Monday, 25 February 2013

Monday quote

I agree that a man who thinks he is God... is a megalomaniac by definition. But a God who thinks He is God, is thinking what is only common sense.

John C. Wright (1961–).

Monday, 18 February 2013

Monday quote

If we had nothing but the reason of men to deal with, and that reason were pure and uncorrupted, it would then be a matter of no great skill or labour to convince another person of common mistakes, or to persuade him to assent to plain and obvious truths; but alas! mankind stand wrapt round in errors, and intrenched in prejudices; and every one of their opinions is supported and guarded by something else beside reason.

Isaac Watts (1674–1748), The Improvement of the Mind.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Priesthood and teaching

Micah speaks against rulers in Israel
Its heads give judgment for a bribe;/
its priests teach for a price;/
its prophets practice divination for money; (Micah 3:11)
Micah address the 3 ministries of kingship, priesthood, and prophet. Kings administer justice, priests represent people to God, and prophets represent God to people. Heads are leaders, kings and apostles are in similar positions. All 3 are rebuked for offering their services for money.

I have previously written about the role of fathers as priests. What I found interesting in this passage was the connection between teaching and priesthood. Part of our role as priests—the ministry of representing people to God—is to teach these people about God. While a prophet may bring a special message to a person or a people from God, it is the priestly role which is to be a teacher. So priest does not merely intercede for people before God, but teaches the same people what God requires of them. This differs from the prophet who brings specific demands to a person or people, often in connection with judgment. The priest teaches the general expectations God has for his followers.

Israel were to have been obedient to God thus set apart from the other nations: a kingdom of priests and a holy nation; teaching them the ways of God. This is a role that we have as the people of God.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)
As a father it is in our role as priests that we teach to our children. As such it is not optional but a necessity. There may also be a connection between the position of elder and priestly duties given the focus on teaching ability as a qualification for eldership (1Ti 3:2; Tit 1:9), although eldership is also a leadership role.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Monday quote

The classical economists worked out instead, a different concept—the concept of functional prices and functional wages. Functional prices are those that encourage the largest volume of production and the largest volume of sales. Functional wages are those that tend to bring about the highest volume of employment and the largest real payrolls.

Henry Hazlitt (1894–1993), Economics in One Lesson.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

The invisible hand and central planning

I have not read Adam Smith and it may be that his metaphor has been extended beyond the original intention; yet the invisible hand is frequently used in the context of free trade, with the suggestion that government leave alone.
By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was not part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.
Freedom of trade in general leads to greater economic prosperity than that of a centralised economy: the invisible hand guides better than the economic planner.

I agree with this is general. It seems, however, that the metaphor implies that a less informative process is more productive than a more informative one; that a planner is less productive than no planner.

The thing is that there is planning, it is just that it is extended to all the buyers and sellers in a marketplace. All those minds making decisions about their economic options contain a vast wealth of information; more information than any group of planners could have. It is not an invisible hand that guides, it is an invisible collective knowledge that decides.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Monday quote

Now many writers have enumerated what are sometimes called qualifications to inerrancy: inerrancy is compatible with unrefined grammar, non-chronological narrative, round numbers, imprecise quotations, pre-scientific phenomenalistic description (e.g., “the sun rose”), use of figures and symbols, imprecise descriptions (as Mark 1.5, which says that everyone from Judea and Jerusalem went to hear John the Baptist). I agree with these points, but I do not describe them as “qualifications” of inerrancy. These are merely applications of the basic meaning of inerrancy: that it asserts truth, not precision. Inerrant language is language that makes good on its own claims, not on claims that are made for it by thoughtless readers.

John Frame

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Artificial land scarcity

The median multiple house price is the median house price divided by median annual (household) income. This is a reasonable approach to assessing house prices. Problems with it are that it ignores different tax rates, household income may range from 1 to 2 persons, and people's expectations of what they are prepared to live in.

Countries and cites can be rated for median multiple house prices to assess housing affordability, an important contributor to standard of living as it is usually a family's largest asset expense.

Rating Median Multiple
Affordable 0–3.0
Moderately Unaffordable 3.1–4.0
Seriously Unaffordable 4.1–5.0
Severely Unaffordable 5.1+

A recent international survey states that historically house price
has been remarkably similar in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, with median house prices having generally been from 2.0 to 3.0 times median household incomes (historical data has not been identified for Hong Kong), with 3.0 being the outer bound of affordability.
Yet this is now much higher especially outside North America. Of the 8 large cities surveyed in New Zealand, 3 had a multiple median house price of 4.1–5.0 and 5 were 5.1+.

And what is one of the major contributors to this? Land prices. Specifically the refusal to designate more urban zoning.
Overwhelming economic evidence indicates that urban containment policies, especially urban growth boundaries raise the price of housing relative to income. This inevitably leads to a reduced standard of living and increases poverty rates, because the unnecessarily higher costs of housing leave households with less discretionary income to spend on other goods and services. The higher costs ripple into rental markets, tightening the budgets of lower income households, who already suffer from lower discretionary incomes.

The principal problem is the failure to maintain a "competitive land supply." Brookings Institution economist Anthony Downs describes the process, noting that more urban growth boundaries can convey monopolistic pricing power on sellers of land if sufficient supply is not available, which, all things being equal, is likely to raise the price of land and housing that is built on it.

Urban containment policy has been associated with greater price volatility and greater speculation. Investors and speculators are drawn to metropolitan areas where "quick" money is to be made, because of the inflexibility of the supply market. Econometric research also identifies an association between slower economic growth and urban containment regulation.
In the Introduction, Bill English states as much,
Land has been made artificially scarce by regulation that locks up land for development. This regulation has made land supply unresponsive to demand. When demand shocks occur, as they did in the mid-2000s in New Zealand and around the world, much of that shock translates to higher prices rather than more houses. It simply takes too long to make new land available for development.
This is something I have been saying for years. If houses sell for approximately the cost they are to build then when demand goes up more houses get built. There seems no good reason to me why housing should have significant capital gain over inflation. Most assets decrease in value. New Zealand does not lack land, its population is less than 5 million, its land area is 268,021 km2 (larger than the United Kingdom). It is amongst the least densely populated countries in the world and most of the land suitable for human habitation. Yet less than 2% of the land is designated urban/residential.

High house prices impact the poor the most. They are less likely to buy, more likely to rent. Rents are higher when housing is higher. And a higher percentage of their income goes toward house cost. New Zealand needs to drastically expand residential zones and open up land for housing


Question
If you add together the floor area of all the houses in New Zealand, the total area would be what compared to Lake Taupo?
A. About a quarter of Lake Taupo.
B. About half.
C. About the same.
D. Twice the size of Lake Taupo.
E. Ten times the size of Lake Taupo.

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