Keeping us “Safe” – Consequences

I’m in need of some relaxation techniques. Stress is bad for you. You can feel it eating its way through you like one of those giant intestinal worms on a medical horror movie. As such I’m listening to this… some music I was introduced to recently. Even if you don’t like the music, certainly one of the best looking DJ’s I’ve ever seen. Who said music wasn’t a visual experience?

Why so stressed Chris?

A number of things.  It kicked off with a flight into Auckland last week with my family. I headed to the “goods to declare” counter at customs. We had a couple of shell necklaces the kids had made, some packaged food, and packaged whey I had bought overseas. The cost in NZ (whey) of which for some reason I have yet to discover, runs about 400% higher than elsewhere. As such I had done some bulk buying. I always have excess weight allowance, as I travel light, so figured what the heck, buy a truckload and just stash it in a cupboard for later use. I’ll fight my way through it anyway.

I’ve mentioned in the past what I think of bureaucrats at every level, and was unfortunately reminded of another source of bottom feeders… Customs officials.  Providing unintelligent people with a position of power rarely produces the best results.

Me: “These are the items I’m declaring since they are food items.”

Customs officer: While reading the declaration card – “You’ll need to put everything through the x-ray.”

Me: “OK”

CO: “Can you show me these shells?” – indicating what I had listed on the form.

Me: “Sure”

CO: after ignoring the shells – “Show me this ah… way…what is it?”

Me: Pulling out two 5 kg bags – “Here read for yourself. Its whey protein.”

CO: “I don’t know what that is. What is it?”

Me: “Its protein. You eat it, like having a steak. A dietary supplement.”

CO: “Why?”

Me: “Why? Same reason you eat a steak.”

CO: “No, why do you eat this whey or whatever it is?”

Me: Feeling a tad flabbergasted after closing on 24 hrs of travel with severely limited sleep – “You put it in a blender with some fruit or whatever you like and whizz it up and then drink it. It provides your body with pure protein.”

CO:” I see, so its food then?”

Me: “I hope so otherwise I’ve been poisoning myself.”

CO: “You realize that we are very strict with bringing in food products to NZ?”

Me: “I’m aware of that yes”

CO: “This packaging doesn’t tell me enough about what it is or where it has come from”

Me: Wondering at this stage if there is a family history of genetic retardation – “Why don’t you google it. It’ll be easy, look there is even a website listed on the packages. Here use my phone.”

CO: “That won’t be necessary. I can’t let you take this into NZ as it may contain soil or other hazardous materials if it hasn’t been packaged properly and I don’t know how well it’s been packaged.”

Me: “It cannot contain any soil. It’s freaking whey. You don’t grow it like bananas and even if you did it’s processed.”

CO: “Yes but it comes from a food source so it may have residues unsafe for NZ shores.” – at this point I’d love to be dealing with an idiot instead. Unfortunately this woman’s intellect hasn’t reached such lofty levels…not now, not ever.

Me: “You know what, you’re right. You might want to look at my cell phone too while you’re at it. That comes from the earth so it is just as likely to have residues as well”.

CO: puzzled stare and frown.

Me: “cell phones use lithium in their batteries and this one here, look it’s made of plastic. You’re aware that plastic comes from crude oil and that lithium comes from disgusting filthy dirty mines? You’re staring at potentially gobs of dangerous polluting residues here”

CO: “Sir this is very serious. I’m going to have to destroy this.”

Me: “You serious?” (I now feel my ancestors moving and the savage rising in me, combined with a desire to strangle something…quickly, someone bring me a goat!)

CO: “It is potentially hazardous and you have failed to provide me with sufficient information to allow you to take these packages into the country. I take my job very seriously and will not allow hazardous materials into the country.”

Me: “Actually it’s already in the country and people import this stuff everyday to health shops all around NZ. I can see that you take yourself seriously, unfortunately you confuse that with taking your job seriously. If you took your job seriously would be willing to educate yourself to do your job more effectively. You’re going to destroy a few hundred dollars of my whey simply because you’re ignorant. I’m actually OK with you being ill informed but in a matter of minutes you could actually educate yourself as to what this stuff is but instead you will steal my property because you’re arrogant and willingly ignorant”.

At this point my wife was pulling me physically away towards the exit.

Now I don’t go out of my way to cause trouble with anyone, anywhere. On the contrary, I avoid trouble and am as peaceful a person as you’re likely to find anywhere, but I see this as no different from someone walking onto my property and stealing my goods. If someone does that I believe you should stand up to them. Just because that thief wears a fancy hat and uniform doesn’t change the act or make it ethical in any way.

These people are clambering around the bottom of the gene pool, yet wield unchecked power over all and sundry. To be fair NZ is probably one of the better countries in this respect, as they haven’t taken to the outrageous antics now standard fare in the US, UK and much of Europe.

As I made my way to the exit I see passengers lining up for their turn with the belligerent customs officials, nervously fidgeting like naughty school children outside of the headmasters office. I wonder to myself. Do any of them question what is taking place or do they simply take it that this is a just proposition?

Am I the only one who thinks that the vast populace are following leminghood and marching over the cliffs of personal responsibility and logic?

What does this have to do with investing and markets?

Everything. Teaching yourself to take in and understand little things around you is very important. I wrote extensively about it before so will not rehash my thinking in this post. Go read about voyeurism. It’s no coincidence that the developed nations of the world, the ones that are hurtling towards third world status the fastest, have the most elaborate, intrusive, and expensive border security measures available to mankind, while many of those third world countries… you know the poor, sniveling, strange looking ignorant shack dwellers… they tend to welcome you in with a smile and nod while everyone gets back to business and gets richer.

  • Jobs get shipped – Politicians argue about whether to bomb Libya.
  • Joe Sixpack gets his hip replaced in Mumbai while his wife gets a new set of boobs in Bangkok – Obama promises healthcare for all.
  • US Government nationalizes motor car industry – Hyundai reports record profits.
  • USG freezes bank accounts of Middle Easterners – Singapore reports windfall in private banking industry.
The two graphs below tell you all you need to know

Just recently I perused a business plan for a company wishing to import NZ timber into the EU. One particular issue grabbed my attention. A 1960’s directive on measuring the size of knots in wood. I can just picture some poor sod looking over each piece of timber with his measuring tape. Unnecessary costs to business be damned. Its the law stupid. At this point I thought to myself. You know what, “why am I bothering with this?”

While Western Europe and the US embark on a massive avalanche of legislature, the East is actually opening their markets and the state is stepping out of the private sector. This encourages efficiency under the profit incentive, decreases costs to not only individuals and businesses but to the economy as a whole.

This is where capital (savings not credit) are located and continue to shift to. There is no viable reason why this mega trend will stop. Capital will always flow to where it is treated best. It doesn’t care about skin colour, ethnic origins, religious beliefs or any other such stigmas. It goes where it is treated best.

Next time you cross a border make a mental note of how easy it is to get in and out and then take a look at the fiscal position of the country. Just bear in mind it may pay to keep your opinions silent, lest you find yourself on the wrong end of a bureaucracy on tilt. Better to search for a goat instead!

Chris

” It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.” – Voltaire

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drsam
11 years ago

I ran into similarly mind-numbing bureacratic stupidity at the Aukland airport a few months back.

Wife and I were on our way to one of the ridiculously small South Pacific Islands (where we are now living) from L.A. and had a 5 hour layover in Aukland. Rather than hang out in the airport for 5 hours, we decided to go through customs and leave our carry-on bags with one of the services at the airport that will watch your bags for you for a few bucks, so we could go explore Aukland for a bit, as neither of us had ever been there before.

So, we had a nice little excursion, got some lunch, etc and made our way back to the airport. We retrieved our carry on bags and got our boarding passes from the check in counter and headed up to the security line. Before we could reach the security line, we encountered a little lady standing next to a scale, who for some reason singled my wife and me out of the crowd of folks passing by and made us weigh our carry on bags. (Note, these are the exact same carry on bags we had just gotten off of our plane from L.A. with, and had no additional items or anything added to them..). Well, you guessed it, suddenly our bags are too heavy (because they exceed 7 kg each…WTF???) We are told we will not be allowed to carry them onto the airplane and will have to go and check our bags at the ticket counter (because somehow, checking them will make them lighter I suppose).

So, we go to the check in counter where we are told that we will have to pay an additional $150 (I can’t remember if that was total or $150 for each back) to check our carry on bags. At this point, I started to get pretty annoyed. I asked why it is that our bags were fine as carry on bags previously on our flight from L.A., but are now too heavy. She says that it is because the plane is much smaller now and therefore it is unsafe for carry on bags to be any heavier than 7kg. She says the overhead bins on this tiny (apparently fragile) plane aren’t strong enough for such heavy bags.

This is pure B.S. and everyone present knows it. Unlike folks we’ve all seen (and been annoyed at) who carry ridiculously large heavy/bulky stuff onto planes as carry-on items, my wife and I each had a standard size carry on bag containing a change of work clothes, some books, small items like cameras etc. Our bags would easily fit in those little “your bag is too big if it won’t fit in here” cages that you see at the check in counters at lots of airports.

Well, I was not about to shell out a wad of cash so easily. Ultimately, my wife and I ended up emptying our carry on bags until they came under the 7kg limit. We each ended up donning our change of clothes on top of the clothes we were already wearing so that we now had two layers of clothing, and stuffed all the pockets full of other crap like books and stuff.

We were then able to get past the brain-doner with the scale and proceed to the security line, where we had to empty all our pockets and put all of our crap into baskets to go through the x-ray, along with our now under 7kg carry on bags. Once through the x-ray and metal detector nonesense, we then proceeded to remove our spare clothes (now thoroughly soaked with sweat) and all our personal items and repacked everything back into our carry on bags. All of this occured right in front of the security folks. Apparently, once you’ve made it past the x-ray and metal detectors, your carry on bags can magically exceed the 7kg limit without any safety issues.

Once we got on the plane (which was not at all small, but appeared to be a totally normal sized big bad jet airliner), our carry on bags (which were now even heavier after the addition of a couple bottles of liquor from the duty free shops located in the departure area…AFTER THE CARRY-ON BAG SAFETY SCALE BUREACRAT!!!) amazingly fit just fine into the overhead bins and our plane managed to reach our tiny island without falling apart in mid-air due to our over 7kg carry on bags.

Aukland airport, UGH!!!

Djamel
Djamel
11 years ago

I remember, as a kid I had the best water gun ever. It was shaped as a m16 rifle, electric blue, took large bright orange “bullets” filled with water, had an ammo belt and was just plain cool (for a child anyway). This was my pride and joy at the time.

Anyway, apparently it wasn’t blatantly obvious enough to a customs officer that it was a toy, so he confiscated it. More than two decades later it still irritates me.