Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Government to cancel rugby games

That's right. The Government will cancel rugby games, close schools, stop the Cook Strait ferry and divert incoming passenger jets away from Auckland when the impending H5N1 flu epidemic reaches New Zealand.

Alarm calls over the prospect of the H5N1 bird flu virus mutating to a human-to-human transmissible form are sounding more loudly by the day. Global epidemics (pandemics) have occurred three times in the past century - the "Hong Kong" flu (H3N2) of 1968, the "Asian" flu (H2N2) of 1957 and the "Spanish flu" (H1N1) in 1918. The 1918 Spanish flu rivals the Black Death of the fourteenth century for claim to be the most devastating plague in human history. It killed more than 50,000,000 people - one fortieth of the world's population, and many times more than the 15,000,000 who died in the First World War.

The very idea of the Government cancelling rugby games makes the flesh crawl. Every right thinking New Zealander - not just the libertarian - will be appalled at the thought. Yet the onset of a global flu epidemic on the scale of the 1918 Spanish flu would be grave enough to justify emergency government measures that would be abhorrent under normal circumstances.

This is why those who favour heavy-handed government intervention in people's everyday lives are apt to cry "epidemic" when there isn't one. For example, there is no obesity epidemic. Obesity is not a contagious, deadly disease. It's simply the result of eating too much and not getting enough exercise. No government action whatsoever is called for to combat New Zealand's alleged obesity "epidemic". Obese people should lose weight, if they want to, that's all.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Haggling over the drinking age

At a dinner party one night, an inebriated Winston Churchill asked the aristocratic lady next to him
"Madam, would you sleep with me for, say, ten thousand pounds?"
She paused and responded
"Well, Sir Winston, I believe I would."
"How about for ten pounds?"
The lady was indignant.
"Sir Winston! What kind of woman do you think I am?"
To which, Churchill smiled and replied,
"Madam, we've already established what kind of woman you are. Now we're just haggling over the price!"
Tonight Parliament is scheduled to discuss the Sale of Liquor (Youth Alcohol Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill, which was drawn from the parliamentary members' ballot last week.

Parliament has already established that there should be a drinking age. Now they're just haggling (again) over what it should be. Retrogressive MP Matt Robson wants to return the drinking age to 20. It was set at 18 in 1999. At 18 is where it should stay.

There are all sorts of consistency problems with having different ages of majority for different activities. To illustrate, if the youngest candidate standing for Parliament this year is elected, it is only fitting that he should legally be able to go to the Backbencher and celebrate with a drink. If this bill is passed, he won't be able to. I say that if Phil is deemed old enough to govern the country, he is old enough to go to the pub and buy a beer.

But the real problem is just that to raise the drinking age is to treat adults as children. Such paternalism is second nature to most of our current crop of Parliamentarians. It is, nonetheless, wrong.

For most drugs, no age limit is set at all. To protect minors and to uphold the right of adults to ingest whatever substances they please, we need to make all drugs R18. Parliament must set an ingestion age, an inhalation age, an insufflation age, an injection age, a sub-lingual absorption age, and a rectal absorption age, to keep company with the current drinking age.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Not cool for cats

John Tamihere is in the news again, this time for abandoning his two cats without food or water. The New Zealand Herald rather misses the point, though, when it says
As if upsetting women, Jews and his boss is not enough, John Tamihere is now on the wrong side of cat lovers.
We're not merely upset - we're revolted and violated. Animal cruelty is morally wrong, and is in an altogether different league from expressing "holocaust fatigue" or calling one's colleagues "smarmy", "front bums" or "tossers".

Non-human animals have rights—not human rights but, at the very least, the right not be subjected to wanton cruelty. Our laws reflect this. Tamihere avoided prosecution by signing the cats over to animal welfare organisation the SPCA and was issued with a warning instead.

Are you sick and tired of hearing about Tamihere's cats? Tamihere is. Bob Kerridge of the SPCA said it appeared Tamihere "did not want to talk about it and wanted the issue to go away as quickly as possible." Perhaps it will, after the election.

Until then, get told some more times by Rodney Hide, Aaron Bhatnagar and David Farrar.