Rational Remarks – Rational Standard https://rationalstandard.com Free political commentary for the dissenting South African Thu, 07 Dec 2017 14:39:33 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 https://i2.wp.com/rationalstandard.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/cropped-RS-Logo.png?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 Rational Remarks – Rational Standard https://rationalstandard.com 32 32 94510741 Understanding Bitcoin and why it isn’t a scam https://rationalstandard.com/understanding-bitcoin-isnt-scam/ https://rationalstandard.com/understanding-bitcoin-isnt-scam/#comments Wed, 23 Aug 2017 20:24:22 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6076 Time for an economics lesson: A ponzi scheme is when the money from new investors into the scheme is used to pay out promised dividends or interests to those already in the scheme, thus fooling investors into a false sense of security, when in fact there is no real return on investment and the whole […]

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Time for an economics lesson:

  1. A ponzi scheme is when the money from new investors into the scheme is used to pay out promised dividends or interests to those already in the scheme, thus fooling investors into a false sense of security, when in fact there is no real return on investment and the whole thing thus being unsustainable.
  2. A pyramid scheme is when new entrants into the scheme make a payment to those who joined the scheme earlier and then take similar payments from several of those who join after them, often with small parts of those payments being passed up the pyramid to keep it going for a little while longer.
  3. A bubble is when the price of a product (or the price of the shares in the manufacturer of a product) rises far above the mean value of the sum of the products, due to hype, over-excitement, misinformation, government interference or some such. It can go on for years, but typically pops suddenly.

Now, BitCoin does not pay investors any returns or interest, it does not require payments to older members, it does not distribute investments up the chain and it is not linked to any product or share in the manufacturer of any products… so it can be a lot of things, but ponzi scheme, pyramid scheme and bubble are not three of them.

I understand that some economists are having a hard time explaining what is going on with the price of BitCoin… that is because it does not fit most of the standard models, so they are valiantly groping around their toolbox of price-determination models, monetary and exchange rate models, PE-ratio models and so on… but whacking something with a hammer does not make it a nail.

Value is subjective and fickle. Price is a snapshot of a rough indicator of subjective value, which is relative to a variable (like the Dollar), itself fickle, based entirely in faith, collective experience and emotional mood-swings.

To model or explain the price of BitCoin, one must drop reliance on tangibles like supply & demand, utility or historical return, and look rather at less tangibles like the psychology of the actors in the market. Something we’re all typically pretty bad at.

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Privatize the Water Supply Before it is Too Late https://rationalstandard.com/privatize-water-supply-late/ https://rationalstandard.com/privatize-water-supply-late/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 12:14:15 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=5944 According to Justin Williams at cape{town}etc, “… the city’s water inspectorate will begin to install devices to restrict water consumption at the addresses of offenders who made the City’s top 100 consumers list.” Apparently, Cape Town has only two months of water left before the reservoirs run dry. Quite pathetic. Everyone is going insane about […]

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According to Justin Williams at cape{town}etc, “… the city’s water inspectorate will begin to install devices to restrict water consumption at the addresses of offenders who made the City’s top 100 consumers list.” Apparently, Cape Town has only two months of water left before the reservoirs run dry.

Quite pathetic.

Everyone is going insane about this when the solution is all around us. The article and the City government are poking around in the dark when there’s a headlamp strapped onto their faces.

Privatize. The. Water. Supply.

The incoming water companies will immediately increase the price of water which will immediately lead to a noticeable decrease in water use. These high prices will persist until water levels have returned to normal, which will be much sooner in light of the higher prices.

If government is so inclined, it can give the poor water vouchers to purchase water if they are unable to afford it. But keeping government in control of the water supply, as we have now seen, is a bad idea. It does not accord with the laws of economics.

I get it. Privatization probably doesn’t solve every problem. But it certainly does solve this one.

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The youth as drivers of educational transformation in South Africa https://rationalstandard.com/youth-drivers-educational-transformation-south-africa/ https://rationalstandard.com/youth-drivers-educational-transformation-south-africa/#respond Wed, 05 Jul 2017 12:55:54 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=5702 This is a response to an article by Taryn Isaacs De Vega,  Taking the baton from the 1976 generation, Published in The Journalist  “Does our research further emphasises [sic] the South African context or simply duplicate European knowledge?” This question from the author embodies the essence of the article. Other than being wanting grammatically, it misses […]

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This is a response to an article by Taryn Isaacs De Vega,  Taking the baton from the 1976 generation, Published in The Journalist

 “Does our research further emphasises [sic] the South African context or simply duplicate European knowledge?”

This question from the author embodies the essence of the article.

Other than being wanting grammatically, it misses many points and generates even more questions and concerns.

The Main Concerns

First, why should research at South African universities need to “further emphasize” anything, especially “context” in South Africa or any geographically exclusive area?

Second, is the author suggesting that current research at South African universities largely “duplicates European knowledge”?

My response

Research should answer questions, solve problems, challenge myth and dogma and, ultimately find progressive and innovative pathways to the elusive “Truth”.  It should be both predictive and testable.  Too often today, the word “context” is used to ‘justify’ action or inaction that fails to meet these criteria or, worse still, rejects other more plausible research that doesn’t ‘fit in’.

As an evolutionary and conservation biologist employed in an institute of African ornithology at the University of Cape Town, I spent more than four decades using birds (mainly chicken-like members of the avian Order Galliformes) to investigate the biological nature of ‘race’, species, speciation and wise use of gamebirds (e.g. guineafowls, francolins and spurfowls) to the benefit of humanity – intellectually and materially.

On 3 July 2017, Dr Tshifhiwa Mandiwana-Neudani (a former post-graduate student and now colleague at the University of Limpopo) and I will be co-presenting a plenary address at the conference of the Southern African Society for Systematic Biology that summarizes her and my key findings from research on francolins and spurfowls.  One (of many) key findings is the unexpected discovery that three long-evolutionarily-enigmatic African species (one of which was only discovered in the 1990s) are the African remnants of lineages that gave rise to most of the world’s remaining gamebirds: chickens, peafowls, pheasants, quails, grouse and turkeys.

This research would have been impossible without collaborating with South African, other African, European, and North/South American colleagues and students, and hundreds of hours working with specimens housed in colonial-established Euro-American museums.

Indeed, rather than “duplicating” the findings of Europeans, we refute many of them.

Furthermore, Dr Rob Little, a co-author of this research (also a former post-graduate student and past Director of Conservation at WWF – South Africa) co-supervised conservation-related research on francolins and spurfowls that supplements the incomes of South African farmers and their workers.

So, rather than implementing ‘decolonization’ to strip our progressive university students and researchers of ideas and approaches simply because they were developed in Europe or non-South Africa, let them forage out the ones that complement resilient indigenous knowledge to help do real, Afro-relevant research and provide education for the generations to come.

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A proposal to resolve the perception of key symbols at UCT https://rationalstandard.com/proposal-resolve-perception-key-symbols-uct/ https://rationalstandard.com/proposal-resolve-perception-key-symbols-uct/#respond Sun, 02 Jul 2017 22:13:59 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=5633 It’s been a long time since the UCT Community has heard from the UCT Executive and its commission set up to resolve how to deal with key controversial symbols on campus. So, here’s a suggestion. Create a “Short climb to freedom” stretching from the site once occupied by Rhodes’ Statue to the current Jameson Hall. […]

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It’s been a long time since the UCT Community has heard from the UCT Executive and its commission set up to resolve how to deal with key controversial symbols on campus.

So, here’s a suggestion.

Create a “Short climb to freedom” stretching from the site once occupied by Rhodes’ Statue to the current Jameson Hall.

Replace Rhodes’ Statute with one of a KhoiSan family, representing the sub-continent’s (and possibly Earth’s) First People. One might also consider a statue of a hominin, e.g. Australopithecus or a non-sapiens Homo (naledi?).

Change the name Smuts Hall to Smuts/Gandhi Hall to call attention to the deep philosophical connections between these close friends who were political adversaries.

Change the name Fuller Hall to Fuller/Gool Hall.

In both cases, add busts of the new person.

In the intervening parking area commission statues of Nelson Mandela and Helen Suzman standing side-by-side, perhaps even holding hands.

Formally name the steps leading to the Memorial Hall as “The Jammie Steps”.  This will preserve a tradition treasured by most UCT alumni.

Rename Jameson Hall “Sobukwe [or Sobukwe Pan-African] Memorial Hall” to commemorate the Pan-Africanist leader who dreamed of a non-racial, United States of Africa, but who opposed its violent genesis.

Commission a video [MOOC?] narrated by eminent and/or famous South Africans/alumni (e.g. Charlize Theron, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Hermann Giliomee, Pieter-Dirk Uys, Mamphela Ramphele, Anusaya Chinsamy-Turan, “Thuli” Madonsela, Tim Noakes, Jennifer Thomson, Jill Farrant, Francis Thackeray, et al.) that guides the viewer through the history underpinning the “Climb”.  First and foremost, the video should emphasize what makes the Climb’s historical figures fascinating components of human evolution, science, social anthropology/linguistics (especially the KhoiSan) and African history.  Then, complement this with a ‘warts-and-all’ history of the Climb.  This could give Rhodes and key donators (e.g. Sir Otto Beit and Sir Julius Wernher) credit as UCT’s and the Rhodes Scholarship’s benefactors, contrasting this with his/their various nefarious acts.  I would also favour a history of the statue’s history, including the pain it caused to Afrikaner and black students, plus a full account of the RhodesMustFall Movement.

The video should end with a large crowd of current students, alumni/staff/leaders (Aaron Klug, Athol Fugard, J.M. Coetzee, the Pitanya brothers, Mamphela Ramphele, David Maynier, Helen Zille, Naledi Pandor, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, George Ellis, Brian Warner, Ebrahim Rasool, Nick Mallett, Breyten Breytenbach, Jeremy Cronin, Geoff Budlender inter alia), alumni families (invited from all over the world), major donors (e.g. the Oppenheimers, Mark Shuttleworth), Fallists opposed to violence and current/past Chancellors/VCs/DVCs making the inaugural climb.

This would be a wonderful gesture of unity and an excellent way of attracting financial support needed for UCT’s adaptive decolonization.

What to my fellow Ikeys think?

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The left has no interest in understanding economics https://rationalstandard.com/left-no-interest-understanding-economics/ https://rationalstandard.com/left-no-interest-understanding-economics/#comments Sat, 01 Jul 2017 12:16:55 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=5724 Jimmy Manyi, the guy who said South Africa should return to parliamentary sovereignty, tweeted this gem: The danger of just calling it Monopoly Capital is that you may have unintended casualties like State Owned Monopolies which we need. https://t.co/zQRVLrJ8li — Mzwanele Manyi (@MzwaneleManyi) June 30, 2017 Monopolies are bad, but state-owned monopolies are good because… […]

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Jimmy Manyi, the guy who said South Africa should return to parliamentary sovereignty, tweeted this gem:

Monopolies are bad, but state-owned monopolies are good because… well… they just are!

South African Airways, Eskom, and SABC have drained the South African people of billions upon billions of rands, have gone through countless ‘turnaround’ strategies (to the extent that they have drunkenly fallen over), and are continuously in the middle of some or other scandal. On the other hand, private companies (‘white monopoly capital’) have provided services and have survived in the market because their customers were happy with their performance.

What more can be done to drive this point home? Basic economics at South African high schools, universities, and countless articles in the popular media convey the importance of incentives on a daily basis. Every person, at his core, understands that he will only do something if there is something in it for him. He understands that others also behave this way (it’s simply human nature) and that corporate structures, government included, also follow this basic principle. And since state-owned enterprises cannot be liquidated in a substantive private law sense, government’s incentive to provide a service is skewed. If our SOEs could be liquidated, we wouldn’t have any SOEs!

This argument is so simple and easy to understand that it leaves me baffled that people like Manyi, no doubt intelligent, just miss it entirely.

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A (very) short primer on government bonds https://rationalstandard.com/short-primer-government-bonds/ https://rationalstandard.com/short-primer-government-bonds/#respond Sun, 09 Apr 2017 13:36:01 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=5257 Every year when they draw up their budgets, many governments expect to take in less revenue (through taxes and so on) than they plan to spend. The shortfall has to be made up somehow, and to do this, governments usually borrow money. But even when a government’s budget balances revenues with expenditures, the government may […]

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Every year when they draw up their budgets, many governments expect to take in less revenue (through taxes and so on) than they plan to spend. The shortfall has to be made up somehow, and to do this, governments usually borrow money. But even when a government’s budget balances revenues with expenditures, the government may still need to borrow for short periods during the course of the year if revenues are received and expenses are paid at different times.

When the government borrows money, it does so through financial instruments called ‘bonds’. The government sells these bonds to investors (usually banks, insurers, pension funds, and so on), who are then entitled to repayment in future. In addition, there is a broad variety of bonds; they vary according to size, maturity dates, currency, and so on.

As lenders typically do, the investors in government bonds want to have some idea about the creditworthiness of the government, that is, how likely it is they will get their money back in full, and on time.

This is where credit ratings agencies come in. These are independent firms that evaluate the creditworthiness of bond issuers (of which the South African government is one example), and the particular bonds or financial instruments that they issue.

Globally, there are three major ratings agencies: Standard and Poor’s (S&P), Fitch, and Moody’s.

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A week in our history https://rationalstandard.com/a-week-in-our-history/ https://rationalstandard.com/a-week-in-our-history/#respond Sat, 01 Apr 2017 19:46:14 +0000 http://rationalstandard.com/?p=5194 This past week has been the embodiment of perhaps the entire span of South African history: Terror, freedom, hopelessness, and excitement all in one. The President has made great strides in capturing the National Treasury for himself and his desire to insulate himself from justice, but then again, none of us really expected anything else. […]

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This past week has been the embodiment of perhaps the entire span of South African history: Terror, freedom, hopelessness, and excitement all in one.

The President has made great strides in capturing the National Treasury for himself and his desire to insulate himself from justice, but then again, none of us really expected anything else. The sacking of Pravin Gordhan and his replacement by a Zuma stooge was not shocking. It was a disappointing reaffirmation of what we already, truly, know to be true: The institution of government is a magnet for the deplorables among us, and the few good people in government are more often than not at a significant disadvantage, limited only by their desire to see human freedom realized.

Then the Cape High Court, seemingly out of nowhere for most of us, practically legalized marijuana use! This is something which, if it had been separated by from the President’s antics by a few weeks, would have led to great celebration. Freedom! However, great as it might be, it is still up to the Constitutional Court to confirm. If our highest court graces South Africa with its often elusive stamp of approval for good things, this country once again proves itself to not be all bad in the global struggle for liberty.

South Africans – Boer, Englishman, Zulu, Xhosa, Colored, Indian – have all experienced the worst kind of treatment imaginable at different periods in history. What is a constant, however, is the fact that the perpetrator of this oppression has been the singular institution of government. Yet, we continue, even now, to place blind faith in this institution, rather than trusting in our neighbors, our families, and, crucially, ourselves as individuals. We continue to set ourselves up for perpetual disappointment. The only way to turn the tide, save the economy, and get off the road to serfdom, is to fundamentally change our mindset. As Steve Biko once remarked, the most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed, and, despite my sincere dislike for the legacy Biko has left, he was correct on this point. The political class controls our minds, and our liberation depends entirely on our will to free ourselves from this grasp and embrace ourselves as the sovereigns in this land.

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The Garden https://rationalstandard.com/the-garden/ https://rationalstandard.com/the-garden/#comments Wed, 29 Mar 2017 14:32:35 +0000 http://rationalstandard.com/?p=5160 “You are in the right,” said Pangloss; “for when man was put into the Garden of Eden, it was with an intent to dress it: and this proves that man was not born to be idle”. Voltaire “Candide” 1759. Those who find Helen Zille’s tweet abhorrent would have us believe that the southern tip of Africa […]

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“You are in the right,” said Pangloss; “for when man was put into the Garden of Eden, it was with an intent to dress it: and this proves that man was not born to be idle”. Voltaire “Candide” 1759.

Those who find Helen Zille’s tweet abhorrent would have us believe that the southern tip of Africa was the equivalent of the Garden of Eden before the colonists arrived.

The mythical Eden garden was a paradise of innocence, but also required fruitful enterprise if it was to flourish. It was a place of peace and quiet that provided for all human needs, but only if it was well tended. The metaphor illustrates the imperative for industry, even in the case of an inherited bounty.

Even utopia needs work!

In close proximity is another garden; the garden of victimhood.  A dystopian place where horrors recalled are tended and fertilised with fervent intent. This is a place of want and greed; not need. “I am, because you were” is the vengeful battle cry. “You oppressed me and so I will oppress you”. Retribution overrides all. Malcontent and blame are partners in this unhappy place.

In “Paradise Lost” Milton puts it like this; “Left him at large to his own dark designs, that with reiterated crimes he might heap on himself damnation, while he sought evil to others…”

Reason and rationality are substituted with ideological ‘dark designs’ and false promises. This is a place of delusion and false hope for an unattainable nirvana.

Paranoia trumps trust and the illogical attribution of failure seeks blame in the “other”.

The victims are ultimately rendered helpless for they must support leaders who will acknowledge and benefit by their delusion, and who will affirm their entitlement.

This is the garden in which envy and hatred are cultivated and the garden wasted.

 

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Brexit: The ‘Volk’ Enriched at the Expense of Liberty https://rationalstandard.com/brexit-volk-enriched-expense-liberty/ https://rationalstandard.com/brexit-volk-enriched-expense-liberty/#respond Sun, 05 Mar 2017 14:00:07 +0000 http://rationalstandard.com/?p=4976 I think it is gravely naive to think that “Brexit” will bring about any lessening of stupid law-making and regulatory overreach. What has been sacrificed from the vote is English participation in the Empire, what has been gained is purely sentimental in character. The English “volk” (the lovely Germanic term) is enriched at the price […]

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I think it is gravely naive to think that “Brexit” will bring about any lessening of stupid law-making and regulatory overreach. What has been sacrificed from the vote is English participation in the Empire, what has been gained is purely sentimental in character. The English “volk” (the lovely Germanic term) is enriched at the price of the Englishman’s liberties, it is an act of nationalism and national identity over individual self-interest and nothing more.

The right-wing morons of UKIP are perfectly capable of making stupid fascist laws without Brussels and Aunty May has been fucking over individual liberty – and enforcing unjust laws draconianly and failing to navigate the positive (state made) law towards justice – her entire career so putting her in power is not really anything apart from a train wreck to disaster.

Make no mistake, the regulatory overreach and mega-governmentality of the European Union is an abomination on individual liberty, but the petty tyrant and despot (be it the local municipality or the national parliament – or as is so often the case, a nationalistic jingoist faction of a sovereign power) is a graver threat to the individual man on the ground than the far flung bureaucrat whose regulations require the petty despot to enforce.

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Fascists and Communists https://rationalstandard.com/fascists-and-communists/ https://rationalstandard.com/fascists-and-communists/#comments Mon, 23 Jan 2017 15:17:00 +0000 http://rationalstandard.com/?p=4655 Fascists and communists share a common objective; that is the desire for (and pursuit of) unlimited state power. In seeking popular support they promise voters utopia. Where ever these political systems succeeded in gaining power, they have wrought the most horrific human toll. Fascist leaders like Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and Pinochet stand condemned together with […]

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Fascists and communists share a common objective; that is the desire for (and pursuit of) unlimited state power. In seeking popular support they promise voters utopia. Where ever these political systems succeeded in gaining power, they have wrought the most horrific human toll. Fascist leaders like Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and Pinochet stand condemned together with communist leaders such as Stalin, Lenin, Tito and Mao Tse Tung. In effect they all committed what is termed ‘democide’; their political adventures directly caused the deaths of many millions. Their utopian promises yielded no more than horrific dystopia. Their promise of heaven on earth yielded hell on earth.

As long as fascists and communists occupy the sidelines of political discourse they render some useful democratic value. In open democracies their radical ideologies allow for a more reasoned and balanced debate and, in this way, they help to create a less ideological, more practical political centre.

In South Africa, a radical right wing fascist ideology, proclaimed by an insignificant minority is viewed by the majority with a bemused indifference. Their presence does however serve as a warning and is socially important for that reason, although they represent only a tiny minority. They can operate openly and do not need to go underground. Proportional representation allows for this.

Why is it then, that we allow radical left wing communists with no tangible voter support to occupy positions of power? It is the only party that has parliamentary representation without having contested an election. The communists are carried into power on the coat-tails of the ANC. Members of the communist party occupy positions of power in cabinet (and elsewhere in state institutions) where they openly apply their utopian neo-Leninist, neo- Stalinist and neo-Maoist ideology, to the social and economic detriment of all South Africans. Our current trend towards dystopia is led by un-voted for communist cadres and commissars marching to the rhythm of the NDR.

Fascists and communists are only tolerable if they have no power. History has proved (and is currently proving) this, beyond doubt.

Bio:  Tim studied economics, political science and public administration at Wits where he also served two terms on the SRC. Tim is now retired after a successful career in advertising and marketing research.

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