Thursday, September 24, 2015

It's time to buy a new Volkswagen

A couple of years ago I bought a Skoda Superb Wagon to replace my wife's older SUV. There was a time when I never thought I would buy a Skoda but these days they are made by Volkswagen Audi Group (VAG) and are terrific cars. The Skoda Superb is basically an Audi A6 with slightly different body panels and a price that is half the Audi's. It has a two litre diesel engine that produces 125Kw of power and 350Nm of torque, which in a car that weighs just 1500Kg means it goes like a scalded cat. And it is incredibly economical, getting around 800km range from a single tank of gas!

You might imagine that I got a little a little upset the other day to hear that Volkswagen has been 'cheating' its emissions tests on its diesel engines. After all, the Skoda has one of those Volkswagen diesel engines under its hood. But I'm not. In fact, I might take the opportunity of VAG's likely sales slump to press the dealer for a really good deal on a new Volkswagen or Audi.

You see, I don't think that Volkswagen has cheated me at all. I've got a damned good car that is beautifully made, economical to run, and fantastic to drive. And frankly, I don't give a shit about the U.S. Government's emissions standards. After all, this is the government that has lied to world repeatedly about everything from the motives behind the murder of its diplomatic staff in Libya to the extent of the recent hacking of government personnel files and whose leader continues to dupe his people about the impact of his climate change policies. I would rather trust Volkswagen to keep my family and the environment safe than the U.S. Government.

Environmental law has become a trojan horse for government interference in every aspect of our business and personal lives. Emissions regulations and taxes have pushed up the price of energy to levels where many people cannot afford to heat their houses or run their cars, impoverishing the elderly and bringing third-world illnesses to the first-world poor. The demands on companies like Volkswagen to comply with draconian, inconsistent and frankly unscientific environmental regulations impose huge costs on us all. Obviously, someone in the Volkswagen organisation, an engineer with a libertarian streak perhaps, became so fed up with trying to achieve the impossible - a smooth, powerful, fuel efficient car that also complied with all the emissions regulations - that they decided to rig the engine computers to fake the tests.

If nothing else, you've got to admire the chutzpah of it. Certainly, it is no reason not to buy a Volkswagen.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Give me a principled Marxist over an unprincipled Tory squib any day

There has been a great deal of comment about the removal of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his replacement with that country's sixth prime minister in eight years, Malcolm Turnbull. Tony Abbott deserved to be defenestrated - not because he was (as some pundits have claimed) too ideological, but rather because he compromised his ideology where he shouldn't have and didn't compromise it where he should have done so. He stuck to his guns on gay marriage in spite of the mood for change but broke a lot of election promises in areas such as health and education reforms, lowering taxes and repeal of the Orwellian Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. He did stand by his position on repealing the repressive climate tax (which Labor PM Julia Gillard had introduced after breaking her election promise not to), but that was a rare show of backbone in an otherwise invertebrate performance.

Malcolm Turnbull's admiration for John Key says everything any New Zealander needs to know about the new Australian PM. John Key may have his strengths (um...his common touch and a nice smile, perhaps?) but standing on principle is not one of them. Key promised in the 2008 election not to introduce an Emissions Trading Scheme and that went out the window with many of his other promises as soon as he was ensconced in the office at the top of The Beehive.

The interesting thing about principles in politics is that it is only those on the left are allowed to have them. Liberal Party politicians in Australia, Conservatives in Britain and National Party members in New Zealand are all condemned as too ideological if they stick to their ostensible principles like small government, free markets and freedom of choice in education and health. But you can have the most extreme left-wing views and the mainstream media and chattering classes will give you a free pass. You can be an out-and-out Marxist, willing to nationalise all manner of private businesses without compensation, want to withdraw from any Western defence alliances, and be a supporter of terrorist groups like Hezbollah, and your reward is to be elected Leader of the Opposition in Britain.

But I actually admire Jeremy Corbyn more than Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull or John Key. Give me a principled Marxist any day over an unprincipled Tory squib like David Cameron. At least you know where you stand with a Marxist.

Monday, September 7, 2015

All immigrants need is life, liberty and the opportunity to pursue happiness

In recent days we have seen a lot of hand-wringing, particularly from the Western liberal-left media, about the influx of refugees into Europe from Syria. On the one hand they say we must "do something", on the other it is clear they don't like the idea of letting such people into their own countries. In fact, modern so-called liberals tend not to be liberal at all when it comes to immigration. This is not surprising because immigration poses a dilemma for Western democratic socialism.

Marx's ideal of international socialist solidarity has morphed in Western countries into a highly nationalistic socialism that is all about preserving the privilege and exclusivity of the domestic welfare state. Western socialists pretend to be concerned with the victims of repression in countries like Syria but actually they see such people as a threat to their increasingly fragile world. They realise that each immigrant is a challenge to the carefully constructed power balance in Western societies between the increasing unproductive majority of the population and the productive minority who support them. Unproductive immigrants add to the burden on a base of taxpayers already staggering under the weight of welfare demands, and productive immigrants merely serve to show how unnecessary and counterproductive much of the modern welfare state really is.

The reason I am truly liberal on immigration is because I am a humanist. Socialists try to paint themselves as humanists, but a true humanist is someone who values human potential. A true humanist sees immigrants for their opportunity to add to our society as producers, not as victims who only ever consume limited resources.

A guest post by Alex Nowraseth from the Cato Institute on Not PC's blog proposes building a wall around the welfare system to exclude immigrants. Personally, I think this is morally indefensible. Are immigrants merely slaves to the indolent native-born? The only moral solution is to reduce, or better abolish, the welfare state so that the productive of society, whether immigrants or native-born, are unshackled to pursue their own interests.

The Statue of Liberty was inscribed with the famous words from Emma Lazarus' poem "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" and America lived up to this exhortation by absorbing more than 30 million immigrants between 1850 and 1920. It was only a comparatively free and capitalist society like the United States was during that period that could afford to absorb so many from those huddled masses. Americans understood back then that immigrants bring with them in their minds and bodies the opportunities they create. They don't need to be given anything other than life, liberty and the opportunity to pursue their own happiness.