communist party, pronounced by its leaders, and prosecuted by systematic surveillance, denunciation, intimidation, imprisonment, enslavement, torture and slaughter of its citizens. The American system produced the richest country in history. The Soviet system produced an economic basket case.


The results of the USSR experiment turned out to be repeatable. The same cause, communism, produced the same effect, brutality and failure, in: Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Albania, Bulgaria[1], Yugoslavia[2], Romania[3], Poland[4], Czechoslovakia[5], East Germany[6], Hungary[7], Vietnam[8], Laos[9], Cambodia[10], Afghanistan[11], Tanzania, Mozambique[12], Angola[13], Ethiopia[14], Benin, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Cape Verde, Grenada and Nicaragua [15]. When Castro came to power in Cuba it was the second richest nation in Latin America, but depite assistance from the USSR and the West he turned it into the third poorest, and well over a million Cubans “voted with their oars” to escape his dictatorship - and still it is praised by America-haters for “standing up” to a superpower and for its universal health care system. In the same breath they will claim that the Cuban economy is superior, that its dismal failure is due to the exploitation of American capitalists, and that its destitution is due to sanctions that prevent American capitalists from trading in Cuba.
The largest experiment of all, conducted by Mao Zedong, whose helmsmanship included the exhortation that his “true communists” grow food in the morning and make steel in the afternoon, cost the largest deathtoll of all. .
The present plight of the North Koreans is no anomaly; their society is an archetypical result of communism – it may legitimately be compared with South Korea, which, for all its mixed-economy woes, is a paradise in comparison. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,,25217258-25837,00.html


The above is an overview of an epochal evil of staggering proportions; the following is one tiny detail. In 1949 the Romanian communists embarked on a “reeducation” program that, according to the philosopher Virgil Ierunca, involved “the most vile tortures imaginable”. Reeducation involved four phases. The aim of the first phase, “exterior unmasking", was to get the “student” to admit to anti-communist activities and links with anti-communist friends outside the prison. The aim of the second phase, "interior unmasking", was to get him to name people who had helped him inside the prison. The third phase, “public moral unmasking" was to get him to curse everything he had held sacred, his friends, family, lover and God if he had one. The fourth phase was to get him to join the torturers in the “reeducation” of his best friends. “Torture was the key to success. It implacably punctuated all confessions, between sentences. You couldn't escape the torture. You might perhaps be able to shorten it, if you admitted the worst horrors. Some students were tortured for two months; others, who were more cooperative, got away with a week."
The suffering in the gulags, which wern't confined to Siberia but were fixtures of most communist states, lasted much longer.


But there is a dimension to the communist atrocity that is missed by descriptions of torture regimes, maps of gulag archipelagos, chronicles of famines, statistics of mass murder, and analysis of dysfunctional economies. It is the billions of lives ground down and wasted in hopeless, cynical resignation and dependence on a system dictated by the omnipresent state. A typical attitude of middle-aged Russians during the 70s was: "give us food, a roof over our head, and work, and do whatever you want politically. Give us the material minimum. We won't ask for more."


Some communist experiments in non-communist countries escaped the brutality that characterized state communism, but not their economic frustrations and failures. Of these the most venerated were the kibbutzim, which cost Israeli taxpayers billions in subsidies, until they were privatized. In Australia taxpayers disregarded the billions they paid to support communally owned Aboriginal settlements, but the result, hidden for decades by vested interests, restricted access to the settlements, and politically-correct censorship, was: squalid degradation, drunken violence, child neglect, sexual brutalization, and hopeless despair.


Not every failure of the 20th century was the fault of communism, but every communist experiment was, by any human-life-based measure, a terrible failure. The communist world made some advances in weaponry and space travel, but of all the startling advances of that most inventive century that improved life on earth it is hard to think of one that was pioneered in any communist country, they were all pioneered in the more capitalistic countries, most of them in the most capitalistic country, the United States of America. The same goes for the more fundamental advances made during the 19th century. The vast sacrifices made in the name of communism were in vain - no human lives were sustained, no human values gained by communism, only despite communism.


But must we decide between a pure form of socialism and a pure form of capitalism? Doesn't “democratic socialism” offer a middle-of-the-road, mixed-economy “third way”? After all, none of the democratic states who won the Cold War and triumphed over communism were pure laissez faire capitalist states. They had all, to a greater or lesser extent, nationalized industries, regulated markets, redistributed wealth through taxation and welfare policies and generally intervened into the economy to further socialist agendas. So wasn't it one form of socialism that triumphed over another form - the evolving impure form, over the revolting pure form?


This much is true, less pure forms of socialism failed less. Or, to put it another way, the more socialism was contaminated with private enterprise, from Lenin’s “New Economic Policy” of 1921 to Tony Blair’s “New Labour” of 1995, to the “economic conservatism” of Australia’s post Whitlam Labor politicians, the more success was achieved in its name. Or, to put it another way, the triumph belonged to the ideology that dared not speak its name.


By the end of the century, reality checks had pushed everyone with eyes to see and minds not corrupted by their PhDs to overtly or covertly recognize that if human well-being was the goal, capitalism was the system that delivered. Anyone genuinely concerned with: the banishment of famine, the prevention and cure of disease, the relief of poverty, the maximization of pleasure and minimization of pain, the opportunities for and of affluence, the freedom to pursue happiness on earth, was pushed by experience to advocate capitalistic rather than socialistic means. It was not only conservatives like Thatcher and Reagan but liberals like Blair and Clinton who were pushed in that direction; not only John Howard and Peter Costello but also Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.


Last year Allan Greenspan summed up the verdict of the 20th century as follows:
While central planning may no longer be a credible form of economic organisation, it is clear that the intellectual battle for its rival - free market capitalism and globalisation - is far from won. For twelve generations, capitalism has achieved one advance after another as standards and quality of living have risen at an unprecedented rate over large parts of the globe. Poverty has been dramatically reduced and life expectancy has more than doubled. The rise in material well-being - a tenfold increase in real per capita income over two centuries - has enabled the earth to support a six-fold increase in population. Yet for many, capitalism still seems difficult to accept, much less fully embrace.
The economic crisis has brought the anti-capitalists out of their bunkers. But it is not capitalism's crisis, it is a crsis of the mixed economy, and its root cause is the interventions of the government. Nevertheless, to the extent that free-enterprise has been allowed to operate it produced a level of prosperity that surpassed the socialists' wildest Utopian dreams. The semi-capitalist economies have a long, long, long way to fall before they descend to the highest level of prosperity ever achieved by socialism.


But “we simply don't have to choose between Friedrich von Hayek and Leonid Brezhnev” declared Kevin Rudd last August, we can move beyond the “straitjacket” of such “paradigms”, our “reforming centre” government can impose just the right controls that will curtail CO2 emission but not productivity, and allow the capitalists just enough freedom to produce the wealth socialists need to redistribute to “working families”, and impose just the right controls on financial activity to solve the crisis. But Rudd is wrong. We simply do have to choose between centrally planned dictatorship and economic freedom. Because "decisive action" to solve problems can either decrease or increase dictatorial controls over economic activity; and while controls create dislocations in the economy that breed more controls, freedoms create opportunities and demands for more freedoms; and in any mix it is the freedom part that improves our ability to live on earth and the dictatorship part that diminishes it. It is the freedom part that is moral and the dictatorship part that is immoral.


[1] The first act of the "people's tribunals" set up when the communists seized power in Bulgaria in 1944 was to dispose of more than 40,000 community leaders such as judges, journalists, priests, teachers and employers.[2] When Tito took over where the Nazi’s left off he dispatched 31,000 suspected opponents to Goli Otok, one of his many gulags, where they suffered unspeakable brutality.[3] After a communist reign that would impress Count Dracula, Romania’s agony finally ended when Ceausescu was shot in 1989.[4] Five variations of the intensity of the surveillance and brutality were tried in Poland between 1944 and 1989 in attempts to salve the economy.[5] During 40 years of communist rule, 400,000 Czechs fled the country.[6] The Berlin Wall had to be fortified with watchtowers, armed guards, barbed wire, guard dogs, vehicle trenches, and electric alarms to keep Germans from fleeing their workers state.
[7] After a 1956 uprising against communist rule in Hungary was crushed, 200,000 fled the country.[8] After the Vietnam war more than half a million people were sent to "re-education camps" where many were starved or beaten to death.[9] After the communists seized power in 1975, over 10% of the population fled Laos.[10] At least a million Cambodians were executed or tortured to death between 1975 and 1979, a similar number were starved or worked to death.[11] 1.5 million Afghanis, 90% of them civilians, were killed between 1979 and 1989, and a staggering 5 million refugees, nearly one third of the population, fled the country.[12] Relocation and collectivization was brutally enforced by the Mozambique communists resulting in 600,000 deaths by starvation between 1975 and 1985.[13] Communist rule in Angola from 1975 was ruinous, but the human cost was kept hidden until 1987 when UNICEF announced that tens of thousands of children had starved to death during the previous year.[14] Ethiopia was belatedly recognized as a true communist state by the Soviets in 1984 despite their displeasure that the Ethiopians had accepted Western aid to feed their starving people.[15] After wining a bloody civil war in 1979 the communists nationalized half the Nicaraguan economy, relocate Indian tribes, and brutally suppressed dissents, until resistance mounted into another civil war which lasted from 1983 to 1990.

27 September 2008

The Treason of the (Australian) Intellectuals

Australia’s defense forces are being trained by an academic who argues that:

In the wake of 9/11, our critical task is not to help power seek out and destroy the “enemies of freedom” but to question how they were constructed AS enemies of freedom. It is to wonder if we, the free, might already be enemies of freedom in the very process of imagining and defending it.
This professor is not a lone eccentric; he represents a mainstream school of academic thought. If you find this hard to believe, you haven’t been paying attention to the “treason of the intellectuals” that has been the stock-in-trade of Australia’s humanities faculties for decades.


Australia’s tax-paid humanities professors are supposed to be the professional guardians of the country’s culture. But all too many of them are profound enemies of the enlightenment heritage that made Australia a country people are willing to pay any price to get into, rather than the sort of country people risk their lives to get out of. These professors do not spy for foreign powers or plot terrorist strikes. The professor quoted above protests that he considers terrorism: “immoral, unjustifiable and politically counter-productive”. The treason of the intellectuals is not political and violent, but philosophical and erudite. But it is no less serious a threat for that. Last century the academics tried to waltz us into communism - this century they do the postmodernist spin.


Trying to get a grip on the postmodernists in our universities is like trying to get a grip on eels in a pond. You know they’re there by their rippling effects but when you try to get a grip on one he slithers out of your grasp declaring he is not a postmodernist at all, but a poststructuralist or deconstructionist or constructivist or post-colonialist or simply a broad-minded fellow trying to see things from the “Others” perspective. But as he departs into a swirl of muddied waters you know by what is left on your hands that he represents something diabolical.


Postmodernism is not based on the recognition that different people observe the same fact from different perspectives, but on the assumption that those different perspectives are all there is – which means that there is no such thing as the truth, just different people’s or groups’ different “truths” as created by their texts. Due to the conga line of philosophical corruptions that led to it, this premise sounds reasonable to many students, and even those who sense that there is something wrong with it are inclined to go along for the ride, or to be fashionable, or for good grades, on the assumption that theoretical clap trap is of little importance to peoples practical lives. But the problem with theory is that it has practical consequences, and the consequences of postmodernist clap trap are nihilistic.


Of course different people do observe the same fact from different perspectives - but does that mean they are observing different facts, or different “truths”? Take the historical fact that in 1815 a battle was fought near the village of Waterloo. From the French perspective, it was a disastrous defeat, from the English perspective it was a triumphant victory. But does that mean there were two battles or two “truths”? There was obviously one battle, which was a disastrous defeat for the French and a triumphant victory for the English. This is not the English “truth” or the French “truth”, but the truth. But what if the English and French hold contrary views about who did what in the battle or about whose actions were strategically or morally justified? The point is that since views of what happened at Waterloo do not alter what actually happened there, when these views contradict each other, at least one of them must be wrong. It is legitimate to understand the other's point of view. It is not legitimate to confuse a point of view with the truth.


Postmodernists et al disagree. They believe that there is no truth, just “truths”: the French “truth”, the English “truth”, the male “truth”, the female “truth”, the Western “truth”, the Eastern “truth” etcetera; each of which may contradict the others, all of which are equally valid on their own terms. The contradictions that result do not faze postmodernists. They use empirically based logic when it serves a purpose, arbitrary assertion, contradictory supposition, unquestioned prejudice, indignant posturing or secular superstition when these do better. If there is no such thing as the truth, there is no such thing as an untruth, so provided its in an aproved cause, piostmodernists are liscenced to lie. They are not the first to be sucked into this relativist sink hole, but they are the ones currently spinning in the faucet.


In the real world, any truck driver, engineer or doctor who toyed with the theory that there is no one truth only different “truths” that can contradict each other would be quickly corrected by reality as their trucks crashed, their bridges collapsed or their patients died. But professors are far enough removed from the disastrous effects of their theories that they can get away with them for decades.


Last century the academics’ favorite theory was Marxism. From the Ivory Tower they envisioned Utopia shimmering on the horizon, and when they descended to the streets they mounted crusades in its name. When their vision turned out to be a mirage that dissolved to reveal a hellish reality, some of them backed themselves into a postmodernist bunker. They gave up on Utopian visions; when they venture out to sabotage the hated towers of power, they do so in the name of the “Other” - any “Other”.


In a letter protesting his outrage at being accused of being pro-terrorist, the professor at the centre of the current dispute stated that:

I argued that attempts by states to seek security by depriving others of it would be counterproductive and meaningless. In 2001 New York and Washington were struck, and in 2004 Osama Bin Laden stated that “we want to restore security to our Umma. Just as you violate our security, so we violate yours”. Who now is to tell me that my argument was not both prescient and policy relevant?
If there is no real world of immutable facts out there, only different texts created by different perceptions from different perspectives, all views are created equal, all cultures morally equivalent, all actions justifiable in the actors own terms – except of course the actions of the US and its allies, which, being “the power”, are self-evidently indictable.

If the spectacle of defense strategists claiming that the Western reaction to 9/11 was an “Islamophobic” construct; or of feminists fuming at the West in the name of an “Other” which entombs women in burkas; or of former champions of the hammer and sickle condemning industry in the name of the medieval “Other” and agriculture in the name of the Neolithic “Other” is bemusing, take a look at the philosophic premises being taught in our universities.


When Australia’s universities consign the country’s history, language, law, literature, politics, sociology, anthropology, education, even its medicine and defense to the tender mercies of postmodernist schooled academics they are surrendering its enlightenment culture. The only question is - to which “Other"?

PS: A full account of a dispute between the quoted professor and a whistle-blowing academic may be accessed here:

Dissent Intolerable, by Keith Windschuttle.


In other words, our defense policy should recognize that just as we view 9/11 as a violation of the security of a rights-protecting state, Islamic terrorists view our impediment to their establishment of a Caliphate of Islamic Theocracies as a violation of their security. It would, no doubt, strike this academic as meaningless or irrelevant, not to mention arrogant, for us to decide that our view is based on facts and is morally defensible, and Osama Bin Laden’s is not.

21 September 2008

The un-free-enterprise crisis

The crisis is being blamed on "free-market ideology" and George Bush is being urged to "reverse course" and "seek expanded regulation." But, as Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute argued in Forbes on the 18th July: "All this overlooks a crucial fact. There has been no free market in housing or finance."

"We certainly don't need a system based on the wholly implausible proposition that, in the end, government knows better than people" argued Gerard Baker in The Times on the 19th September.

Government bailouts are "a complete disaster," said Yaron Brook to Time on the 19th September, "It's a form of national socialism of the financial markets."

What would Ayn Rand have done?

It's the un-free aspect of the market that failed.

The Un-Free Market has Failed, by Yaron Brook

The Clinton Responsibility

Clinton's responsibility for the loans crisis

A collection of pertinent articles from the Ayn Rand Institute

Responce to the financial crisis

Letter to congress from a rational banker

Answer's to the Crisis, by John Allison

Social engineering, specifically lending to people who can't repay, leads to financial ruin.

Bad bankers make bad Social Engineers, by John Montgomery
.

20 September 2008

Crowing

Donning my Pollyanna bonnet, I see one good thing about the financial crisis: the Chicken Little Left will be crowing so much about it that they might give their Global Warming beatup a rest for a while.