Waste Not, Want Not

A very happy New Year to you all.

Well, it seems the world is still here: Europe hasn’t imploded (yet), America is not yet (completely) certain of getting another four years of Obama; North Korea hasn’t deployed nuclear missiles (or Alec Baldwin), and Global Warming, following the coldest start to summer Sydney has seen in 50 years, is feeling decidedly chilly.

I’m still on the mend, and I will be getting back to usual LibertyGibbert business shortly. But I thought I’d start off 2012 by relating a small personal tale. My family spent the festive season up in Sydney, with Mrs Oz’s parents. And while Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere is inevitably different to the sort of celebrations you’re used to in Europe and America (with barbecues, beaches and cricket matches replacing snowflakes, sleds and mulled wine) there really is something universal and magical about Christmas morning, particularly when children and grandparents are involved. Oz Jr, who’s now five, was jumping right out of his skin with excitement, while Ozgirl, at eighteen months, didn’t quite grasp exactly what was going on, but was more than happy to join in all the fun. Later that day, we had all the extended family along to a traditional Aussie Christmas barbie, followed by ritual bombings in the local swimming pool. All good clean fun.

Anyway, the local council area had scheduled its annual clean-up day for December 30. Basically, residents could leave any large items they didn’t want out by the kerbside, where trucks would stop by on the appointed day and remove them. Now, my in-laws live in a reasonably well-off area. Not exessively so; I’d say the estate in which they live is populated mainly by professionals: bankers, doctors, senior management—you get the idea. The houses are large, lawns and gardens impeccably maintained, the cars parked in the driveways are all new and largely European marques, and many have snazzy boats in trailers as well. A pretty healthy Christmas light competition is fostered, so evening walks around the estate with Oz Jr were a spectacular and much-anticipated daily event.

On Boxing Day, after dinner, Mrs Oz asked me if I could accompany her on a walk around the area, to see if there was anything residents had left outside for the cleanup that we could usefully take with us back to Tasmania. Five minutes out, and I was shocked. Right there, within a two-hundred yard radius of my in-laws’ home, was being thrown out enough stuff to set up home for maybe a dozen families. Furniture, appliances, discarded toys, everything. And not just really old or broken items, either: new or near-new, big-brand-name stuff, some of it seriously expensive. We picked up a beautifully upholstered recliner armchair for my father-in-law, which I’d say you couldn’t buy in a major retailer for less than AU$800. I got a bottle drying rack for my home-brewing operation (clearly an unwanted Christmas present, as were, I’d say, much of what we saw). The kids had a Santa double-up with some really great toys.

We didn’t just pick up stuff for ourselves. My wife knows several young mothers down here, in a decidedly less well-off area, and for them we found a treasure trove of baby bottles and teats (all new and perfectly packed up), clothes, children’s furniture and toys. What we can’t give away ourselves we will donate to the local op shop. I was only able to bring back to Tasmania about half of what we picked up, due to space limitations; the rest will have to wait until my next trip to Sydney (probably in about a month).

Of course, we only got there just in time. Word had spread and, within a day or so, the narrow laneways of the estate were filled with the huge trucks of the professional scavengers. These people would blow through like locusts, pick through the piles of items with astonishing speed, then head off to auction their booty on E-bay.

The whole thing made me wonder: how wasteful are we in our own lives? The idea that we can throw out perfectly good and functional possessions, as soon as we acquire new ones, just seems a little unsettling. Is our society really that opulent? Or that we don’t have a reliable mechanism to send our cast-offs to those who need but cannot afford them, and simply toss the old stuff out our front doors instead? I remember watching a news story on TV to the effect that, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and the forclosure of thousands of mortgages, the Salvation Army in the United States would not accept any more flat-screen TV sets—they already had more than they could store or possibly give away in the forseeable future! It would appear that, if you are going to set up home, and you don’t particularly care that everything is straight-out-of-the-box, brand-spanking new, then you really don’t have to spend very much money at all.

And how much food do we throw out? I’ve seen reports to the effect that the average family throws out 20-30% of all the food it buys over the course of a year. With no chickens to feed scraps to (and convert them into brand new eggs), and no garden to compost them in, the typical family simply tips their food waste into the garbage.

Let’s not even talk about clothing. I see the most stupendous waste occurring in the rag trade, in which fashions tend to change almost weekly, and wearing anything much older than a few months is frowned upon. I guess it depends on who and where you are, but as a mere male with a sadly truncated fashion sense, I tend to wear clothes and shoes until they wear out.

You all know my bottom line on this. As a Libertarian, I believe people must be free to make whatever transactions they wish, with whomever they wish, on mutually agreeable terms. If one feels they are so overwhelmingly wealthy that they must throw out any possessions that are not new, and as long as in doing so they are hurting no-one else, well I guess that is their business. I’ve certainly benefited personally as a result in the last week or so.

But I can question the wisdom of such a mindset. It seems to imply that the good times are here to stay; that the Jeremiahs predicting an economic Armegeddon are simply fantasists; and that there will always be more money to burn, just around the corner. I wonder how such people will cope when the music does stop (as it surely will).

Maybe it’s that there is virtually no-one left alive who was an adult during the Great Depression. Or maybe, in such a rapidly changing world, in which a computer or mobile phone more than a year old is obsolete, newness is no longer seen as a luxury, but a neccessity. When compiling a list of desirable characteristics of a well-formed personality, thrift used to be right up there. What’s happened to thrift? Has it, too, become an anachronism? To describe someone as thrifty these days, seems almost to carry with it a faint ring of derision.

I wonder. During the Great Depression, unemployment is said to have hit 33%. I’d say most households could easily save that much on food, clothing, and rarer purchases like furniture and appliances. And park those savings somewhere useful and productive. A thrifty society, by my calculation, could easily laugh off another Great Depression!

It’s hardened my resolve to devote some significant time and space on LibertyGibbert to the whole area of self-sufficiency. Thrift is inevitably going to be a big part of that. The day is coming, and it may not be far off, when our society is going perforce to re-discover thrift in a big way.

Do you have similar stories of waste you see occurring around you? How do you see the situation could be improved? And am I completely out of court on this? Does our modern, wealthy economy actually depend on chronic waste and obsolescence for its survival? I look forward to your views.

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89 Responses to Waste Not, Want Not

  1. Amanda says:

    Oz: Wonderful piece. So thoughtful, and thanks.

    I can’t believe that such quality items were left on the kerb — unless that was all part of the cunning plan! My h. tells the story of a colleague that wanted to get rid of a perfectly functioning appliance (a fridge, I think). He put it at the edge of his driveway with a note on it saying ‘FREE’. No one took it. So he put another note on it saying ‘$50′. In the morning, it was gone.

    I am very much of your mind on this. I’ve got good not over-worn clothing in bags for donating, but also books, games, and a few other bits that I would really hate just to throw out. Whether anyone will want them is another question, but I’ve never had a charity turn me down. I don’t expect others to accept my trash. But then again, I had a broken bedframe and a broken dining table and a local veterans’ charity said ‘never mind, we’ll fix them’, and they took them away to sell dirt cheap in their store.

    I like the fact that we have a dog: she eats our leftovers on top of our kibble. I don’t buy her special cuts: I just give her the leftover meat (and cauliflower, if you can believe) that we eat.

    I also conserve rinse water. Water is expensive in Florida so I save water from washing, ahem, the wine and water glasses every morning and water from running the shower till it’s warm. And when I rinse the dog’s water bowl (to keep her bowl really clean and her water always really fresh), I don’t pour the rinse down the sink, it goes into the bucket. The result of this conservation goes into the laundry (top-loading, which is supposely so evil). It means that I can set the wash cycle at minimum instead of medium or medium instead of large. You get the idea. It works: I see it in our bills. And even before I lived in Florida, when I had my own home and the place was filled with plants (I am in normal times an avid indoor and outdoor gardener), I always watered my plants with saved water.

    Right, I think I have been boring enough this evening! One other thing, though. You mention the Depression. My h’s grandmother died last summer at age 98. Her parents were immigrants to America from Norway, and in fact her brother-in-law is one of the Ellis Island immigrants whose names are listed there on a monument — who came to America with no English and nothing more than a tatty old suitcase. They lived through the Depression and they knew hard times. And Alice always used to say at dinner ‘Does anyone want this?’ (showing us the food). And when there were no takers she said: ‘I’ll just have to throw it out’. Now of course, she could have put it in the fridge for later (although, the way she overcooked yellow squash, I don’t imagine the appeal would hold). But you could tell that for her there was a moral decision: to eat and seize the plenty (for now), or to waste the good that had been spared to us.

  2. Amanda says:

    Uh, sorry, that should read: ‘on top of HER kibble’. WE don’t eat kibble! 🙂

  3. izen says:

    Welcome back! hope your health continues to improve and congratulations on managing a wonderful family Christmas…

    The phenomina you relate is an inevitable corrolary of the consumerist economy.
    It is an inherent predicate of what gets called ‘free market capitalism’ that it MUST expand and grow. Modern business is predicated on growth, at the moment the business sections of much of the press over here are filled with reports of just how ‘bad’ or ‘good’ the retail christmas season was.
    reduced sales compared with last year are labeled bad, an increase in sales over last year is automatically labeled an improvement.

    The frugal approach to material goods you and Amanda adopt is an anathema to the present business model. You are both dangerous radicals calling into question the fundimental basis of the economic system you live in which requires the continual and increasing consumption of goods and services. The plethara of useful goods that people then have to get rid of, if only to make room for the new is what generates the ridiculous event of the kerb-side bonanza…

    There are some economists who are trying to construct sustainable, static non-expanding economic models. But because they are in direct contradiction with the prevailing system their efforts are dismissed as condoning ‘failure’ or dippy-hippy radicalism.
    And yet the present economic model of continual growth is unsustainable in a world with finite resources AND finite consumer demand.
    With peak oil now several years in the past the energy basis for continued growth – cheap fossil fuel – has gone. Any future economy is going to have to be based on reduced energy consumption and efficiency. This is NOT a prospect that the energy industry is willing to embrace of course.

    G’day Izen,

    That’s the key question I’d like to know: is our economy really predicated on perpetual growth? In which economic model is this actually written down? Or is it simply one of these “facts of life” axioms we have simply been conditioned to accept?

    I guess it’s a question for a wiser head than mine. Doesn’t mean any one of us needs to throw out all our stuff every year and start over, though. It’s rare that you’ll see me quoting a rock star but truly, people go crazy in congregations, but they only get better one by one – Oz

  4. Kitler says:

    Hope you are feeling better anyhow I grew up among 4 other fellow siblings and my mother was a master of reusing food to feed us. Sunday leftovers can become a fry up for supper. Very little went to waste but as my elder siblings left we got a dog who was more than happy to eat our leftovers. Clothes became hand me downs which wasn’t fun being the youngest son so now I have an aversion to second hand clothes.
    One thing I do try to do is make a PC last as long as I can before replacing it, converting one old machine as a backup by using Ubuntu has made sure it has lasted me 10 years now.

  5. Amanda says:

    I think our friend with the circlet and armour makes a good point, which was raised for me first by Izen’s comments — and that is that the tolerance for what is ‘past it’ must vary for all of us. Kitler wants his own clothes, and probably fairly new, thank you very much (watch out for that sauce down the front, eh?). Others don’t care. On the other hand, it may be that Kitler has tables and lamps he’s had for years and years and doesn’t feel the need to replace them, while others will think ‘reminds me too much of the ex-wife/previous home/time the hamster died/unfashionable fashion’ (etc.).

    My American in-laws have annoyed or surprised me (or both) at times because they seem constitutionally unable to throw anything out. Even though, as Americans and gainfully employed people most of their lives, they have been richer than I ever was growing up. I don’t like to feel that just because I’ve paid for something, I’m somehow married to it. Just because I decided to purchase a thing, in particular circumstances at a particular time, it does not therefore follow that I want it to be a permanent part of my life. That is giving too much power to mere THINGS.

    That’s why my comment on conservation of resources was just that: resources not just manufactured goods.

    And the fact is, Izen, that some things (light bulbs, frying pans, summer clothes that you sweat in, car tires) need replacing rather a lot. So there’s room for frequent improvement in those things: a better glow from the bulbs (blue light rather than yellow), a better non-stick surface, a different blend of materials, a more effective load-bearing design, etc. But how do improve on a dining table? You can’t, really — you can only make it of better quality. And nobody needs to buy a new dining table every other year, which is partly why they cost so much. Once you’ve sold a dining set to someone, you’re not going to be seeing his custom again for quite some time, if ever.

    Looking forward to further contributions on this subject.

  6. Amanda says:

    P. S. about ‘improve on’:

    1. improving ON a dining table might mean coming up with something for food service that is better than a dining table. Not going to happen, is it?

    2. improving a dining table (without the ‘on’) might mean making a dining table more efficient, comfortable, and stylish, as cars have improved to become more efficient, comfortable, and stylish. Same basic idea: just make it better. But again, when it comes to dining tables, a good Georgian antique table is likely to be better than one manufactured today: it is an unimprovable design.

  7. Kitler says:

    amanda my missus has an aversion to teflon that is pathological and her claims that it gives you cancer I’m not sure about. However this has led her to buy cast iron pans and skillets I expect those to last us well into the next century once seasoned with oil they don’t rust. As for throwing things out we have just done that, however I draw the line at throwing out my collection of interesting electric cabling and connectors.

  8. Amanda says:

    Kitler: Quite right: cabling must be stood up for. Free country and all that. What you do in the privacy of your own, etc. Absolutely. However, if you had an interesting collection of CFLs I’d really have to wonder.

  9. Kitler says:

    amanda you should see what I can do with a car battery a length of cable and some clamps….
    Well not much just start a car to be honest.

  10. Amanda says:

    K: That’s more than *we* could do. Had to get the emergency people round twice (second time merely as a prelude to a new battery). The black one connects to the metal, and the red one connects to… or is it the other way around? Simple, but I could never remember it. Same with parking on a kerb or without a kerb on a hill, facing downhill or facing uphill. When uphill the wheels must be turned to the left except if there’s a kerb then turn them to the right. Or is it reverse? Also, I get terribly confused because then there’s the question of which country I’m in and which side of the road I’m driving on. I have a great memory but never mastered the hill parking thing for these reasons. I can actually park the car, though: does that count, your Honour?

  11. Kitler says:

    amanda ah the old crossing the wires trick you want to try touching both negative and positive at the same time with a wrench always rather bracing. As for hills we don’t have many around here but apparently it is okay to not signal and cut across three lanes of traffic at the last minute,

  12. Kitler says:

    Well since we are on a theme….

  13. Kitler says:

    I suppose poverty is relative to where you live and when, being poor in the USA for most is no hardship nor most of the western world right now the safety nets catch most.
    But what about those same countries in the 19th century?

  14. farmerbraun says:

    Ozboy, you do realise that, in referencing this archaic word (thrift), you have identified yourself as being of “an earlier generation”. Hee, hee.

  15. farmerbraun says:

    Izen:There are some economists who are trying to construct sustainable, static non-expanding economic models.

    FB: Static, non-expanding economies already exist . A static economy is not of itself a problem.
    The question is , why would it be considered that a static economy is not sustainable. What is it that the economy is trying to outrun?

    Or putting it another way, if a static economy is unsustainable, e.g. it is insolvent, will growing the size of the economy, remove the unsustainability?

  16. Dr. Dave says:


    I’m glad you had a good Christmas holiday. Personally I hate this time of year and I’m always glad when it’s over. I used to love Christmas until I was about 30. I’ve had a series of “bad events” that occurred during this season. It’s also cold and dark. There’s the end of the year pressures and the incredibly crass commercialism. My GF and I made of gift to each other by not buying gifts this year. It was wonderful. It became pretty lame in recent years. My best gift to her was a check so she could knock herself out shopping (something she loves and I hate). She loved it because she could buy whatever she wanted. I hated it because I always felt like I was lazy and uncaring. Truth is, I really can’t shop for her and can barely shop for myself. On the flip side she has pretty much run out of tools she can buy for me (but I do dig the surface planer). Trouble is we both have birthdays this month that are only 6 days apart so we have to go through the whole song and dance all over again.

    To tell you the truth I have never seen the waste that you describe. I live in a pretty prosperous area and I’ve never witnessed what you described. I’ve given away old TVs, stereo equipment and computers…but they have always gone to “good homes”. I love to “re-purpose” things. When I first moved into this house I bought one of those floor-standing lamps that shine an intense halogen glare directly upwards so you read by light reflected off the ceiling. In the summer moths would commit suicide by landing on the scorching hot bulb and stink up the room. Eventually the base broke away but I didn’t throw it out.. After a year or two of living in my garage I rigged it up upside down directly over my table saw. It was brilliant (no pun intended). I now have an intense 100 watt halogen light source directly above my table saw.

    We donate or give away a lot of old stuff we no longer want. Unfortunately we keep a lot of crap we probably should get rid of. There’s always that dilemma…too good to throw away yet not worth enough to sell. I once volunteered at an outfit called Open Hands. They ran thrift shops of donated goods and the proceeds were used to help the elderly to remain in their homes and live independently. The stuff that came in ranged from crap to to the exquisite. There were three categories of donated goods – good enough for the store, dumped to “Joy Junction” (a homeless shelter in Albuquerque) or dumped into the dumpster out back. Used computers were relegated to the dumpster because nobody wanted them. They could have been re-purposed or at least recycled. But that didn’t fit their business model. Nobody shopping in a thrift store is looking for a computer and Joy Junction has no use for them.

    Some stuff simply becomes worthless. I offer up printers as an example. I probably have four used ink-jet printers that I probably should just dump. They’re like a high-tech BIC lighter. But I almost never see useful stuff being thrown away…it’s almost always given away to others or donated.

  17. Amanda says:

    FB says ‘thrift’ is an old-fashioned word. Yeah, it is a bit — don’t know why, though. Isn’t there something in the human soul that likes ‘thriftiness’? Who has not heard of the millionaire (that meant a lot in my childhood) or the big-time multi-millionaire/billionaire that haggles over purchases and buys wieners with the discount coupon? Or maybe even the rich have changed since the 1980s.

    ‘Thrift store’ is a familiar but dated term in Americanese. Do Australians use it at all?

    They’re called “op shops” down here (op = opportunity); mainly run by religious charities – Oz

  18. Amanda says:

    I like that: makes you sound like adventurers rather than just hard-luck and hard-up!

  19. izen says:

    Economics dosn’t seem to make much sense a lot of the time. Lots of jargon and every ‘principle’ contradicted by another school…
    National economies are assumed to require continual expansion to better the lot of the citizen and cope with rising population.
    Individual companies are unlikely to attract further investment if the cannot show increasing turnover or profit.

    Just for further confusion, the welfare safety nets that give money to the poor are generally considered to increase national GDP by increasing aggregate demand. The ‘food stamp’ system in the US is estimated to generate another ~80c for every dollar spent in economic activity…

  20. farmerbraun says:

    Yes Izen there are plenty of fudge factors when it comes to measuring economies.
    But in your statement above , you mention turnover and profit; two very different and sometimes unrelated things. That is the point I was getting at above.
    Increasing turnover ((within a business) is the same as increasing the size of a (national) economy. It says nothing about the profit (in the business) , or in the national sense, the size of the profit/loss. (surplus/deficit)
    Whereas a business which perennially made losses would be given up as a dead dog, economies which show the same characteristic are deemed to be healthy if the turnover (GDP) is increasing.

    Why is the utility of turning a blind eye to the unsustainability of a national economy if it is perpetually losing money? We would abandon any business that behaved similarly.
    Why do we behave as though a national economy is not a business?

  21. farmerbraun says:

    That should be “what” is the utility……….in the penultimate sentence.

  22. Luton Ian says:

    Happy New Year.

    Oz, hope you’re fit again soon.

    “Growth” is more of a political buzz word than anything meaningful. Check out chapter 12:10 in Rothbard’s man economy and state, This link gets you the .pdf of it, http://mises.org/books/mespm.pdf

    As for state spending being “investment”

    Absolute BS

    The money is taken away from serving consumer’s desires (in freely entered transactions in which both parties feel that they gain) by coercion.

    Government cannot calculate (there is no profit or loss, as government can simply steal whatever money and other resources it wants to, so there is no competition, and no prices to indicate what consumers rankings of priorities are, or whether goods, effort and materials are going to the most valued uses). Government spending is therefore based on the whim of the demagogues or the bureaucrats who brown nose those demagogues.

    Tax is therefore extorted from consumers and those who seek to serve them, is partly used up by the caste of net tax consumers, and partly mis spent on things which if there was any desire to have them, people would be willing to pay a free market rate for, and others willing to provide -if the amount which people were willing to spend was likely to cover the cost of providing.

    Government taxing, government, employment, bureaucracy / regulation and government spending all detract from societal well being in the aggregate, and from the well being of all individuals in the caste of producers/net tax contributors.

    Unfortunately, as Bastiat pointed out, we get to see what government spending does, we never see what that money would have done if it hadn’t been stolen with threat of violence.

    ok, polemic over

  23. Luton Ian says:


    sorry I haven’t been over to knottedprop lately. There’s something about it which makes this machine freeze up.

    Hope you had a good Christmas, and happy whattsit for a few days time.

  24. Luton Ian says:


    Wholeheartedly agreed

    The result of the crap we are running is an export of our capital to places which are freer than we are.

    Ironically, mainland China is in some important respects freer than we are, Hong Kong, certainly is.

    The good thing coming out of this, is that by exporting our wealth to those places which are economically freer than we are, we are putting those funds out of reach of our own tax devouring parasites.

    Unfortunately, those nations which are liberal at home and hence economically successful at home, also tend to be the most aggressive and successfully aggressive in foreign policy – look at 19th Century Britain and 20th Century Federal United States…

  25. Kitler says:

    Luton Ian well not had much to say on my blog lately so been taking a break and too lazy to write anything with correct punctuation. As it’s a long weekend for me what with MLK day nice of him to get shot so I get a day off close to my birthday.

  26. Amanda says:

    When’s the birthday, K? Birthdays: can’t live without ’em, can’t really enjoy ’em. Having a birthday means you’re that much older. Not having a birthday means you’re…. It’s still a bit of a shock when I look in the mirror and see that my skin is not perfectly smooth & unlined any more (which it was, until quite recently).

  27. izen says:

    @- FB
    “Why do we behave as though a national economy is not a business?”

    Because it isn’t.
    Its the socio-economic system or context within which business operates.

    The concept that nation-states can be treated as individual companies competing in a global market is an ideological trope imposed with Procrustean force on a far more complex reality.

  28. izen says:

    @- Luton Ian
    “Government spending is therefore based on the whim of the demagogues or the bureaucrats who brown nose those demagogues.”

    It is also driven by business that ‘lobby’ – or simply bribe, governments to get rentier advantage. Direct subsidies are the most obvious example.
    But safety net welfare programs are also pragmatically chosen methods of stabilising society. Historically efforts to deal with poverty and its associated problems within modern societies originated with private charitable provision. The bleeding heart do-gooder christians of the mid-victorian religious revival were big on this; Quaker bankers and industrialist were particularly prone.
    This was then supported, subsidised and co-opted by local government – it was a matter of civic pride NOT to have your city teeming with starving child beggars – and eventually by national government, partly as an ‘ethical’ response to human suffering, but also because such welfare provision was seen as a means of correcting the sort of problem the authorities discovered when recruiting for the Boer war. A significant percentage of the potential troops did not pass the physical. The malnutrition from poverty had removed a proportion of the population from being suitable for cannon fodder…

    @- “Tax is therefore extorted from consumers and those who seek to serve them, is partly used up by the caste of net tax consumers, and partly mis spent on things which if there was any desire to have them, people would be willing to pay a free market rate for, and others willing to provide -if the amount which people were willing to spend was likely to cover the cost of providing.”

    The most obvious example of this I suppose would be military spending. Tax is redirected to businesses that utilise the latest technology and the best materials and methods to make stuff with no purpose but to look threatening and when used to destroy itself and other expensive resources. Along with any people around it…

    @- “Government taxing, government, employment, bureaucracy / regulation and government spending all detract from societal well being in the aggregate, and from the well being of all individuals in the caste of producers/net tax contributors.”

    Pareto optimality may enable the advantages to exceed the smaller loss. A metaphor for welfare safety nets might be collective water and sanitation systems. The cost for those contributing to the provision of a ‘universal’ sewage system is less than the cost of rampant cholera.
    The Bush administration calculated that the US food stamp program by putting extra money into the hands of ~40M of the population generated more economic activity, and more acts of consumer choice, than it cost. The first American food stamp program had as much to do with subsidising the agricultural sector of the nation and was explicitly seen as a way of managing food surpluses, protecting the farmer from market fluctuations and ensuring the nation could feed itself as a matter of national security.
    Given the consumer choices made by the ~25% of families that benefit from the present system I suppose it is subsidising – and probably keeping in business – coke-a-cola.

    I had better put a caveat on these responses;
    I find economics truly named as the ‘dismal’ science. Adam Smith, Bastiat, Marx – and even Rothbard -grin- to be powerful soporifics. I don’t think I would accept, or defend ANY of the concepts that come out of the various strands of economic theory with their associated political dogmas.
    What is evident is that welfare systems emerged as necessary components of industrial, city based modern societies. Cultures that minimise welfare and follow very low-tax regimes for the individual are not usually pleasant places to live for the majority of their citizens.

  29. Kitler says:

    Amanda you ozboy and Luton Ian we all fall within a few years of each other we are of the same generation which is the mid 60’s as is James Delingpole, as for lines same here but at least I’ve kept my hair which is seriously getting gray. My birthday is the 17th and the problem with a January birthday is it’s a really crap time of year to have one. The only notable birthday I’ve had is at college when I consumed copious amounts of booze and doubled the distance home by staggering from one side of the road to another. So I’m not a birthday fan most of mine have been crap.

  30. Kitler says:

    Well tell a lie my 40th was okay when the women i worked with decided i was now officially over the hill and had black balloons streamers a hat and an old fart badge and they went overboard it was fun going along with the joke.

  31. izen says:

    @- FB

    I wonder whether you have any insights into sustainability and business with regard to farming?
    A farm with a fixed area can only raise its turnover or profitability by lowering production costs or growing a more valuable product. It also has to sustain the productivity of the land unless the intention is to take a short-term profit and then abandon the area for productive agriculture.

    I know there are areas in Britain that have been farmed for thousands of years – since the arrival of agriculture in late Neolithic times. The farming methods have changes, meat and dairy, cerel crops, sheep for wool and other food crops have all been raised on the same locality over the centuries with advantage for the society and without exhausting the fertility/productivity of the land.

    But there are also I suspect examples where the market demand, or lack of it compromises the optimum crop/livestock use of land and even encourages the destruction of the sustainable fertility of the area.

    Agricultural production is still the fundamental basis of human societies. Energy may power industry and provide more opportunities for the individual, but to have a population of many individuals enjoying their iphones requires enough food to keep them alive. We may use the KW of power or tons of oil used per head as a measure of wealth, but the reality for much of the global population is how many calories they can obtain.

  32. izen says:

    “The only notable birthday I’ve had is at college when I consumed copious amounts of booze and doubled the distance home by staggering from one side of the road to another. ”

    The drunkards walk is a key concept in statistics, it more than doubles the distance, the multiplier is a factor of the step length and the distance – squared!
    And of course a hill will make things worse….

  33. izen says:

    @- Amanda you ozboy and Luton Ian we all fall within a few years of each other we are of the same generation which is the mid 60′s as is James Delingpole…

    Bunch of youngsters….-grin-

    Here’s a math puzzle which I think has a unique solution.
    The last two digits of my birth year and my age coincide this year…

    Poor Izen, torn apart by the ravages of time… you remember the Soviet invasion of Hungary, in the same way I remember JFK’s assassination. Which I don’t.

    Perhaps I should invite Toad and ManOnTheMoor round here, to make you feel a little less – um – venerable – Oz 😆

  34. Amanda says:

    Izen: I was born December ’67 (to parents that, in my opinion, were too young: mum just turned 20, dad only 24 — I wasn’t even married at that age, never mind having a baby with another coming just 14 months later).

    Actually, now that I think of it, the existence of my brother is probably responsible for the fact that my parents left England (couldn’t afford it). I would have been better off as an only child. Having a sibling has been a net negative in my life. I think my parents would have been better off too, financially and because I was their favourite.

  35. Amanda says:

    Izen: Thanks for the video but I couldn’t watch it even to the middle: afraid he was going to fall and crack his head on the pavement! Advertising that kind of incapacity is also not a great way to make sure you hang on to your wallet!

  36. Amanda says:

    K: January is a GREAT time for a birthday! Think of the excuses! All those warming whiskeys, those mulled medicinal ciders etc., the need to stay in the cosy indoors and not risk hypothermia but stay by the snug of the pub and the fire….

  37. Amanda says:

    Izen wrote:
    ‘but to have a population of many individuals enjoying their iphones requires enough food to keep them alive’

    True. But the fact that so many have iPhones makes it easy to forget what the essentials really are. Even the value of precious metals such as gold is to my mind largely illusory. In case of crisis, what could you do with it? Nothing much: steel has much more utility. And in a world of necessity, utility matters more than anything else — certainly more than what merely ‘glisters’.

  38. Amanda says:

    K: Do you like the grey? Were you there on James’s when we discussed Just For Men? It’s great stuff: subtly colours the white hairs while leaving your natural colour untouched. That appeals to me: I like naturalness as much as is consistent with not being a slob or a hag from hell.

  39. fenbeagleblog says:

    Hope you are feeling a lot better Oz?… Do you not have auction houses in Oz? Most of my furniture was obtained that way, and, ends up back there too when it is surplus to requirement. (Just taken two bookcases in.) It’s all good business, but usually favours the buyer.
    ….. The great Flood Fantasia…


  40. farmerbraun says:

    izen says:
    January 14, 2012 at 9:19 pm
    @- FB

    “I wonder whether you have any insights into sustainability and business with regard to farming?”

    FB replies: Hells bells Izen, one would hope so, after having spent 35 years in transforming the family turangawaewae from certain insolvency to one of the most sustainable (economically, environmentally [don’t you hate that word], and socially) operations in the country. It was a combination of cost reduction; enhanced value of raw product (certified organic) ; added value (on-farm processing into consumer item); and shortening the distribution chain (cut out the middle-men) that together produced the desired result. All those, plus an inordinate amount of stubbornness.

    You write: “But there are also I suspect examples where the market demand, or lack of it compromises the optimum crop/livestock use of land and even encourages the destruction of the sustainable fertility of the area.”

    There is no doubt about that; the Canterbury Plains in N.Z. are a classic example, and are causing some quite bitter conflict between urban and rural sectors.
    Until recently the area, which is largely shallow stony/silt soil on an alluvial plain with large alpine rivers, subject to extreme hot dry winds in late spring/summer and bitter cold in winter as a result of exposure to the south, was used for sheep farming. The lambs were shipped off before the dry got too severe, the sheep could handle the winter, and irrigation was unnecessary. The sheep farming imposed little nitrogen loading on the porous, free-draining, low-carbon soil. Consequently the ground water stayed in an acceptable condition.

    Then enter the dairy boom, in the last 20 or so years, driven by a temporary downturn in wool price as a result of synthetics from fossil fuels. Wool is now recovering and sheepmeat demand/price has never been been better since the Korean war.
    The dairymen ripped out all the shelter belts, laser-levelled the place , put in the large-scale travelling irrigators, and proceeded to pile on the nitrogen and phosphorus, increase the stocking rate with the aid of imported feed , further increasing the nitrogen loading on the porous soil , and in the process drove down the proportion of NZ milk that was turned into high value products. When you have milk coming out your ears during the peak, you make milk powder.

    The results are all negative except for the GNP.
    Of course sustainability is not black or white, except in the ultimate analysis. (:-). Sustainability is relative between different production systems. What has been done to this area of N.Z. appears to be far less sustainable, nationally and regionally, than the previous 150 odd years of sheep farming.
    But we are calling this progress. The urban population , watching the water extraction from the rivers, the increased nitrogen and phosphorus in ground water, and the alteration of the landscape, not to mention the social destruction by the mega-farms, refuse to believe that this is progress. They may be right.

    So in spite of having a Resource Management Act, the sole purpose of which is to see that sutainability is not compromised, we seem to have frequently achieved the opposite, largely because agriculture was, upon the enactment of the legislation, given a blanket exemption from the fundamental requirement to manage resources sustainably.

    So much for well-meaning legislation.

  41. izen says:

    @- FB
    “So in spite of having a Resource Management Act, the sole purpose of which is to see that sutainability is not compromised, we seem to have frequently achieved the opposite, largely because agriculture was, upon the enactment of the legislation, given a blanket exemption from the fundamental requirement to manage resources sustainably.”

    So the agricultural base, the land, which might be considered THE most important resource of the Nation is exempt from regulation to manage resources sustainably.

    Just goes to show you can never underestimate the idiocy of the polity.

    Why the exemption ? an outbreak of libertarian anti-regulation-ism ?
    Or vested interests ?!

  42. farmerbraun says:

    Yes, Izen, we should not wonder. The reasons for the exemption of agriculture were in the first place political because it was widely perceived that there could be profound effects on the way agriculture was practiced. Farmers had to be given a reason to not oppose the legislation, since there was a suspicion that “freedom to farm” could be affected.
    The second reason was economic, farming being the backbone of the economy. Any curtailment of the freedom to produce large amounts of commodities was deemed to be a bad thing. There was never any consideration that the production of a smaller amount of higher-value food could achieve a similar or better economic result, while reducing environmental impacts.
    Of course, adding value to the products of agriculture could also have gone some way to rebuilding the social capital that was being destroyed in the rural areas as a result of the farm amalgamations , which were in turn driven by the perceived need to produce more low value product more “efficiently”.

    The dairying areas of N.Z. are littered with ghost towns, spaced about ten miles apart.
    Where once there was , centred around a dairy factory, a complete village: butcher; baker; two grocers; three churches; two engineers; a transport company; a school; a dairy workers hostel; and a community hall, there is today just a hall which is seldom used. Now the remaining farmers have electronic security systems.The social capital has been dissipated.

    The resilience of the production system is a small residue of what it once was, and the economic nirvana has failed to materialise. The combined debt of the N.Z. dairy industry is (relatively) enormous.

    Of course, the RMA is now slowly being brought to bear on agriculture. But the industry has cleverly whipped up public sentiment about cows walking across un- bridged streams, and drinking from streams. In this way it has deflected attention from the elephant in the room , which is the stocking rate. The higher the stocking rate (cows/ hectare), the higher the nutrient losses from percolation through soil to ground water. So we have a Clean Streams Accord, while the streams grow steadily more enriched.
    Naturally , one cannot have more fertile soils without enriching the waterways, and N.Z. waterways are very clean by world standards, but still at some point there will be a day of reckoning, and we will discover that the dairy industry , as it stands , is relatively unsustainable. That’s a big problem , because the whole country is relying on it , in the economic sense.

    Farmerbraun is only scratching the surface of the unsustainable practice; the seasonality of N.Z. dairying lies at the heart of the problem, and produces the worst effects on soil tilth and consequent nutrient losses, not to mention animal welfare; dairy-worker abuse(mostly young people; and low value products.
    Farmerbraun should stop before the HU NZ C boys arrive.

  43. Amanda says:

    FB: It sounds depopulated there, rather like a Florida new housing development after houses couldn’t find owners or the existing owners defaulted…. Do you feel isolated for that reason? I have been to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in Canada, and there is a sense that although these places were never very populated, the young people move away and the areas decline yet more and rely more than ever on federal hand-outs. Basically they are like elderly patients, given palliative care while they slowly die. Perhaps my vision of those places is now out of date, since I visited as a child, but I expect it’s much the same: they were always rural; the city of Halifax is not a major city and is out of the mainstream; and these provinces always relied on natural resources (fishing, farming, mining) rather than more modern sources of income. (They do have tourism, but not enough.) Ain’t it the way: often the most beautiful places (Cape Breton is ruggedly gorgeous, as is most of the east coast of Canada) are the ones that get left behind.

  44. farmerbraun says:

    The little (former) village of Manawaru that I described above is certainly depopulated;others that have suffered a similar fate are virtually non-existent.
    Isolated? Hell no; Farmerbraun lives at the centre of the universe, his connections reaching out to every “nook and cranny” 🙂

    Now insulation; FB would be happy with a little more of that , in spite of residing at the end of a no- exit gravel road.
    The provincial city is 15 minutes away on foot; so all that is undesirable in the city environment is in close proximity.
    But one thing that sustainable agriculture seeks to do is to rebuild social capital. So there is a farm community on the 500 acres. If things got really nasty, that community would grow significantly.

  45. izen says:

    @- FB
    So do I have this right?
    Sheep and crop farming was replaced by dairy/cattle because global commodity prices made it more profitable. But only with stocking levels which require irrigation and feed input to maintain suitable pasture. That results in nitrogen leach into streams, watercourse and lakes with the threat of eutriphication?

    It sounds rather like the Greenland Norse, persisting with an unsustainable agricultural method. Although they didn’t have the option of fossil fuel derived input to the soil.
    Are the cattle over-wintered in barns due to the cold winters as was practiced in Greenland?

    The Greenland Norse clung to dairy farming for cultural reasons – and the experience that it was a sucssesful agricultural method for centuries in their native lands. The dairy industry is chosen in NZ because of its opportunity for bigger profit, but this requires fossil fuel inputs and farm amalgamation into agribusiness industrial scale enterprises that divorce the ‘agricultural worker from the land. Ownership is a distant corporation, not an individual, and no person has the cattle and land they are raised on as their – turangawaewae.
    What a lovely word, I had to look it up but it embodies a wonderful concept. Not just ownership, but allegiance and stewardship?

    It would seem to be a classic ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ taking the land – even though in private ownership – as the ‘common’ resource of the Nation.
    But perhaps the strict libertarian position would be that individual (or corporate?) freedom of choice trumps the collective interest in sustainable use of the land?

    Much as I am attracted to the concepts of autonomy from governance and the rejection of authoritarian oversight implicit in Libertarian ideas, there are clear conflicts with the need for collective organisation in circumstances that otherwise devolve to a Tragedy of the Commons. One reason for following Ozboy’s blog is to see how those claiming a libertarian outlook think those contradictions might be resolved.
    Or if they are even recognised! -grin-

    Well, that’s why LibertyGibbert is here… so you’ve definitely come to the right place.

    Farmerbraun and Amanda, with comments on land ownership and stewardship, have actually anticipated (or even pre-empted) a couple of threads in the pipeline here; your own point, that Libertarianism, when one considers the necessary individual responsibilities implicit in its definition, has implications for the order of society, is spot on. Feel free to remind me if I don’t get around to addressing it any time soon – Oz

  46. Amanda says:

    How many acres do you own? I’m sort of fascinated by acreage. It’s a kind of wealth I’ve never had. Neighbours whose driveways and garages — on and in which they seem to spend half their lives, running power tools, talking, making noise — tends to be 15 feet away from my own door. People are TOO CLOSE. They pick their nose: you hear it. (Well maybe not. Everything else: belching, coughing, sneezing, etc.) God only knows how I would have survived a terrace house in the Middle Ages.

    I knew people in Texas with acreage. My neighbour (who also had a Boxer, my dog’s chief playmate) was a cattle rancher. He had 300 acres, and his house in Houston was just a townhouse. Unfortunately, a fungus on the ranch killed his dog, who inhaled its spores and soon died, at the age of 3. They invited us out there but we never went and I’m glad we didn’t, since my girl might have died young, too.

  47. Amanda says:

    Izen: You had to look up ‘turangawaewae’. I have to look up that and ‘eutriphication’.

    By the way, does no one write the verb ‘to practise’ with an S any more? Or do the know-littles at Microsoft get away with changing the language on their say-so? According to them, I should even spell ‘any more’ as one word: you watch American writers: they invariably do now. But ‘any more’ is not one word: it’s two. You can hear it. Americans however always want to run words together. A lot of them don’t seem to understand that ‘some time’ means something other than ‘sometime’. They are not the same thing, and they are not pronounced the same way. Somtimes I wish that non-Americans would resist their whims a bit more than they do. American English is often wonderful, but sometimes it’s no improvement, or worse.

  48. Amanda says:

    Let me write that as meant: Sometimes I wish that non-Americans would resist American whims more than they currently do.

  49. izen says:

    @- Ozboy
    Sorry about the topic drift from the wastefulness of the consumer society, but the sustainability of agriculture is something I find interesting…
    In a sort of effort to get back on track…
    Are you aware of the man credited with creating the modern consumer society? He specifically identified the psychological elements that could make the Libertarian idea of – “people must be free to make whatever transactions they wish, with whomever they wish, on mutually agreeable terms” into a means of driving industrial/ service production by persuading people to buy stuff as an expression of their autonomous self. –

    “Bernays was instrumental in developing the notion of the consumer as somebody who bought a product not because they needed it, but because they would feel better if they had it. He realised that anyone who wanted to influence the public had to appeal to people’s irrational and selfish needs, and he systematically linked mass-produced goods to unconscious desires. He helped develop ‘self-expression’ from a psychoanalytic method of healing to a cultural method of living. …But things began to change. …
    This was the rise of the ‘me’ generation. Where would this leave the newly emerged PR and marketing? Rather than proving a threat, these ideas were seized upon as opportunities to sell to the public ways of expressing their newfound individuality. It was now less about appealing to the hidden desires and more about using products as symbols of the self. ”



    I don’t subscribe to the ‘pivotal figure’ theory of history, without Bernays I am sure the same changes, methods and insights would have emerged in a modern consumer society. But his work does reveal the underlying basis in stark detail of that evolution of the consumer economy and the ways in which an appeal to the consumer based on perception rather than fact has shaped political discourse. Having it summed up by the life of one man is … convenient!

  50. izen says:

    @- Amanda
    I have trouble spelling – and spellcheckers (which my spell-checker wants me to hyphenate!) that want me to replace s with z don’t help! -grin-
    My grammatical infelicities are no doubt legion…
    Language evolves, and old meanings get dropped while new one emerge. But I am with you on the loss of subtle (and large) differences in meaning which are lost when words get used interchangeably for the same concepts. If any more words are joined into portmanteau neologisms we wont have the separate meanings available anymore….-grin-
    Are you a big fan of Eric Partridge and ‘Usage and Abusage’?

  51. Amanda says:

    I shall have to look him up as well, Izen.

    I am an enemy of what I call ‘pointless innovation’, which usually involves ‘words [that] get used interchangeably for the same concepts’.

    Also I see that a lot of people simply don’t understand the meanings of the words they use. Americans nearly always misunderstand the meaning of ‘comprise’: I can tell the nationality of a writer by that mistake alone. They think it means ‘forms’, so they get their cause-and-effect backwards (Americans like important-sounding words: ‘comprise’ sounds more important than ‘forms’ or ‘makes up’). Most people do not understand what ‘decimated’ means. (Hint: cut by a tenth.) I know that words change: ‘fairly’ used to mean ‘utterly’; ‘vulnerable’ used to mean ‘obnoxious’ — but to a certain extent, that’s a weakness and we need to shore it up. If we allow change willy-nilly (another word egregiously misunderstood by Americans), very soon our greatest writers and even our everyday speech will be incomprehensible to future generations. Even now, most North American students can grasp very little Shakespeare on the first reading, but my father can (mechanical engineer with really only a technical education) because the language shares much with the post-Victorian colloquialisms and understandings that he grew up with. I’m a bit post-Victorian (and out of my time) myself: so I share that understanding without needing ‘translation’.

    To me, language is not just a tool, it’s an art. It’s a thing of beauty, it’s something to admire and protect. Most people treat it like a rug to wipe their dirty shoes on. I can’t do that.

    Poets that lasting marble seek
    Must carve in Latin or in Greek;
    We write in sand, our language grows,
    And, like the tide, our work o’erflows.

    – from “Of English Verse”, by Edmund Waller (1606-1687)

  52. Amanda says:

    Sorry: Decimated: Reduced to one tenth of the former size.

  53. Amanda says:

    Now I’m getting confused: I thought it was ‘one in ten’ but then I see this (in Wikipedia, which of course must be treated with skepticism even on non-scientific subjects):

    ‘The word decimation is often used to refer to an extreme reduction in the number of a population or force, much greater than the one tenth implied by the “deci” root.

    In Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History, Stephen Jay Gould uses “decimate” to indicate the taking of nine in ten, noting that the Oxford English Dictionary supports the “pedigree” of this “rare” meaning.’

    Mmm. I bet the ‘one tenth’ idea is more authentic. But anyway it’s a difficult word to apply that rigorously. I don’t know why people don’t just say ‘devastate’, though, since that is really what they mean.

  54. fenbeagleblog says:

    The actual meaning of ‘Decimation was probably very important to Roman legionnaires. I’ve heard the ‘nine in ten’ meaning also. But that might be just because I’ve read Stephen Jays book ‘The Burgess Shale.’ It’s a bit mathematically exact, either way. ‘Devastate’ is what’s usually meant.
    Shakespeare was inventive with language too, (so might not have agreed with you). He pleased himself with spelling too. The more surprising thing, (possibly), is that it’s still possible to read Chaucer 1340 – 1347, from 550 years ago. Go back a similar period from Chaucer and we are supposed to be speaking Saxon, a language that nobody can now understand. Which suggests to me that English is not Saxon despite some claims. Although it may have contributed some place names, and a few interesting words. The Saxons, I think, learnt to speak English, before they disappeared into the English gene pool leaving little trace.

  55. Amanda says:

    Sorry: I made that point about Shakespeare once before. The only thing worse than repeating oneself is boring people with language talk — a niche interest, I know.

    While I’m at it, may as well add this: it’s only sloppy pointless innovation I don’t like; inventive language that serves a purpose and ‘refreshes’ our view of things is something I like a lot. Language that clarifies perception instead of blurring it. I was very conscious, in the novel I’ve just completed, of cliche and my desire to avoid it. Cliche doesn’t have to be anything even as obvious as, e.g. ‘the world and his wife’, it can be any two or three words that are routinely strung together, e.g. ‘avid reader’ or ‘duty bound’. I tend to think in visual metaphors anyway, which helps, but often I would ask myself how I could describe something as no one has ever described it before. The more inventive description always seems more interesting and more precise than any formulaic statement could be. It means that you’re doing your own thinking. When you use cliche, you’re letting someone else think for you without realizing it.

  56. Amanda says:

    Hi Fen,
    Just saw your post right now. As you can see, the one I just wrote clarifies that I’m all for clever invention, but just not for altering the language unintelligently.

  57. Amanda says:

    Fen: Isn’t the idea simply that Old English is a branch of German, which evolved separately from German and then was radically altered by Norman French? Chaucer comes after both the long evolution away from German and the clobbering of the native language by French. No wonder we can’t read Saxon!

  58. fenbeagleblog says:

    I think there may be German in it, Amanda. (I think the Romans were of that view.) But I don’t think that Saxons coming over in Longboats, ‘replaced’ the language already spoken, with their own. How could they? How many people can you get in a longboat…And how many of them were female anyway? I doubt the Normans made all the difference either, they had a similar problem, and gave up on Normandy French in the end, and spoke English instead.
    Has English killed off the Welsh language?…. Replaced it perhaps, but killed it? And if Saxon replaced British….. What happened to British?

  59. Tim says:

    How many people can you get in a longboat? I don’t know, but there were enough Saxons, Angles, Jutes, and those speaking related languages to drive the Brythonic peoples into Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany. Basically, the original Britons were a Celtic people. The Saxons then proceeded to set up their kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia, West Saxony, and ?I think Kent (I forget). While they were influenced by Latin from the time England became a Christian nation, they spoke Saxon from then (?400AD) until 1066, when William the Conqueror invaded (with some incursion by the Danes — we got a few of their words this way). So then there was a bilingual situation — the nobility spoke French, and the commoners spoke English. This involved a huge import of French words, most of which were derived from Latin. Many Latin words were derived from Greek. Wikipedia has an entire article on the history of the English language. But the best way to get a feel for all this is to get your hands on an etymological dictionary, and see for yourself where various words come from. You’ll notice that a lot of our verbs and nouns come from French, Latin, and Greek (especially the longer and fancier sounding ones), but all our basic joining words come from the language known alternatively as Anglo-Saxon, or Old English. It may help if I also point out that the English of Chaucer, etc, was decended from the Mercian dialect (Midlands), whereas most of the Anglo-Saxon documents we have are in the West Saxon dialect of King Alfred the Great. HTH,

  60. Amanda says:

    Oz, I think you misunderstand me (and did the last time this came up): I know that language grows — or more accurately, changes. The question is how it changes and who decides on what changes and how. Whose voice counts?

    I find that it is often the very people that care about language the most that are given the least authority: it’s the kids that don’t know any better who are deferred to because ‘language must change’ and authority itself is seen as fussy, irrelevant, and cramping. So all that happens is that effectual authority is transferred to the ignorant and careless: their ‘variations’ get incorporated into dictionaries, while the know-littles at Microsoft devise spelling-checkers that tell me my correct grammar and spelling are wrong, when I know darn well it isn’t. But whoops: everyone takes Microsoft as an authority, so now I must toe the line, too. Because Microsoft (and business jargon in general) has just redefined what is ‘correct’. Quite undemocratically, in fact. Fenbeagle said that Shakespeare spelled as he pleased. Well, heck, *I* couldn’t get away with that, nor could you. We DO accept authority, as much as ever, but it’s the capricious changers that have that authority, not ‘thoughtful users’ such as I am.

  61. Amanda says:

    One other thing: agreement on what words mean is important. Usually you can tell from context, but it’s confusing when Brits mean one thing and Americans mean the exact opposite by the same word. It’s not something you can just ‘learn’, either, because educated Brits & Americans will use the same word in a certain way, and the less sure on both sides will use it another, and then you get the ‘copycats’ in Britain who just ape whatever the last American they read wrote, and so it’s confusing. It’s not the language ‘developing’ consistently: it’s a mess. And no one can get clarity from a good dictionary because all that the dictionaries do these days is mirror that mess.

  62. Kitler says:

    Fen actually an example of aulde Englisc was actually spoken by Geordies where 2/3rd’s of the dialect is old English as spoken by the Anglo Saxons, lowland Scots is the same this is why they can communicate with Norwegians a Germanic tongue also not much changed. Dutch is another tongue that is almost intelligible to me apparently in Germany just across the border a local dialect is even closer to old English and easier to understand. Examples of old words are hop oot, bairn and wifey (meaning woman not wife) also Gan Yame (hame) yes is pronounce ye very close to ja in German, we say mutha and fatha close to the German pronunciations.

  63. fenbeagleblog says:

    Tim I would disagree that the original British, were basically Celtic. This is not what the genetic record reveals. The Celtic people would seem to be late comers to Britain, (although earlier than the Romans.) And seem to have invaded to a large degree from the West, and settled on the west coast, of Britain and Ireland. They certainly had political influence in ‘England’ at the time of the Roman conquest. But I’m not convinced the British in ‘England’ were ‘Celts’. Or that the Saxons replaced them across ‘England’ much more than politically either. Yes our language has had many influences over a long time, but there’s something seriously wrong (I think) with the idea that the people that have invaded Britain, over the centuries, in smallish boats, had devastating impacts on the majority populations already there. And ‘replaced’ the majority language already spoken, with a completely new language.

  64. Amanda says:

    FB: I gather that the 500 acres are yours, then. Wasn’t sure because your statement seems to imply that in some sort of repopulation and renaissance of your area, everybody will come and settle on your farm. Probably there are hundreds of people in Detroit and the boroughs of New York that would be pleased to do just that: I’m sure they’d be far happier with farm life and rural life more generally than the urban nightmares they currently live in (though in the case of NYC, things did improve under Giuliani — even if my last visit to Yonkers was a scary drive-through despite being broad daylight). It is no coincidence that Southern blacks have always struck me as being more genial and happier than Northern blacks in America. They are less urban (and live more of the year in sunshine).

    Tim: Good post. I thought the original Britons were a pre-Celtic people, and are thoroughly prehistoric.

  65. Amanda says:

    Oh, p.s. I am something of a Greek geek, meaning that I am in awe of ancient Greek culture (in — how wonderful — that staggeringly beautiful setting) while not idolizing it (a mistake made by Hannah Arendt, among others). Tim mentions that many Latin words themselves derive from Greek. Glad you said that, Tim! Latin gets too much credit: the Romans borrowed heavily from the Greeks, in language, thought, and art. So many great Roman sculptures turn out to be copies of Greek ones.

    The Romans seem brasher, harsher, more ambitious in certain ways, and even more ‘modern’ (though the goodness of that can be ambiguous). The Romans were about mass society and the architecture of power — they were builders in concrete and needed stone facing to cover the ugly guts of their monumental buildings; the Greeks were about local society and self-government, almost a club of exclusive clubs, and their architecture was smaller and more refined, more pure in purpose, execution, and looks. Greek life had a kind of greatness while still operating on a thoroughly human scale. But the existence of Rome without Greece is inconceivable.

  66. Amanda says:

    Re: ‘more modern’: I mean imperial Rome, of course, and especially the late empire, when the ancient world was dying.

  67. farmerbraun says:

    Amanda, with the recent addition of the golf course, the land holding is getting close to 550 acres. That is a small dairy farm by current N.Z. standards. But the productivity is way ahead of the larger farms (measured in EBIT/ Ha).
    I doubt that there is another dairy farm in this country that also farms sheep and goats. And (shock, horror) we have no cows calving in the springtime.
    But then we still many native trees also, and plant 100 new trees every year.

    Obviously, not really a “serious operation” 🙂

  68. Tim says:

    Fen: my apologies for being unclear. we seem to be using the terms “original britons” in different ways. You’re using it to refer to the original inhabitants of the Islands of Great Britain, who I agree were pre-Celtic. I was using it to refer to the people originally labelled Britons. If you look at the link below, you’ll see that the term “Briton” derives from the Latin Britannia, which comes from the Greek Πρεττανική (Prettanike) or Βρεττανίαι (Brettaniai), which presumably derives from the Celtic word Priteni, which is also the source of the Welsh language term Prydain. The article linked below doesn’t make this 100% clear, but that’s my understanding of the situation based on that article.


    You may well be right about the peoples (ie. the genetics). But the situation on the language is fairly clear. A really good etymological dictionary will actually cite uses of the word at various stages of the language, and it’s easy to see how each word evolved into the next.


    The link above details how the word “this” has evolved to its current state. It may help to understand it if you realise that Old English (ie. Anglo-Saxon) had 3 or 4 extra letters, and the letter þ makes a “th” sound.

    Amanda: ασπάζομαι σε! Yes, the Romans were organisers par excellence, and gave us good legal and road systems, and things like that, but it was recognised even by them that the Greeks were the smart people; they would often buy Greek slaves to be tutors to their children.

  69. Amanda says:

    Farmerbraun: It sounds most serious and quite delightful. The only things you really need to make it Paradise are a vineyard and a paddock for horses. Paso Fino, perhaps, or Rocky Mountain — the latter being the world’s newest horse/pony breed, last I heard. American, as the name suggests. The Paso Fino is South American and I’ve seen them on a ranch in Texas. They are particularly admired for their prancing gait. I’ve used one as an avatar.

    What do you grow in the golf course, other than grass?

  70. Amanda says:

    What about this, then: In ‘less than three hours’ (probably by midnight by time, which is now two hours away), English Wikipedia will undergo a 24-hour protest blackout:


  71. Kitler says:

    amanda you mention southern Blacks being happier er is that why they kill each other when it’s really sunny and very hot if it wasn’t for our outstanding trauma center we would probably rank up there as the murder capital of the World.

  72. izen says:

    @- Amanda
    Thank you for mentioning the SOPA/PIPA laws that WIKI is protesting against. I have been following this for a while…

    A couple of points….
    This is rentier legislation. An attempt by a section opf the business community to use government legal power to force the consumer to pay them money. The big media conglomerates have spent millions lobbying for this.
    All based on the spurious claim that they are loosing money because every ‘pirate’ copy of their products represents a ‘lost’ sale.

    The actual use that present use of the digital rights laws have been put to reveals that such laws are used to close down debate and innovation. Have a look at the electronic frontier foundation for examples of how such laws are used, and how such powers are used in repressive political systems.



  73. fenbeagleblog says:

    Tim. Yes I agree, I think it’s a labelling problem. But it has knock on political effects through to the present time….(Which is my interest really.) It also interests me to know, what has, or has not been achieved by violence and armed conflict in the past. Clearly people that weren’t Celt’s originally, and according to genetic data are not significantly Celt now, have existed in between without being Celts. But labels get attached for all manner of reasons. The people who control an area politically can be quit few in number, and fewer still in genetic terms, as time progresses. But they will be the only people recognised, to later people arriving on the scene who also have political interests on the area.

  74. izen says:

    @-fenbeagleblog says:
    “The people who control an area politically can be quit few in number, and fewer still in genetic terms, as time progresses. ”

    An example would be the British in India.
    Not much genetic impact but a big impact on the language.
    It went both ways, veranda, bungalow, chit, goolies….

  75. Amanda says:

    …pyjamas, pundit, and in the old days, ‘pukka sahib’….

  76. Amanda says:

    Izen: Thanks for that. Looks very unwarranted to me.

  77. Amanda says:

    K: I get your point, but they’re killing each other in Yonkers and Detroit, too.

    I was referring to normal people, the sort of people you encounter on the Amtrak trains and in supermarkets. Not really ‘middle class’ (a term that means hardly anything to me when in America, for complicated reasons that I can’t get into), but employed and with some sort of family life. But perhaps the difference is Christianity. Are Southern blacks more likely to be pious, to go to church and to have that uplift and support in their lives?

  78. fenbeagleblog says:

    Sounds right to me izen. (It’s the point i’m making, i think). But we didn’t ‘replace’ the language all together in India. For all our influence. They still have existing languages (modified) And they also have English running alongside, because that’s useful to them too. Why would we claim that the Saxons, ‘replaced’ our existing language with Saxon? other than just adding new words to, and modifying our existing language through their influence?…Unless we are claiming the Saxons, completely killed off the existing population or drove it completely away. (Which the genetics suggest didn’t happen.) And which I think they did not have the military ability to achieve, or the numbers to replace.

  79. Amanda says:

    Interesting, Fen. You’ve obviously thought about this a lot.

    Farmerbrown: So you bought the golf course, eh? And run an ‘operation’. You, the well-known Communist 😉

  80. farmerbraun says:

    Well Amanda, N.Z. is well known as a Communist country. Collectivist , might be more accurate. The dairy industry is a cooperative , owned by the farmers who supply the milk. And the same sentiment has permeated the wool , lamb , beef, and fertiliser industries.

    Farmer Braun is regarded by the green/organic brotherhood with a great deal of suspicion , to the point where his “operation” is rarely mentioned in polite circles, except as an example of “rampant capitalism”. A bit of a strange one that farmer, him being one of the first to move into “sustainable agriculture”, while remaining apart from the “collective”.
    There seems to be an assumption that “sustainable agriculture ” ought to be practised for ideological reasons , rather than purely practical ones.
    Actually , in recent days FB has received yet another invitation to “assist” the organic dairy “collective.”
    He has yet to compose his reply.

    The golf course will, after a 3 year qualification period , become organic farmland. The modern day equivalent of “swords into ploughshares”. 🙂

    It certainly has caused a strong reaction in certain quarters.

  81. Amanda says:

    Well, I’d be very surprised if Farmerbraun didn’t know best. 🙂

  82. msher says:


    I will be back to your place soon. This has been one of the busiest periods of my life and I spend only a few minutes before I go to bed on the blogs. I’ll have more time in a while and I look forward to seeing what is being written on your blog.

    I hope it is going well.


    G’day Msher,

    Best of luck with all that and look forward to seeing you here once more when you’re a little less busy.

    I thought I had better offer you the chance to park comments here that have been moderated out of the DT blogs; you might recall LG was a comment refuge once before, when their blog software crashed about 18 months ago. Hopefully it’s a temporary glitch over there; I can’t recall anything you’ve ever written at the DT that could possibly concern the moderators – Oz

  83. Amanda says:

    LOL. It’s a conspiracy, Oz! Maybe. 🙂

    All I did was italicize the words I quoted to make it clear it was a quote. I guess I’ve joined Msher on the moderators’ hit list.

    Really, some people have way too much time on their hands – Oz 🙄

  84. Kitler says:

    Oz I usually get left alone except when I know I’m going to make a throwaway comment knowing full well it’s doomed. I try not to get upset when they do unless it’s a magnum opus of thoughtful commentary but I’m not known for many of those. Mockery of the trolls is more fun.

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