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Archive for 26 August 2011

High milk prices? Well, now we know why…

26 August 2011 5 comments

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I guess this explains why milk, other dairy products, tomatoes, etc,  are so expensive.

And the Minister for Agriculture, David Carter, can save taxpayers the expense of a Parliamentary inquiry into why milk is so expensive here in NZ…

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I guess it wasn’t such a bright idea to allow supermarkets to buy each other up, until we had only two, nation-wide chains remaining. Duopolies are not noted for promoting competition and keeping prices down.

New Zealand’s supermarket duopoly:

Progressive Enterprises

Foodstuffs

Chalk up yet another cock-up for the free market, unregulated economy?

I think so.

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+++ Updates +++

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Parliament’s Commerce Select Committee inquiry into milk prices gets under way,

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Full Story

Full Story

Full Story

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Related issues

Why did the fat kiwi cross the road?

Hey, People! Leave our kids alone!

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Silly Idea # 341,907,774

26 August 2011 56 comments

Floating cities: PayPal billionaire plans to build a whole new libertarian colony off the coast of San Francisco

  • Ocean state would have no welfare, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons
  • Platforms would house 270 people and hundreds could eventually join together

PayPal-founder Peter Thiel was so inspired by Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand’s novel about free-market capitalism – that he’s trying to make its title a reality.

The Silicon Valley billionaire has funnelled $1.25million to the Seasteading Institute, an organisation that aspires to launch a floating colony into international waters, freeing them and like-minded thinkers to live by libertarian ideals.

Mr Thiel recently told Details magazine: ‘The United States Constitution had things you could do at the beginning that you couldn’t do later. So the question is, can you go back to the beginning of things? How do you start over?’

Life on the ocean wave: A design for one of the floating cities which Peter Thiel wants to start constructing next year off the coast of San Francisco

Green land: An aerial view of the city, complete with landcaped gardens. Mr Thiel believes many of the islands could eventually be joined together

Design for living: This island even has a high-level helicopter pad. The cities would be constructed on oil-rig like terminals

The floating sovereign nations that Mr Thiel imagines would be built on oil-rig-like platforms anchored in areas free of regulation, laws, and moral conventions.

The Seasteading Institute says it will ‘give people the freedom to choose the government they want instead of being stuck with the government they get’.

Mr Theil, the venture capitalist who famously helped Facebook expand beyond the Harvard campus, called Seasteading an ‘open frontier for experimenting with new ideas for government’.

After making his first investment in the project in 2008, Mr Thiel said: ‘Decades from now, those looking back at the start of the century will understand that Seasteading was an obvious step towards encouraging the development of more efficient, practical public sector models around the world.

‘We’re at a fascinating juncture: the nature of government is about to change at a very fundamental level.’

Light city: Peter Thiel called the project, Seasteading, an ‘open a frontier for experimenting with new ideas for government’

Mr Thiel and his colleagues say their ocean state would have no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons.

Mr Thiel said: 'the nature of government is about to change at a very fundamental level'

Aiming to have tens of millions of residents by 2050, the Seasteading Institute says architectural plans for a prototype involve a movable, diesel-powered structure with room for 270 residents.

The long-term plan would be to have dozens and eventually hundreds of the platforms linked together.

Patri Friedman, a former Google engineer who is working on the project told Details that they hope to launch a flotilla of offices off the San Francisco coast next year.

‘Big ideas start as weird ideas,’ Mr Friedman said.

He predicted that full-time settlement will follow in about seven years.

But while some Ayn Rand acolytes may think the idea is brilliant, it’s not without its critics.

Margaret Crawford, an expert on urban planning and a professor of architecture at Berkeley, told Details: ‘it’s a silly idea without any urban-planning implications whatsoever.’

Big ideas: A close-up of how one of the islands could look. The billionaire founder of Paypal has invested $1.25million to create a floating island utopia

Mr Thiel told an audience at the Seasteading Institute Conference in 2009 that: ‘There are quite a lot of people who think it’s not possible.

‘That’s a good thing. We don’t need to really worry about those people very much, because since they don’t think it’s possible they won’t take us very seriously. And they will not actually try to stop us until it’s too late.’

I fully support founding such a colony. In fact, I’ll donate $100 for a (one way) ticket for Don Brash to migrate there.

I’ve suggested – on several occassions – that neo-liberals who want to live in a free-market, minimalist government, zero-tax, user-pays society have just such a country to migrate to: Somalia.

Somalia is perfect and meets their criteria in every respect.

Of course, as part of user-pays, they would have to pay for their own security; their own private police force. And why shouldn’t they? After all, why should other taxpayers pay for protection of someone elses’ property, in a User Pays nirvana?

Strangely enough, as far as I’m aware, no neo-lib has ever taken up my offer.

And stranger even still, neo-libs seem to prefer living in New Zealand; a country built on collective efforts by it’s citizens to build up every aspect of present day society; electricity sector, education, railways, health, roading, police, bridges, libraries, etc. Even telecommunications, airlines, and television started off as tax-payer funded services. All paid by our taxes.

Private enterprise was focused on providing citizens with supermarkets, clothing, shoes (once upon a time), and other consumer goods. It was a good balance.

“Mr Thiel and his colleagues say their ocean state would have no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons.”

No minimum wage? But… who would clean their toilets?

No building codes? On a free-standing oceanic city? Oh, I can see that working… not.

Few restrictions on weapons. I can see gun nuts loving that. Including gentlemen like Anders Behring Breivik, David Gray, Martin Bryant, et al.

Call me cynical, but I doubt if Peter Thiel’s  ‘Seasteading’ project will succeed. For one thing, human nature is involved – and as we all know, human nature can be a bugger of a thing to deal with.

Secondly, what happens if Thiel’s ‘island’ gets in trouble? Perhaps struck by a hurricane? Will the Seasteaders expect rescue from the international community? And will they be willing to PAY for assistance? (User pays, of course.)

The article further states,

“The Seasteading Institute says it will ‘give people the freedom to choose the government they want instead of being stuck with the government they get’.”

Uh oh. That sounds perilously close to that pesky concept popularly know as “de-mo-cra-cy”. Damned dangerous, that “de-mo-cra-cy”. What happens if, in time, the population of ‘Seastead’ elect a government that is more interventionist?

Will Thiel then build another libertarian community? To get away from the first ‘Seastead’, taken over over “leftists”?

Personally, I think Somalia would still be a cheaper option.

Let’s be honest here, though.

This is about one thing: money. Thiel wants to keep as much of his money as possible and not pay taxes.  There may be other, immensely wealthy individuals, who feel lifewise.

Well, I say “good luck” to them. Let them set up their little sovereign “Island State”. Let them learn the hard way that a functioning, balanced,  society involves more than just having a bloated bank balance. A dynamic society is a collection of mutually supporting groups and individuals – not just a handful of wealthy people.

My guess is that this little “Profit Paradise” will not last long. Nor will it be self-sufficient. And, the inhabitants will still want to spend (most of) their time on the US mainland, socialising, doing business, and all the other things that the rest of us enjoy.  Their Island State will be nothing more than a taxation “bolthole”; a floating bank account.

And herein lies the dishonesty of such an idea.

But if billionaires want to spend their entire lives on such an Island, and not leave, then they are welcome to it.  Imagine being forced to live your life in one little area; never leaving; and associating only with others of your ilk.

It’s called “prison”.