Not with it’s current business practice it won’t.

I’ve been using a bit of Facebook advertising. And I’ve noticed some strange goings on.

In using an ad to promote my website directly I noticed that the number of clicks reported and paid for from Facebook was always about 20% more than the number of clicks (in the form of visits) actually recorded by google analytics on my website. Always. Without fail. Phantom clicks?

So I deleted that campaign.

Now I’m using Facebook to advertise may page and increase my “likes”. And I’m noticing some other strange behaviour.

The CPM rate keeps increasing, something which Facebook automates and which I have no control over. Every day it creeps up a little further. It started out at less than 0.20 cents, now it’s up to 0.35 cents. When I began this campaign I calculated I would need about USD 200.00 to reach my goal of 1,000 likes. Now that cost has doubled with the creeping rate I am being charged.

When I had a problem with an ad on my Facebook campaign I tried to contact Facebook using their “help” menu. Ha! Trying to contact an actual real person is difficult. And when I did get a message to Facebook I received a dumb reply from someone who clearly had not looked at the problem and identified a solution. I solved it myself eventually.

I suspect that Facebook hires people from the same place that Paypal does, and has the same training process in how to not listen and simply cover your ass as Paypal does.

If Facebook engages in dodgy practices (possibly they’re using bots to record phantom clicks and increase their revenue) and makes it hard for their paying customers to contact them to resolve issues and bugs, then businesses are not likely to stay and give money to Facebook.

They’re doing it wrong.

So here’s the latest from our Prime Minister, John Key; a loyalty scheme paid for by taxpayers to NZ shareholders after three years of holding shares in NZ power companies soon to be floated.

So National are wanting to sell shares in companies which the Government of NZ currently owns (so by extension New Zealanders own) and they want to sell them to raise funds. Except New Zealanders want the ownership to at least remain in New Zealand hands so that profits don’t go overseas worsening our balance of payments deficit. So John Key comes up with a plan to reward “Mum and Dad” investors to pay them a loyalty bonus if they hold their shares after three years.

So he wants Kiwi’s to buy something they already own (but relatively few Kiwi’s will be able to afford to do this) and then he wants to reward them after three years by paying them money out of taxes in the form of a bonus. After which they can then sell to the highest bidder, which in all likelihood would be a foreigner. So a large portion of ownership of our basic infrastructure would probably go overseas and a large amount of money would be transferred from taxpayers to the few who have more money (enough spare cash to buy shares anyway).

No. Just… NO!

Minimum Wage and Unemployment

November 20, 2011

An increase in minimum wage will result in an increase in unemployment.

NZ Statistics Website provides data on unemployment rates in New Zealand.
ACE Pay provides historic data for employers on minimum wage rates with dates of change.

Minimum wage rates are indicated on the graph of unemployment.

Unemployment decreased for the first five increases in minimum wage from the period of 2000 to 2004. In 2005, 2006 and 2007 unemployment was relatively steady while minimum wage increased in each of these years. In 2008 and 2009 unemployment increased strongly while minimum wage increased.

Minimum wage has increased for each year for which data was found from 2000 to 2009. Up to 2007 unemployment decreased, thereafter it strongly increased. There seems to be no direct relationship between an increase in minimum wage and the rate of unemployment in New Zealand.

There is a common myth, repeated so often that most people seem to believe it, that any increase in minimum wage rates would result in an increase in unemployment. This seems to very clearly not be correct. The rate of unemployment is more likely a result of economic strength of the country. If the economy is expanding unemployment will reduce, and if the economy contracts unemployment will increase. This possible relationship would be the next set of data to look at.


Monetary Systems

August 18, 2010

alternative monetary systems

There are viable alternatives to our current monetary system. They’ve been used in the past, and they can be revived for our benefit again. But the rewriting of history and our collective amnesia does not allow us a positive view of these systems. Let’s have a look.

First, let’s start with a brief simplified explanation of what our monetary system is and the structural biases inherent in it.

Our monetary system is based upon debt. For us to have growth, we must grow our debt. The creation of more debt creates more money in circulation. Is it any wonder then that we are seeing a “credit crunch”? Another giant burst bubble?

When you go to your bank for a loan or mortgage, the bank creates the money out of “thin air” to lend to you. They are not passing on depositors money to you, the Federal reserve 9:1 ratio allows them to create your mortgage amount with keystrokes, digitally putting the funds into your account. Only 1/10 of the funds needs to be actual money actually held by the bank in reserve.

The money you are given is now in circulation and has added to the growth of your country.

When you pay the money back the principal cancels out the amount created, but the interest you pay is now all the banks income and creates it’s profits. The interest you pay must be money found from somewhere in circulation, you have to work to earn it.

When the total amount of interest payable to all the banks by all the people who owe money to them, is greater than the total productivity of those people, then you have a musical chairs situation. There is only so much money to go around to find to pay that interest, those who cannot get their hands on enough to pay what they owe will go bankrupt. The music stops and there is not enough chairs.

The fact that interest can compound creates even more of a problem. If you have enough money for yourself that you can allow some to sit aside and earn interest, then you will get more money. If however you do not have enough money sitting around and you need more than you have to provide the necessities of life (a home is the biggest one) then you will have to borrow and pay interest. Those who have more than they need will get more, those who do not have enough for their needs will end up with less. Thus the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. This has been the pattern in many western countries for a long time. If we don’t change this system it will only get worse.

So that’s how our existing monetary system works, and the two main biases inherent in it, interest and debt, create the problems that we have.

Is there a better way? Yes, and it’s easy! However, expect legal obstacles, because laws are written to protect the powerful and alternative monetary systems undermine that power like no other method.

Money originally was a medium of exchange. We need to return to that idea and move away from viewing money itself as the end and not the means.

There are three main structural aspects to an alternative monetary system for it to work better for us and to avoid the problems we now have.

1. Interest cannot be allowed. No one can loan their capital to another and require interest to be paid on that capital. And before you respond with “where will anyone get loans from then? That can’t work!” read point number 2.

2. Periodically, every several months to a year, all the money in circulation must be devalued. It must all be returned to an exchange and new money issued. The money you get back needs to be a value about 5% less than the money you hand into the exchange. This structural requirement is biased to money being circulated more freely.

Our current system encourages hoarding of money; when we enter a recession or depression there is not enough money circulating for the needs of business because it is being hoarded. Hoarding is encouraged by compound interest. If your money regularly devalued there would be no point in saving it up and every point in using it to purchase the means to increase your comfort or production or material wealth.

There will still be some people who accumulate some money and have no desire to spend it straight away. These people may loan it to others who have an immediate need of capital, at no interest. The lender is assured that it will be returned in full at agreed payment dates by the borrower, and the lender thereby avoids the periodic devaluation. The borrower gets the capital they need, and has to pay it back, but does not have the burden of interest or compounding interest. Only what is borrowed need be repaid.

3. The creation of new money in circulation needs to be tied to production instead of debt. If a community at any level (small to country wide) produces more, then the amount of money produced to circulate in that community should increase. In this way we encourage growth by increased production, not increased debt.

There are several contemporary examples of alternative monetary systems in use at this time. There are many historical examples, the middle ages from about 1100 to 1300 was prolific with them and they worked very well indeed. They worked so well at distributing wealth more evenly that they undermined the status of the aristocracy, who felt under threat, and therefore they were outlawed.

I am convinced by long and careful reading and thought that the reason for our current economic ills has it’s basis in our monetary system, and our allowance of corporate power. If we can change our monetary system and remove some power from corporations over people we may be able to build a better world.

Further reading (and watching):
The excellent “Money as Debt” on YouTube explains how our monetary system works.
“Life Inc.”, by Douglas Rushkoff.
“Interest and Inflation Free Money”, by Margrit Kennedy.
Read about alternative monetary systems both contemporary or historical here.

baby of zimbabwe

Sustainable growth. Yes that’s right, it’s the new buzzword and it’s bandied about at the just finished G20 Summit. Let’s logically consider this for a moment.

‘Sustainable’ means by definition able to be sustained, able to continue in perpetuity. My old-school paper Oxford defines sustain as ‘support, especially for a long period’.

Growth means to grow. If we grow anything, a population of bacteria in a petri dish or a population of people on a planet, at a steady rate of any percentage you choose to pick, that growth is by definition exponential. It is not straight line growth (as the term ‘steady’ may imply), but numbers increase with greater momentum over time. Plotting it on a logarithmic scale does not change this simple fact.

Now, let’s logically consider Earth as a giant resource. Factually, is it infinite (like space, you could go on forever and forever and… you get the picture), or is it finite (like my bank account)? Obviously it must be finite. The matter contained within Earth and the Biosphere is finite. Many elements are easily recyclable, but they are still finite.

The G20 stated ‘we have a responsibility to recognize that all economies, rich and poor, are partners in building a sustainable and balanced global economy in which the benefits of economic growth are broadly and equitably shared‘. I submit that any juxtaposition of the words ‘sustainable’ and ‘growth’ create an oxymoron. And they certainly do seem to be moronic. Put simply, it is quite impossible to increase the human population on Earth, alongside increasing the use of Earth’s resources, forever. We will soon reach what ecologists term ‘carrying capacity’. This is the limit that the environment can provide for. To try to argue otherwise is illogical and absurd. I would hope that those highly paid officials are simply mistaken, and do not understand simple arithmetic, but I fear they are actively deceitful.

The G20 goes further and states ‘the current crisis has once again confirmed the fundamental recognition that our growth and prosperity are interconnected, and that no region of the globe can wall itself off in a globalized world economy’ which sounds entirely like a call for more of the same, and a warning that you’d-better-not-try-protectionist-measures because in these economically shaky times the richest nations want to ensure their continued access to the markets of labour in the poorer nations. It makes for cheaper production costs, and bigger profits.

China goes even further, and urges the rest of the world into actually boosting growth rates.

So, let us now consider, what if after the dust has settled on the economic crisis we then go back to doing pretty much what we did before, but with a few extra regulations thrown in to look like it’s all different? What if we refuse to give up the mantra of ‘economic growth’? To answer this question we must ask what ecology tells us about populations at carrying capacity.

Carrying Capacity GraphWhat happens to a population at carrying capacity? What happens when the red line is above the blue? Well, simply put the death rate is greater than the birth rate, due to either famine or death via environmental degradation. This would have to be famine at a death rate never before seen, greater even than the famine bought about by Mao’s Great Leap Forward in which an estimated 40-80 million people died, or a death rate of 4.6% (Source: Jasper Becker’s Hungry Ghosts). To imagine what this means, compare it to the death rate in the United States today of 0.915% (based upon 8.38 deaths per 1,000 population).

The above scenario is actually the best-case-scenario. Sometimes when populations reach carrying capacity, the population numbers overshoot and then they crash. Population crash may come about by limiting factors such as food (massive wide scale famine where the majority of people die, very few survive), or toxic wastes in the environment produced by the species (death on a massive wide scale by poisoning where the majority of people die, very few survive). A graph of this scenario would look like this one below, where N is the number of people, t is time and K is carrying capacity.

Population Crash

This type of famine or toxic waste will not look like what we currently have now or have ever seen in the past. It won’t look like the regular famine in Africa. It will be much worse, and it will be necessarily global. Except you can bet the rich will have isolated pockets, secure gated communities, where they survive while you and I do not.

Not to worry though, the bureaucrats state, we will have technology to come to our rescue. However, natural laws and the definition of growth and sustainability still stand. No population can continue to grow forever. We have a stark choice. We can either let nature run it’s course and allow our population to be controlled by famine, disease, war, and environmental degradation. Or we can implement involuntary population control based upon limiting the number of births to exactly the number of deaths. Which scenario would you rather live under?

We cannot continue with our mantra of economic growth. It is not, and can never be, sustainable. We can however, limit our population to zero growth and aim for an economic system that conserves the environment and is stable, not growing. We need to find a system that allows all to participate without growth.

On How To Be An Anti-Consumer

September 22, 2009


For some time now I have been very aware of living in a ridiculously consumerist society. And this is in New Zealand! I’ve been to the US and it’s completely insane there! It took me some time, but I have made a few changes in my life towards becoming a worse consumer, a state to which  I aspire.

The knowledge that the earth is a finite space and that we cannot continue our peculiar form of capitalism, with ever increasing growth, is (so I thought) pretty obvious. So it follows then that our business leaders, leading economists and politicians are all missing this very basic fact. (So why are they so well financially rewarded for such a gross lack of logic? That’s another story!)

It bothers me that whenever I buy stuff I often have to buy stuff with plastic packaging. It totally bothers me that we still treat oceans as a garbage dump, as if once it’s out of our sight we neednt worry about it anymore.

So, I buy less stuff. I own less stuff. In fact, I sold as much of my stuff as I could and now rent a furnished place so I have less stuff to cart around. This feels great!

I try to re-use glass bottles rather than buy water in plastic bottles. What’s with water in plastic bottles anyway? Here in New Zealand we have one of the most pristine environments left on the globe, yet we still insist that water packaged into plastic for profit must be better than the stuff that comes out of our taps. The ultimate in consumerism methinks.

When I buy the stuff I do want and need, I try to avoid brand snobbery. Often, cheaper options will work just as well, with less hype and packaging, as more expensive options. What we often pay for in more expensive options is advertising. And a higher profit margin. This is especially true when it comes to women’s skin care and cosmetics. I tried that expensive Lancome wrinkle cream, and I still have wrinkles. It didn’t work, and I can’t get my money back.

I have discovered shopping in second-hand clothing stores can be worthwhile. And saves a whole lot of money for other things that are more entertaining than shopping anyway, like experiences.

I try to not view shopping as entertainment. Every now and then the memory of how horrible malls are recedes so far into the past that I am tempted to go into one again. After about an hour, zombified and full of bad food, I remember. Usually I avoid them.

I would grow more of my own vegetables, but a sandy soil and reliance upon rain collected water precludes that one. I don’t seem to be cut out for it anyway.

I focus on outdoor experiences for entertaining my son, like teaching him to surf. The beach plays a big role, but we also have awesome native forests to explore, and non-native ones too. Having fun does not necessarily have to involve buying a bunch of stuff.

These efforts are for myself to feel less encumbered and manipulated. It also gives me a slightly nice feeling to know I’m being a little less polluting towards my environment. I’m sure there’s a lot more I could do, one day maybe I’ll get around to going off grid and building that electric car, but for now it’s gonna have to do.