Too Big to Fail

Written By: - Date published: 8:04 pm, April 10th, 2009 - 28 comments
Categories: economy - Tags:

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is one of those rare thinkers who has the priceless ability to express complex ideas in ways that are immediately accessible and concrete. I’m going to shamelessly quote and derive from a very recent article he’s written in the Financial Times. It’s so good I’m going to take each one of the ten ideas he expresses and in turn try to link each one to underlying themes we see debated here over and over.

1. What is fragile should break early while it is still small. Nothing should ever become too big to fail. Evolution in economic life helps those with the maximum amount of hidden risks and hence the most fragile become the biggest.

Taleb argues that random, high impact events occur more often than we imagine. Most of the time we expect the world to behave with a comfortable Gaussian range of behaviours, the mean being most common, and by the time we get several standard deviations out, the probabilities of extreme events becomes vanishingly rare. In fact the world is not like that.

Seven years of good times, is one day replaced by seven years of famine. No matter how large and successful an enterprise was, no matter how comfortably and well you lived in the good times, if the famine causes the business to collapse, or you and your family to die… the good times mean nothing.

Business failure in a corner dairy, or a local contractor’s ditch digging company is hurtful for the individuals involved, but does not damage society as a whole. People pick themselves up and life goes on. But when an entire financial system goes belly up, all at once…there is no ‘picking yourself up again’, because everyone else is in the same gutter with you.

Capitalism as we have known it fails on these counts:

1. It has allowed excessive concentration of wealth into fewer hands, inevitably resulting in the evolution of entities ‘too big to fail’.

2. It hides tranparent evaluation of real risks behind walls of ‘commercial confidentiality’, disinformation and lies which rewards cheaters and liars with a grossly disproportionate advantage. Entities built on this advantage may grow rapidly, but their inevitable collapse is even more spectacular.

3. Systemic failure becomes catastrophic because capitalism imposes an economic mono-culture on the entire globe ensnaring almost everyone in it’s grip. Local silos of prosperity and independence have been swept away by globalised, mass market business, creating a dependency model much like a addict becomes hooked on P.

4. Far from encouraging innovation and diversity that is adaptive in the face of radical change, capitalism acts to protect the established markets and the largest, most powerful players within them. Although some change is permitted around the margins, the core action in any market does not change unless and until the big dominating cartels allow it.

What will change this? What form of regulation or law change is necessary to break this system? The end of the legal fiction that coporations are ‘natural persons’? The end of ‘intellectual property’? Nationalisation of all credit creation?

28 comments on “Too Big to Fail”

  1. Quoth the Raven 1

    The end of limited liability would be a good one. Make people take full personal responsibility for the risks they take.

    • Ari 1.1

      That would just hit the small players even harder when they try to muscle in, QtR.

      Legislating to remove things like hedge funds, demand corporate transparency standards, removing the legal fiction of “corporate persons”, and so on would all be very useful steps.

      Nationalising credit creation would reign in the banks, but it might also kill the boom times. If we’re willing to sacrifice that, fine, but I don’t see the whole world doing it at once.

      • Quoth the Raven 1.1.1

        Small businesses like sole proprietors with unlimited liability?
        No it has been argued that businesses would become smaller if real free market policies like getting rid of limited liability were enacted.

        • Ari 1.1.1.1

          I agree, to an extent, but I like the idea of limited liability in situations where someone truly was just overconfident of their ability to run a business successfully. We should deal with people who shield corruption behind limited liability by making corrupt business practises as dangerous to careers in the private sector as they are in the public sector.

  2. I remember reading some article that said the cause of all the financial bubbles of the past 10-15 years basically stems from the fact that money is getting further and further concentrated among a small amount of super rich people and businesses. This is particularly the case in the USA.

    If you think about it, the super-rich literally can’t spend all their money so they invest it – in technology stocks, in the sharemarket, in oil, in derivatives or in housing. There’s more money invested in those areas than should be, so you get a bubble created – which of course eventually pops. If the money was spread out a lot more, then it would be spent (creating jobs) rather than invested in over-inflated market derivatives, or whatever you want to call it. This would be a more sustainable way for a country to operate, with the money flowing around a lot more and reaching a lot more people.

    It’s a kind of win-win situation for everyone (except the super-duper rich). We avoid market bubbles, we help out those in need to a greater extent and we create more jobs than ever. It’s something the left should be pointing out I think. A pity most economists are right-wing.

  3. rave 3

    Too big to fail? But they have failed.
    Its catastrophic because instead of them suffering its us who suffer.
    The big banks only survive because our future wage increases and taxes are mortgaged to bail them out.
    Jarbury is right. We owe them nothing. In fact they owe us centuries of backwages as poet ARD Fairburn once put it.
    But to do this we have to nationalise the central banks and put them under the control of those who work. Then nationalise all the key sectors of the economy with no compensation to the Jennings of this world. I would like to disproportionately misrepresent that tycoon.
    Then we have to devise how to run a democratic state to make sure the credit is used to produce things we need.
    For those of us in Auckland, stopping the banksters from supersizing our city would be a trial run.

  4. infused 4

    limited liability is a myth QtR.

    • BLiP 4.1

      Infused, you’re confused. Try telling the owners of leaky apartments who are chasing the millionaire developers that limited liability is a myth. I am sure they will be consoled and comforted with your understanding of the situation.

      • lprent 4.1.1

        I’d just like my case to get to court. It has been more than 4 years since we started forking out for fixing my apartment.

  5. Tom M 5

    I think you’re right about the normal distribution – in fact many economists are coming to realise that perhaps these things are better modelled with a t distribution, i.e. a normal one but with fatter tails.

    However, I think you’ve got the causality confused in terms of ‘too big to fail’ institutions. It’s the large institutions that subsequently create great wealth for their proprietors, rather than the other way around.
    Think about it – the bankers don’t earn their money in a vacuum and then pool it to create a bank. Rather, the bank grows, and correspondingly so does their pay.

    At least, that seems more intuitive to me.

    Some of your other claims seem a little suspect to me also.

  6. ak 6

    Absolutely right, the lot of you. “Too big to fail” is the ultimate, gobsmacking euphemism for the fact that “democracy” (that marvellous choice between two millionaires every three or four years) is indeed dead: a clear and unequivocal admission that the “finance industry” is more powerful than the most powerful government on earth.

    So much so, that that same govt is forced to shovel trillions of worker-created wealth down the throat of an “industry” that has produced precisely nothing (while millions die for want of cents): merely shuffled paper – (and to our local shame we inserted one of its greedy minions as our leader). And that tiny, bloated cabal – those cheerleaders of greed and obscene usury that led us to this point – still have the utter gall to claim our attention and ask that we take them seriously.

    But there’s a silver lining: just as those “stimulae” continue to look increasingly impotent, there’s a new, steady assertiveness stirring from the bottom. US wealth defeated the USSR, and the lesson was well learned. The savers and producers now hold the cards: their more advanced morality is now poised to ascend.

    Karl and JC were right: thanks to the net, the meek are slowly but surely demanding their just inheritance, and the dawn of the yuan (over the buck) is just the first milky light of a potential new day – the salubrious new contours of emancipation slowly taking shape in the minds of billions; once tasted, never to be relinquished.

    And how apt the timing: the moneychangers on their bikes to nowhere, and the world at Calvary’s summit. Shoulder to the boulder, brothers and sisters, the truth can never die if we all but work to reveal it.

    • Rex Widerstrom 6.1

      Beautifully written, ak.

      However, like Pat has said below, surely a large part of the answer is more democracy (in the genuine sense) not its death?

      Certainly it’s time for an end to the false choice between, as you put it, “two millionaires every three or four years” and between two parties who then toss a policy bone or two to the yapping minor parties nipping at their ankles.

      It’s time for people to have a genuine and ongoing input into decisions affecting their future and that of their fellows; it’s time for the creation of new governmental structures which permit that to occur; and it’s time for gross excesses of capitalism to be regulated the same way (e.g. shareholder approval of senior executive salary packages).

      But given your apparent eulogy to democracy and your (again, apparent) enthusiasm for a dictatorial regime that puts bullets into the backs of people’s heads, I’m left wondering just what it is you’re hoping will arise from mess?!

      • ak 6.1.1

        No enthusiasm for dictatorial regimes, I assure you Rex (and yes, bullets do go in the back of heads – just as lethal injections go in veins elsewhere, along with illegal invasions, torture, secret vice-presidential death squads etc etc).

        But lots of enthusiasm for good intentions. What I hope to see arising from this mess is a widespread acceptance that “dog-eat-dog” has failed our species: and that “to each according to need” is a nobler, more edifying vision statement – irrespective of the undeniable difficulties in its implementation.

        In practical terms, nationalisation (or at least strict regulation) of the finance industry, the demise of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, a more democratic global power balance, and a genuine, co-ordinated, War on Global Inequality. (highly ambitious I know, but so’s wee Johnny apparently – and so were calls for abolition, welfare, fem and gay rights etc etc once).

  7. Pat 7

    Good thought provoking post, RL. The company failures that have the most impact, are those companies large enough to list on the stock markets for capital raising.

    So I would like to see it made compulsory for all listed companies to include a reasonable portion a shares as part of every employee’s remuneration. I think this would have several impacts over time:

    1. Productivity would improve as workers have more of a vested interest in the success of the company.
    2. A worker’s personal investment wealth would grow with the success of the company.
    3. It would encourage worker’s to want to have a longer career with a successful company.
    4. It would encourage good ideas to be passed up from the factory floor.
    5. As worker’s collective shareholding grows, they would have a stronger voice on the decisions,directions and governance of the company.
    6. It would encourage earlier whistle-blowing from within, on things that are going wrong in the company.

    • RedLogix 7.1

      So I would like to see it made compulsory for all listed companies to include a reasonable portion a shares as part of every employee’s remuneration.

      Yes. I once worked for mid-sized California based corporate that did a genuine 10% profit share for all non-sales staff (who had their own performance based compensation). It worked exceedingly well. It meant that I knew that off every $1 I succeeded in putting onto the company’s bottom line, I got to keep 10c of it.

      Shareholding for all employees (not just the senior layer of execs) has merit, but as an idea in isolation I’m not so sure how effective it might be. Certainly it would not work in the current climate, most corporates are not ready to accept that as worker’s collective shareholding grows, they would have a stronger voice on the decisions,directions and governance of the company.

      • Draco T Bastard 7.1.1

        You mean, of course, that the capitalists don’t want to give up their dictatorial power.

  8. Pat 8

    In response to ak’s communist rant, this post is about how to improve the capitalist system, not getting rid of democracy. Democracy is not dead. The world need’s more democracy, not less.

    I might be wrong, but I would have thought the vast majority of Standard readers would not advocate getting rid of democracy.

    ak can keep his Chinese new dawn all to himself. I do not look forward to the rise of China as the world’s biggest superpower.

    • Draco T Bastard 8.1

      Capitalism != Democracy
      In fact, the two are diametrically opposed. Capitalism is, as a matter of fact, dictatorship. Communism requires participatory democracy and not the elected dictatorship that we have that is there solely to support the capitalists.

  9. gomango 9

    Tom M – you should read Taleb’s books. T distribution won’t solve the problem either, the point is parametric models are wrong when you rely on historical descriptions of non-related events. LTCM wasn’t the first illustration, but it was the first big one (10 standard deviation move in 90 minutes of Danish mortgage bond spreads versus Euro swap spreads) – do the math. Taleb does get a bit repetitive but his core “we don’t live in a normal world” message is hard to fault.

    All the proof you ever need about why the easy liquidity, over leveraged, reliance on model world got out of hand is summed up in this quote from the Goldies CFO:

    “We are seeing things that were 25-standard deviation events, several days in a row,” said David Viniar, CFO of the smartest financial firm in the world, Goldman Sachs.

    What are the odds of THAT happening………..

    Did he not pass the equivalent of NCEA level 1 maths?

    The remedy is pretty simple (not the solution to whats happened – thats a whole issue of least worst outcomes), but the remedy for the next time we go thru the upwards bit of the cycle is reasonably clear:

    1. force banks to declare everything on balance sheet
    2. make banks have capital ratios based on black swan type stress tests
    3. create derivative clearing houses, ie get rid of the otc market.
    4. Don’t invite Greenspan (or any other easy money pump primer) back to the fed

    And as always, you can’t spend your way out of debt.

  10. charlie 10

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb claims that those who are putting society at risk are “no true statisticians”, merely people using statistics either without understanding them, or in a self-serving manner.

  11. gomango 11

    ak – just read your comment closely. You are kidding re China right? Yes I agree that China is potentially on the road to economic and hence strategic dominance over the rest of the world – but if you wanted to pick one country in the world where the following are most true:

    1. economic power concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority
    2. political rights held only by a tiny minority
    3. freedom of speech constrained
    4. workers rights systematically ignored and devalued
    5. instutionalised graft and corruption
    6. no checks and balances on the concentrations of power

    That country is China. And that’s why i say “potentially” above. Any system which ignores individual rights won’t tend to survive in the long run. But they do have plenty of cash even though they no longer control much of it as it is sitting in the US treasury. Not sure who has the problem – US as borrower or china as lender……. Brings to mind the old Depression era cliche ” if you borrow $100 from the bank you have a problem, if you borrow a million dollars the bank has a problem”. Substitute $750 billion dollars plus for one million…… plus the $^50 billion from Japan, plus the 2 trillion from the rest of the world………

    Also bear in mind that all of China’s wealth was actually created by US demand. Domestic demand in China is not meaningful – they need the US export market. Look at what is happening now in China – in some of the new cities 80% of factories have closed, millions of workers are returning to their home villages where they have no access to land or jobs. China has managed to grow because of the pact the neo-Capitalist ruling party made – give up your political and human rights and in return we will guarantee prosperity. Lets see if they can keep that bargain.

    • ak 11.1

      Well, lifting several hundred million from abject poverty is a pretty good start on that bargain I’d say goman – and funny, but those dire concerns you list don’t seem to matter too much to the average Jiu on the jyair-to. In fact the level of day-to-day freedoms, candour and optimism is quite striking (especially to the anti-PC brigade who marvel at such wonders as unrestricted smoking, lack of any apparent road rules, omnipresent hawking etc), and one wonders if the hobson’s choice we get every three years is really the sole route to utopia. Evidence to date is somewhat less than convincing….

      And yes, the over-dependence on the US consumer certainly is untenable long-term. Which is precisely why the recent moves towards domestic stimulation and an alternative settling currency are being taken. Delicate position for the medium term, but a fundamental shift is softly occurring, the sheer numbers making it eventually inevitable.

  12. gomango 12

    and quoth the raven….. removing limited liability would not hurt entrenched business interests it would only stifle the backbone of our economy – small and medium business.

    Started a business lately? I have and yes it has limited liability. I still have to provide a personal guarantee plus a charge over my house in order to satisfy the bank and the companies office. It certainly doesn’t feel like limited liability.

    • Quoth the Raven 12.1

      You should ask yourself why the state should protect you from the full responsibility of your actions? and why the state should enforce a contractual arrangement on third parties that never consented to it? If there wasn’t state enforced limited liability you could still voluntarily agree to a limited liability contract with your creditiors, but that does not mean that that individual limited liability contract could be enforced on a third party protecting you from tort. Limited liability and corporate personhood are just schemes to privatise gains and socialise losses. If you don’t want to take full responsibility for the risks you take then don’t start a business. If you’ve read a lot of free market writings like I have you’ll find that those who argue for limited liability are the apologists for big business – the Randroids, the Mises worshippers and so on. Those who argue against it sympathise with the left. It has been argued time and again that without these protections we wouldn’t see such large corporations as we do now. Large corporations are not a product of the free market, they are a product of capitalism. There is a good article here to familiarise yourself with the issues: Is the Corporation a Free-Market Institution?

      A corporation that is compatible with natural law is no more than an association of natural persons, who agree to recognize the association as an artificial person “in its own right.’ However, as far as other persons are concerned, the existence of the association and its recognition by the partners as an independent artificial person in no way diminish the responsibility or the liability of the partners. How the partners assign responsibilities and liabilities among themselves is their business, but they lawfully cannot agree to deflect them to the artificial corporate person that they created. The partners own the corporation, and, as owners they are fully responsible and liable for what “it’ does. I cannot give lawful personality to my dog or my car and tell others that, when an accident happens, they should sue the dog or the car and leave me alone. In natural law, a corporation is just as much a means of human action as a dog, a car, or any other tool might be.

      There is another article here.

  13. gomango 13

    typo – Japans US treasury holdings are $650 billion

  14. Bill 14

    Some interesting comments and all blind to a fundamental point.

    It was the market that spawned Capitalism and State Socialism. Neither State Socialism nor Capitalism have been able to manage the market. Both have been subject to its pitches, yaws and plunges.

    At the moment, the idea appears to be to save the management system ( Capitalism) and those who literally profit most from it.

    Other ideas seem to merely posit different management models….state socialism or whatever.

    But why?!

    Are we so far mired in the quasi religion of the market that we have forgotten that it is neither natural nor necessary: that it is a contrivance?

    Cut to the heart of the matter. Manage our political and economic affairs free from market imperatives. ie abolish it, rather than pretending it can somehow, someday be managed. Because it can’t.

    It is intrinsically unstable and unpredictable. It serves merely as a springboard ( a way and a means) for inadequate individuals who crave power over others.

    Dump it. It’s worth nothing. Has done no good. Never will.

  15. Hi RL,

    Sorry for the treadjack.

    I was off line for a bit and found out recently that you have joined the Standardista’s writers team.
    Awesome and congratulations.

  16. Red, you may be interested a recent ABC background briefing which quotes Taleb on why the crisis occurred. The link is http://www.abc.net.au/rn/backgroundbriefing/stories/2009/2538655.htm#transcript

    Regards, Paul.

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    Labour Party president Nigel Haworth resigned yesterday over the party's sexual assault scandal. But while that's good news, its unlikely to take away the stench of a coverup. Because according to Paula Bennett in Parliament yesterday, pretty much everyone in the Prime Minister's office was involved as well:I have been ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    6 days ago
  • Labour’s Fatal Flaw.
     Two-Faced? Labour insiders' commitment to the neoliberal status quo puts them at odds with their party’s membership; its trade union affiliates; and a majority of Labour voters, but this only serves to strengthen the perception they have of themselves as a special elite. Among the lesser breeds, they’ll talk up a ...
    6 days ago
  • Ten reasons the Tories do NOT want an election
    There has been a lot of talk about Boris Johnson wanting an election, and he has blustered with great gusto about 'chicken' Jeremy Corbyn refusing one, but I think there are many reasons why he is secretly glad he has been refused the opportunity:The Tories are an utter rabble,tearing themselves ...
    7 days ago
  • Prorogation Illegal, rule Scottish judges
    Scottish appeal court judges have declared that Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament in the run-up to the October Brexit deadline is unlawful. The three judges, chaired by Lord Carloway, Scotland’s most senior judge, overturned an earlier ruling that the courts did not have the powers to interfere in the prime ...
    7 days ago
  • Let me explain what I meant by Everyday New Zealanders
    By Simon Bridges. The following is a press release from the office of Simon Bridges, leader of The National Party. Key ora, New Zealand. Happy Maori Language Week. Look, I’m writing to you today because I want to clear something up. There’s been a lot of kerfuffle around some things ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    7 days ago
  • Yes, the SIS is subject to the Public Records Act
    I understand there's some stuff going round about how the SIS "was removed from the list of public offices covered by the Public Records Act in 2017". The context of course being their records derived from US torture, which will be disposed of or sealed. The good news is that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    7 days ago
  • An evidence-based discussion of the Canadian fluoride/IQ study
    Dr. Christopher Labos and Jonathan Jarry discuss the recent Canadian fluoride/IQ research. They provide an expert analysis of the paper and its problems. Click on image to go to podcast. The critical debate about the recent ...
    7 days ago
  • Climate Change: Australia in denial
    Australia is burning down again, and meanwhile its natural disaster minister is denying climate change:Australia’s minister responsible for drought and natural disasters, David Littleproud, has said that he doesn’t “know if climate change is manmade”. Clarifying earlier comments that the question is “irrelevant” when considering the Coalition government’s response to ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    7 days ago
  • Philippines activist speaking on the Duterte tyranny
    Auckland Philippines Solidarity is excited to host Professor Judy Taguiwalo for a speaking tour of NZ in September. She is a well-known activist in the Philippines and was a political prisoner under the Marcos dictatorship. Professor Taguiwalo briefly served as a Cabinet member under President Duterte but was forced from ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Disgust
    I have no special insights to offer on the Labour sexual assault coverup. All I have is disgust. Disgust that an organisation could fail its people so badly. Disgust that they punished the victims rather than the perpetrator. Disgust that its party hacks are apparently blaming the victims for demanding ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Speak Up for Women calls out Greens’ censorship
    This open letter to the Green Party was penned after an opinion piece by Jill Abigail, a feminist and founding member of the party, was censored by the Greens’ leadership. (Redline has reprinted her article here).The intolerance of the Green Party leaders and their acceptance of the misogyny of gender ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Member’s Day: End of Life Choice, part 3
    Today is a Member's day, and David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill continues its slow crawl through its committee stage. They're spending the whole day on it today, though the first hour is likely to be spent on voting left over from last time. After that they'll move on ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Flight to Los Angeles turned back after passengers decide they don’t want to go anymore
    An ambitious plan to fly to Los Angeles petered out into a brief sight-seeing trip and a desire to return home and get some sleep before work tomorrow. Air New Zealand has confirmed a flight to Los Angeles last night was turned back about a quarter of the way into ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Indigenous Futures: defuturing and futuring – an analytical framework for policy development?
    There appears to be consensus – by omission – that the concept of indigenous futures should be accepted at face value. So I scavenged the internet to see if I could locate an academic descriptor or a framework around how we think about it as a concept, and whether it ...
    EllipsisterBy Ellipsister
    1 week ago
  • Cadbury rumoured to be releasing the Pineapple Trump
    Here’s another novelty chocolate to shove in your gob, New Zealand Cadbury could be seeking to make itself great again with a rumoured new release: Pineapple Trumps, a spin on its classic chocolate-encased pineapple treat and do-it-yourself tooth remover. The global confectionery manufacturer and bumbling “before” character in an infomercial, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • The coming resource war.
    During my time in the Pentagon I had the privilege of sitting down with military leaders and defence and security officials from a variety of Latin American nations. Sometimes I was present as a subordinate assistant to a senior US defence department official, sometimes as part of a delegation that ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    1 week ago
  • Māori Language Week with The Civilian
    Kia ora, Aotearoa. It’s that magical time of year. Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. In English, the week that frightens talk radio. As you probably know by now, all your favourite media outlets are participating, some more successfully than others. Stuff has changed its name to Puna for the ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Will Horizons act on climate change?
    Local body elections are coming up next month. And it looks like all Palmerston North candidates for Horizons (the Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Council) want to take action on climate change:Climate change is set to be a key issue in Palmerston North for the next three years if those wanting to get ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • BORA reform is stalled
    Eighteen months ago, the government promised to strengthen the Bill of Rights Act, by explicitly affirming the power of the courts to issue declarations of inconsistency and requiring Parliament to formally respond to them. So how's that going? I was curious, so I asked for all advice about the proposal. ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Corbyn and Brexit
    As the Brexit saga staggers on, the focus is naturally enough on the Prime Minister and his attempts to achieve Brexit “do or die”. But the role played by the Leader of the Opposition is of almost equal interest and complexity. The first problem for Jeremy Corbyn is that he ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • A ditch for him to die in
    Last week, English Prime Minister Boris Johnson boldly declared that he would rather die be dead in a ditch than delay Brexit. Unfortunately for him, the UK parliament accepted the challenge, and promptly dug one for him. The "rebellion bill" requires him to ask for and secure yet another temporary ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Warning! Warning! Danger Jacinda Ardern! Danger Marama Davidson! Warning!
    Lost In Political Space: The most important takeaway from this latest Labour sexual assault scandal, which (if I may paraphrase Nixon’s White House counsel’s, John Dean’s, infamous description of Watergate) is “growing like a cancer” on the premiership, is the Labour Party organisation’s extraordinary professional paralysis in the face of ...
    1 week ago
  • Union solidarity with Ihumatao land occupation
    by Daphna Whitmore Every Sunday for the past two months unionists from First Union, with supporters from other unions, have set out to the Ihumatao land protest, put up gazebos and gas barbeques, and cooked food for a few hundred locals and supporters who have come from across the country. ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: The wrong kind of trees?
    Newsroom today has an excellent, in-depth article on pine trees as carbon sinks. The TL;DR is that pine is really good at soaking up carbon, but people prefer far-less efficient native forests instead. Which is understandable, but there's two problems: firstly, we've pissed about so long on this problem that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • No freedom of speech in Turkey
    Canan Kaftancioglu is a Turkish politician and member of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). Like most modern politicians, she tweets, and uses the platform to criticise the Turkish government. She has criticised them over the death of a 14-year-old boy who was hit by a tear gas grenade during ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Speaker: Tadhg Stopford: Why I’m standing for the ADHB
    Hi there, just call me Tim.We face tough problems, and I’d like to help, because there are solutions.An Auckand District Health Board member has nominated me for as a candidate for the ADHB, because her MS-related pain and fatigue is reduced with hemp products from Rotorua.  Nothing else helped her. If I ...
    1 week ago
  • Good little vassals
    The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has published their report on whether the SIS and GCSB had any complicity in American torture. And its damning. The pull quote is this:The Inquiry found both agencies, but to a much greater degree, the NZSIS, received many intelligence reports obtained from detainees who, ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Who Shall We Turn To When God, And Uncle Sam, Cease To Defend New Zealand?
    Bewhiskered Cassandra? Professor Hugh White’s chilling suggestion, advanced to select collections of academic, military and diplomatic Kiwi experts over the course of the past week, is that the assumptions upon which Australia and New Zealand have built their foreign affairs and defence policies for practically their entire histories – are ...
    1 week ago
  • The Politics of Opposition
    For most of the time I was a British MP, my party was out of government – these were the Thatcher years, when it was hard for anyone else to get a look-in. As a front-bencher and shadow minister, I became familiar with the strategies required in a parliamentary democracy ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • More expert comments on the Canadian fluoride-IQ paper
    The Green et al (2019) fluoride/IQ is certainly controversial – as would be expected from its subject (see If at first you don’t succeed . . . statistical manipulation might help and Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear). Anti-fluoride campaigners have been actively promoting it ...
    1 week ago
  • The return to guerrilla war in Colombia
    by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh On August 29th a video in which veteran FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) commander Iván Márquez announced that they had taken up arms again was released. There was no delay in the reaction to it, from longtime Liberal Party figure and former president Uribe, for ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    1 week ago
  • Air New Zealand identifies this enormous plot of unused land as possible second airport site
    Air New Zealand couldn’t believe its luck that this seemingly ideal piece of real estate had so far gone entirely unnoticed. Air New Zealand’s search for a site to build a second Auckland Airport may have made a breakthrough this afternoon, after employees scanning Google satellite imagery spotted a huge, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Redline on the Labour Party
    No-one on the anti-capitalist left in this country today puts forward a case that Labour is on the side of the working class.  There are certainly people who call themselves ‘socialist’ who do, but they are essentially liberals with vested interests in Labourism – often for career reasons. Nevertheless, there ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • New Fisk
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour’s failure
    When National was in government and fucking over the poor for the benefit of the rich, foodbanks were a growth industry. And now Labour is in charge, nothing has changed: A huge demand for emergency food parcels means the Auckland City Mission is struggling to prepare for the impending arrival ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Ardern attempts to vaccinate Clarke Gayford live on television to prove that it’s safe
    Gayford, pictured here on The Project, before things got wildly out of control. A bold public relations move by the Government to encourage parents to vaccinate their children has gone horribly wrong. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appeared on tonight’s episode of Three’s The Project, where the plan was for her ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Has Mr. Whippy gone too far by parking on our front lawns?
    Mr. Whippy’s business model has driven it down a dark road of intimidation. Residents in major centres around the country are becoming disgruntled by the increasingly aggressive actions of purported ice cream company Mr. Whippy, who have taken to parking on people’s front lawns and doorsteps in a desperate attempt ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Cleaning up the water
    Today the government released its Action Plan for Healthy Waterways, aimed at cleaning up our lakes and rivers. Its actually quite good. There will be protection for wetlands, better standards for swimming spots, a requirement for continuous improvement, and better standards for wastewater and stormwater. But most importantly, there's a ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Fronting up
    Today I appeared before the Environment Committee to give an oral submission on the Zero Carbon Bill. Over 1,500 people have asked to appear in person, so they've divided into subcommittees and are off touring the country, giving people a five minute slot each. The other submitters were a mixed ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear
    Anti-fluoride activists have some wealthy backers – they are erecting billboards misrepresenting the Canadian study on many New Zealand cities – and local authorities are ordering their removal because of their scaremongering. Many New Zealanders ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Democracy – I Don’t Think So
    So, those who “know best” have again done their worst. While constantly claiming to be the guardians of democracy and the constitution, and respecters of the 2016 referendum result, diehard Remainers (who have never brought themselves to believe that their advice could have been rejected) have striven might and main ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    2 weeks ago
  • Government says it will now build just one really nice home
    Following publication of this article, the Ministry has requested it to be noted that this supplied image is not necessarily representative of what the final house will look like, and it “probably won’t be that nice.” As part of today’s long-anticipated reset of the Government’s flagship KiwiBuild policy, Housing Minister ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Imperialism and your cup of coffee
    Over the next week or two we will be running three synopses of parts of the opening chapter of John Smith’s Imperialism in the 21st Century (New York, Monthly Review Press, 2016).  The synopsis and commentary below is written by Phil Duncan. Marx began Capital not with a sweeping historical ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Still juking the stats
    The State Services Commission and Ombudsman have released another batch of OIA statistics, covering the last six months. Request volumes are up, and the core public service is generally handling them within the legal timeframe, though this may be because they've learned to extend rather than just ignore things. And ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago

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