How to make semi-soft butter

Andy’s excellent “Cooking with Andy” series has inspired me to share a recession-busting secret recipe that has been solemnly handed down our family from father to son since I invented it by trial and error last night.

Vegetable oils and butter are natural and healthy, but margarine has been chemically processed creating  unnatural trans-fats your body isn’t designed to cope with, and tastes disgusting. Its only advantages are that it spreads well and is far cheaper than butter. Semi-soft butter, despite being around 50% cheap vegetable oil, is even more expensive than regular butter – an absolute rip-off in my mind. It should be cheaper than standard butter.

So:

Take one 500g block of butter. Melt in the microwave until creamy. Mix in 2 cups of vegetable oil (plain canola oil is fine) until well blended. Pour into containers (fills 2 margarine containers) and place in the fridge to set overnight.

Voila, you have just made your butter go twice as far AND made it spreadable!

Enjoy on your morning toast.

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Let’s make New Zealand a tax haven

There’s a lot of talk about “cracking down on tax havens” at the moment, as high-tax Western countries want to crank up taxes to spend their way out of the recession, and want to stop people who disagree with their policies from moving their money somewhere else.

But what is a tax haven? Not a dodgy regime of crooks as some might imply – no-one would invest their money there as it wouldn’t be safe. A tax haven is essentially a stable country with low taxes. According to the OECD, the UK, the USA, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria are all tax havens, as they offer low tax rates to foreign investors to encourage people to invest in the country. Sounds a sensible idea to me.

A government is basically a service provider. One government offers to provide state services (such as law enforcement) for a certain price. Another may offer the same services for less. This results in competition, driving down overall tax rates, just as competition between supermarkets drives down the cost of food.

But certain high-tax nations now want to gang up on a few low-tax countries to force them to give up the personal details of people investing money in them. Rather than making themselves more competitive so people choose to keep their money there, they want to steal business back from other countries that are offering a better deal.

Let’s illustrate this with supermarkets. Fruit and vegetables are generally cheaper from specialist growers markets than from the supermarkets. But what if Foodstuffs and Progressive (the owners of virtually all NZ supermarkets) banded together and told your local greengrocer that they had to give them the personal details of all their customers or they would undertake “protectionist policies” to drive the greengrocer out of business?

Such behaviour would be immediately stamped on as “anti-competitive”, and a breach of privacy. But when governments do the same thing, are we supposed to think it is ok? That’s a big double standard.

What right does any government have to pressure another into changing their tax laws, or giving up the personal details of individuals?

Furthermore, not all foreign investors do so to avoid taxes. It can be very important for investors to have their personal information protected. Jews invested large quantities of money in Switzerland during the 1930’s to protect it from the Nazis – what if their personal details had been given up? There are plenty of oppressive regimes at the moment that you wouldn’t want to keep any money in – Zimbabwe for example. But you certainly wouldn’t want Mugabe knowing you had money stashed away in Liechtenstein…

We must not destroy vital personal privacy laws just to satisfy a short-term greed for tax revenue.

No, if we want to ride out this recession, we need more people investing money in New Zealand. And if there is a crack-down on other tax havens, there will be wealthy people looking for somewhere else to invest. Why don’t we draw that money here?

So lets slash taxes, guarantee personal privacy, and make New Zealand a tax haven.

To have your preconceptions about tax havens blown away, I’d recommend this excellent short video series by the Centre for Freedom and Prosperity:
The Economic Case for Tax Havens
The Moral Case for Tax Havens
Tax Havens: Myths vs Facts

The big Biblical bailout of Egypt

With all the economic problems around the world today, and governments everywhere printing money to bail out (ie buy up) banks and other companies, it is easy to forget that this has a very strong precedent in the Bible.

Consider the account of Joseph, who was at the time Prime Minister (or equivalent) of Egypt (the Pharaoh’s second in command). Joseph knew through a prophetic dream that there would be seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine. He collected grain during the seven years of plenty and stored it (Genesis 41:37-49). When the years of famine came, he opened the storehouses to feed the people (Genesis 41:53-57).

But note that he didn’t just give the food away – he sold it. (Genesis 47:13-26) In fact, “Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, in exchange for the grain that they bought.” (v14). Once the people had no money left, Joseph bought their livestock (v17), their land (v20), and the people themselves (v21).

Joseph bailed out the entire land of Egypt from their crisis, nationalising the entire agricultural industry – as Pharaoh owned the land, the livestock, and even the people.

Having nationalised the industry, he imposed a 20% tax on all produce (v23-26), which was Pharaoh’s return on his investment.

Isn’t the similarity to today incredible? But there is one big difference:

Joseph bought everything using real assets (grain) that he had saved.

Today, governments may try to buy out industry. But they are doing so using money they have fabricated from thin air, or borrowed, or taken from taxpayers.

What Joseph did was legitimate trading of real, saved assets, not the juggling of funny money. Furthermore he saved many people from starving to death.

But governments today may, just to save people from dropping their living standards a bit, use funny money to achieve exactly what he did – state control of industry. While being encouraged by most people. It is worrying that so many people are so keen to sacrifice their freedom for temporary financial gain.

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Family Party on Economic Crisis

The Family Party have released our strategy on the economic crisis. As we analysed the issue we found that our policies were already very good regarding the global situation. Our strategy:

  • Recognises that we need a cross-party response, and we wish to work with the expertise of National and Act post-election to manage the crisis.
  • Promotes economic activity within NZ to work out of the crisis.
  • Eases the burden on families during the crisis.

I would encourage you to read the full strategy. Some key points are:

  • Keeping more money in the economy through
    • Lower taxes
    • Reducing bureaucracy
    • Repealing the ETS, withdrawing from Kyoto
    • Interest rate cuts
    • An urgent review of all public sector expenditure
  • Helping families through
    • Targeted tax cuts (GST off essentials)
    • Favouring NZ companies for government contracts (maintaining employment in NZ)
    • Maintaining and expanding (where possible) employment in law enforcement and defence
    • Work-for-the-dole as a final resort if despite all the above unemployment still rises significantly, if you are paying people the dole anyway they may as well be doing something useful

We support a government guarantee of deposits because everyone else is doing it, and we risk funds being moved over to countries where there are these guarantees if we don’t do it too, risky as it may be. But our guarantee would only be extended to reputable firms and would be reviewed every six months, so is far more sensible than Labour’s very risky all-inclusive long-term guarantee.

I believe this is a very balanced response to the crisis, and takes care of the key issues for both families and the wider economy. But we recognise that we don’t know everything, and we need a National-led government to have the expertise to manage this crisis, with us in there too to ensure families are supported.