Archive for September, 2010

Long Gun Registry Saved by a Vote: Sinister Forces at Work?

JMaddock — September 22, 2010

Canadian gun owners and sympathetic libertarians are undoubtedly frustrated by the sheer closeness of today’s vote on a private members bill to kill the long gun registry. A Liberal motion to quash said bill and save the registry passed by 153-to-151 — the closest margin possible without a tie.

The driving factors behind this: Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff ‘whipped the vote’ forcing all of his MPs to toe the party line, while NDP leader Jack Layton strongly suggested that his elected members get on board with his pro-registry position in this nominally “free vote.”

The end result: all the Liberals and exactly the right number of Layton’s henchmen voted to save the registry. But in reality, this vote might not be as close as it would seem. If the Liberal/NDP/Bloc coalition had needed to muster another vote, I’m sure another of the handful of NDP dissenters would have magically “seen the light” and changed positions.

Like dangling puppets on a string, all of our elected representatives seem to be bought in one way or another. This vote demonstrates that they answer to shadowy politicos pulling the strings within the big parties, who can literally determine the outcome of a motion in the House of Commons, right down to a single vote.

Whether they admit it or not the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois are already united as a silent left wing coalition, intent on killing any vaguely libertarian legislation that comes out of Stephen Harper’s government. Meanwhile, the Liberals at least, can be counted on to either support the Conservatives or abstain whenever Stephen Harper trots out some tough new “law and order” bill that restricts our civil liberties or compromises our privacy.

Canadian politics seems to be based on an unspoken agreement between the big parties to gradually expand the size of government and restrict individual liberty. It’s a sad state of affairs which begs the question, who’s really pulling the strings?

Guns and Self-Defense, Part 2

Dave Killion — September 21, 2010

The last time I wrote on this subject, I had meant to make the point that people are allowed to use their firearms for self-defense.  What I hadn’t really twigged to was that the intended victim hadn’t been using her own firearm.  I woke up to that when I read this article.  In this case, as in the last, it appears the target used the aggressor’s weapon against the aggressor himself.

If the bad guy had been successful, we would have heard a lot more about this case, but since this was apparently a matter of self-defense, there were no more articles about it.  So ‘bad guy uses gun in bad way’ = lots of media, while ‘target uses gun in self-defense’ = not so much media.  And if someone averts an attack simply by showing a firearm, it’s likely to go entirely unreported.  It is no wonder so many Canadians have a distorted view about firearms.

So the point that I want to make is not just that the government will let you use your firearm for self-defense, but that the government will let you use ANY firearm for self-defense.  Of course, you can’t prepare yourself in advance, and carry a handgun with you.  No sir.  You just have to wait until you are under attack and hope you can get hold of one.

Leave Those Kids Alone!

Dave Killion — September 18, 2010

In a recent post, Jody Paterson praises a new report concluding that the costs of investing in early interventions designed to prevent or remediate the development of criminality in children and youth are outweighed by the benefits they can achieve.  It is the opinion of the paper’s authors that this makes such investment good public policy.  But of course that’s what they think, because in their minds there are only two public policy options: early government spending or later government spending.

Never once do they consider that government attempts to manipulate human beings might not be the best way to deal with crime and poverty.  Never does it occur to them that there may be a total incapacity of politicians, bureaucrats, and advocates to engineer society.  For them, there is only the question of when and how the government should intervene.

That aside, I would not be at all surprised if early ‘investments’ resulted in lower overall costs, but that’s not really important.  What’s important is that placing social welfare in the hands of politicians makes it subject and secondary to political expediency.  Paterson herself acknowledges that preventative services are frequently and repeatedly neglected, and appears to hope that politicians will one day support such services  on a consistent basis.  But so long as politicians face the incentives that place the acquisition, retention, and cultivation of office over the long-term welfare of individuals, I think the only thing she will see on a consistent basis is disappointment.

Hot Tip!

Dave Killion — September 15, 2010

The world is interesting in ways you don’t even know, unless you are reading Marginal Revolution.

Obsessive Recycling

Dave Killion — September 12, 2010

Victoria City Councillor John Luton confesses in a recent blog post to be “obsessed with recycling“, but given the contents of the post, he is only half right.  That is, he is obsessed with recycling as many things as he can as often as he can.  Unfortunately, his obsession does not extend to understanding that sometimes recycling is the wrong thing to do.  He is obsessed with the intent of recycling, rather than the outcome.

The ironic result of such obsessions is that they frequently bring about exactly the opposite of their intent.  In this case, Councillor Luton probably imagines that by keeping material out of landfills, and by leaving virgin materials untouched, he decreases his impact on the environment.  Unfortunately, this is only true when the costs of recycling are lower than the costs of throwing out waste and producing new materials.  If you are being forced to subsidize a recycling program, then this is probably not the case.

If the government requires you, by law and under threat of penalty, to give over a portion of your time to washing some of your trash and sorting your garbage into different coloured bins,  you are not helping the environment.  If you are forced to hand over money to pay for recycling programs that otherwise can’t support themselves, you are not helping the environment.

So I encourage the Councillor to abandon his one-sided obsession with recycling in favour of a deeper, more profound obsession that takes into account the myths that surround recycling.  Then he can start doing the environment some real good.

What is Libertarianism? – Part 2

Dave Killion — September 6, 2010

In my first post on this topic, I gave this definition –

Libertarianism is the recognition that individuals own themselves, and as such, have the right to live their lives in any manner they see fit, provided they don’t encroach on the equal and identical rights of any other individual.

The first step to fleshing this definition out is to examine what is meant by ownership.  Simply put, when one owns something, one has the right to control the disposition of that thing.  Say that you own a tea mug.  Of course you may use it to drink tea, but you may wish to give to someone, or perhaps sell it.  You may wish to store it for future use, or you may wish to destroy it.  No one may rightfully interfere with you in these matters, because you own your mug.

But what if you are angry with your neighbour and you want to use the mug to smash his car windshield with it?  Sorry, but your ownership of the mug doesn’t outweigh your neighbour’s ownership of his windshield.  The right to control the disposition of things you own does not extend to using those things to violate the rights of others.

In my next post on this topic, I’ll explain how we know that individuals own themselves.

Has the Fraser Institute Lost its Way?

JMaddock — September 4, 2010

As we all know, libertarians and free market liberals tend to be skeptical of new taxes. That’s why it surprised me when the Fraser Institute, British Columbia’s leading “free market” think tank, came out so strongly in favour of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), which allows the federal government to impose consumption taxes on goods and services that were previously tax-exempt in BC.

I’m not saying that the Fraser Institute’s arguments are completely without merit. For certain industries (such as logging, mining, etc.), the HST will eliminate cases of unfair double taxation that were present under the previous “Provincial Sales Tax” (PST) regime. This should (in theory) lead to an increase in efficiency and create new jobs, which we all know the economy needs right now. Premier Gordon Campbell, in fact, called it the most important step that our province can take to recover from the recent recession.

But the same increase in efficiency could have easily been achieved by exempting business-to-business transactions from the PST and ensuring that sales taxes (federal or provincial) are only imposed at the point of consumption. Sure, this would have resulted in a loss of tax revenue, but isn’t it a bit disingenuous to give businesses (campaign contributors?) a tax break, then shift that very same tax burden onto consumers?

The Liberal government is, in effect, increasing taxes so as to “stimulate the economy” and “create new jobs.” Isn’t this exactly what genuine free market thinkers are supposed to oppose, both on principle and in practice?

That’s why the Fraser Institute’s support of the HST surprised me so much. Have they become a mere propaganda organ of the BC Liberal Party?

Civil Society Vs. the Welfare State

Dave Killion — September 2, 2010

Here in Victoria, it seems that road which is paved with good intentions leads to Pandora Avenue.  And who is surprised by this development? Certainly not the libertarians, whose understanding of unintended and perverse consequences is well-developed. To us, this concentration of troubled souls and the drug dealing, public defecation, litter, and rowdiness associated with them is a perfectly predictable outcome of displacing private charity with government welfare.

Private charity is superior because private charity is intimate. It is provided by family, friends, and the community. Support is often conditional on right behaviour, and carefully meted out to provide aid without enabling. Accepting private charity is difficult because the recipient knows the donors, and better understands the sacrifice they make.

Government welfare comes nearly judgement free, with little means testing, and is easier to accept because it comes from strangers with few conditions. No wonder so many are willing to turn away from their friends and family to live on the streets. And it’s not going to get better any time soon, because every solution being pursued right now is just more government meddling, more bureaucrats coming between people who need help and the only people who can give it to them.

This is a problem that will continue until we reject the notion that impersonal bureaucracy is some kind of replacement for private action.

Equality At Any Cost

BHolt — September 1, 2010

The People’s Commissariat for Post and Telegraph CRTC is at it again. According to an article in the Globe and Mail, the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) has taken it upon itself to make sure that No Rural Canadian is Left Behind in terms of internet access. Under the plan, $442 million will be given to telecoms to connect remote communities to the internet. The CRTC has decided that high speed internet is a basic right, and therefore must be offered to every Canadian.

The best part?

“The money came from the CRTC’s deferral account, which collected about $1.6-billion in excess revenue from high prices mandated to subsidize competition.”

In other words, Canadians have been overcharged for internet service, and the CRTC is hoarding the booty. No wonder I don’t have the money to pay the HST on leftover Olympics merchandise!

There’s more, though. Not only has the CRTC snuck in what can only be called an internet tax, they have dictated that the telcoms must proved wired internet access to remote communities. When Bell proposed building a wireless network, the regulator said “the service’s download capacity, speed and price were not equal to those Bell provides in urban areas, and were thus unacceptable.”

By this logic, BC ferries is discriminatory because they use smaller, slower ferries between Nanaimo and Gabriola Island than they do on the busy Victoria-Vancouver route, and they run fewer sailings. BC Ferries should add a surcharge on the busy route to pay for mega-ships for the rest of their destinations. Maybe the CRTC should station some it’s officers in Prince George, just to be fair.

It is worth noting that the rest of the money collected by the CRTC will be returned to consumers. Nonetheless, this decision by the Commission is an excellent illustration of what ails the Canadian telecommunications industry. The government body that regulates telecoms is funneling $442 million to existing companies, and telling them to build an outdated network. If a new company wanted to offer an innovative service to remote communities (i.e. wireless), they would be up against a behemoth like Bell, endowed with half a billion dollars worth of free money. And they say their goal is to create competition and innovation? Oh yeah, these are the same guys that are fighting tooth and nail to prevent foreign companies from offering cell phone service to Canadians.

The CRTC is probably not the worst branch of the Canadian Government, it just tends to demonstrate its incompetence and naiveté in a more outrageous way than its peers. Put differently, the CRTC is not the only group in government that believes it can create magical equality among all Canadians, it’s just better at making it obvious how stupid an idea that is.