Archive for October, 2010

Think Charity Isn’t Enough? Go Soak Your Head!

Dave Killion — October 31, 2010

It is a beautiful, sunny October day here in Victoria, and I am enjoying it in the same way I enjoy almost every beautiful day in Victoria: indoors, reading and writing on my laptop.  Today is a little different because I’m at Saanich Commonwealth Place, where my youngest is taking part in his first ever swim meet.  Thanks to the wonders of the market, I am able to use my laptop here while I wait between events.  And there are a lot of events.  46, in fact, many with multiple heats.  As pleased as I am to see  literally hundreds of youth participating, I am impressed mostly by the number of volunteers.

They are everywhere.  Timekeepers, coaches, officials, registrars, and managers.  All of them have sacrificed a little piece of their lives because they think that making swim meets happen is important.  So important, in fact, that they have demonstrated by their freely made choice that they would rather be here over all other options.

In and of itself, this is is remarkable.  What’s even more impressive is that there is nothing at all unusual about it.  I’ve seen the same thing at wrestling tourneys, basketball tournaments, spelling bees, school band trips, Cops for Cancer, various ‘Runs’ For The Cure… it just goes on and on and on.  Everywhere and all the time, people act for what they perceive to be the greater good.

Despite this, I’ve had people tell me in all seriousness that if it weren’t for universal health care and government welfare programs, folks would be dying in the streets.  Can they explain why they think that even though there is so much charity in peoples’ hearts that we have swim meets, there isn’t enough that poor people would be protected from disease and starvation?  I don’t think so.  I think they’re all wet.


Dave Killion — October 29, 2010

Over at BC Iconoclast, Bernard von Schulmann takes exception to the reflexive hatred many people feel for politicians. Although the post is worth reading in its entirety, I think he credits politicians with more nobility than they deserve.  From the post:

“I start from the assumption that people get into politics because they want to make their community, province, country and world a better place.”

In my experience, certain jobs attract the type of person who is entirely inappropriate for that profession.  Psychiatry draws many people who are emotionally troubled, as does the priesthood, and law enforcement certainly has its share of men and women who are clearly driven by a desire to exert authority over others.  Wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that several politicians are drawn to the field precisely because of an unhealthy desire for wealth, power, and celebrity?  Especially those who haven’t the talent to attain those goals in the private sector?

As for the remainder, it may well be that they are driven by the saintly desires attributed to them by Schulmann.  These are still people who seek the power to use government-sponsored threats of violence to mold society into their view of what constitutes ‘a better place’.  Worse yet, no matter their intentions, the number one goal must always be the acquisition, maintenance, and expansion of power.  If that means compromise, so be it.

I’m not going to hate someone just because they are vain, insecure, greedy, and arrogant.  For all I know, that could be a description of Steve Jobs, and he has done me no end of good.  But when someone enters the political arena to indulge those qualities through state coercion, he can expect to reap what he sows.

Prisoners, Pensions, and Pecan Swirl

Dave Killion — October 25, 2010

Over at the website for the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation, Kevin Gaudet is pretty vexed with the way taxpayers have to cough up money so that even the most violent murderers enjoy ice cream and entitlement payments.  Gaudet proposes a system like that run by Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which definitely sounds more punitive than what Canadian prisoners endure.  Although I don’t know the details of Arpaio’s system, from what I have read he is a cast-iron son-of-a-bitch who makes a lot of hay tickling the fancy of the law-and-order crowd, and doesn’t appear to recognize much in the way of limits to his authority.  I expect a close examination will find a lot of things that Canadians really aren’t going to be able to stomach.  I absolutely agree the taxpayer is getting rammed, but unlike Gaudet, I’m not concerned just with the provision of pensions and ice cream.  I want to know why we have to pay anything at all?

Law-breakers should be held responsible for all costs related to their crimes.  They must pay the police for bringing them to justice.  They must pay restitution to the victim.  They must pay for the courts and lawyers involved in trying them, and if they must be jailed then they must pay for the costs of their imprisonment, including food, shelter, and clothing.  The more cooperative and hard-working they are, the sooner they can obtain their freedom.  And if, after paying these costs, they manage to earn enough to buy some ice-cream or invest in a pension plan, well, that victimizes no one.  But Gaudet is right.  Canadians are being forced to pay for things they shouldn’t.

Top 10 Libertarian Articles this Week

David — October 24, 2010

  1. Where’s the Tea Party?
    Karl Denninger exposes the Tea Party.
  2. Rethinking Intellectual Property: History, Theory, and Economics
    Stephen Kinsella explores a controversial area of libertarian political philosophy.
  3. Patriotism or Nationalism?
    Joe Sobran’s classic essay on the difference between patriotism and nationalism.
  4. Orthodox Historiography of Economic Thought
    Murray Rothbard explodes the myth that Adam Smith is the father of economics.
  5. What You Can’t Say on Campus – Free Expression in Higher Education
    Universities are suppose to exude “free thought” but many do precisely the opposite not only in culture but also in policy.
  6. Bastiat in Africa
    Africa wakes up to libertarian thought and the torch is passed.
  7. Public-Sector Unions Choke Taxpayers
    John Stossel exposes the corruption of public sector unions.
  8. Dropping the Mask of Ecofascism
    The ecofascists true nature is revieled.
  9. Understanding IP: An Interview with Stephan Kinsella
    Stephen Kinsella is interviewed by the Mises Institute.
  10. The United Kingdom’s Budget 2010
    The UK’s 2010 budget contains the greatest cuts post WW2.

Try Looking Up “Subsidiarity”

Dave Killion — October 23, 2010

Here in the greater Victoria region we are fortunate to have local government divided amongst 13 different municipalities.  Unfortunately, there are some folks who don’t know how lucky we are, and, worse yet, are calling for various sorts of amalgamation.

Amalgamation proponents are universally concerned with the inability of local government to ‘get things done’.  Whether it is policing, libraries, light rail, or garbage collection, they look at all the time and energy local governments must use in order to coordinate with each other, and they get the vapours.  All they can see are nasty individuals selfishly protecting the interests of their own little fiefdoms, while ignoring the greater good.  Wouldn’t it be so much better, they ask, if there were a centralized power that could simply make those hold-outs do what is best for everyone?

Well, no, it wouldn’t.  Neither Halifax, no Winnipeg, nor Toronto have realized the benefits promised by the pro-amalgamaters.  Policing is still bad, the governments are still oversized, and nobody is saving any money.  This is no surprise to libertarians, and should be no surprise to anyone else.  In a decentralized system, municipalities must compete for residents and for businesses, which helps keep quality up and price down.  Successful policies are quickly adopted by adjacent municipalities, and more importantly, damage resulting from bad policies is confined.  The local municipality of Colwood is in bad financial straits as a result of years of bad governance, and even had to lay off staff last year.  Imagine if the remaining 12 municipalities had also been under the control of Colwood’s Mayor and Council!

The problems we have in Victoria with policing, libraries, and garbage collection don’t arise chiefly from the wrong kind of government.  They arise from being providing by the public sector rather than the private sector.  And that isn’t something that’s going to be fixed by amalgamation.

Driven to Drink

Dave Killion — October 19, 2010

There has been a lot of discussion recently over British Columbia’s new drinking and driving law, and more than once I’ve read or heard that ‘driving is a privilege, not a right’.  Even though I think that statement is correct, I have to ask – so what?

After all, going to the local shopping centre is a privilege, not a right.  If I misbehave, I lose the privilege of shopping there.  Same thing with the local cinema.  So long as I sit and quietly watch the film, I keep the privilege of entry.  But if I raise one little false alarm…

The same thing could be said about driving.  One drink too many, and the privilege of driving is lost.  But if I lose my shopping privileges at the local centre, the shopping centre loses whatever future revenue I might have provided.  If shopping centres set the bar for behaviour too high, they will hurt themselves.  This feedback serves to prevent private institutions from being overly restrictive.  Since roads are a government monopoly, they are protected from this feedback mechanism.  A taxpayer who loses the privilege of driving remains a taxpayer, and government retains its revenue.  This frees the government to regulate roads in the manner that will garner the most votes.

So let’s hear no more of this nonsense about the privilege of driving on government roads.  It may be technically correct, but it ignores the fact that serving me is also a privilege.  Since we have allowed government to allocate that privilege almost entirely to itself, we should be very hesitant about allowing ever-tighter restrictions.

Top 10 Libertarian Articles this Week

David — October 18, 2010

  1. The Saga of Officer Bubbles
    Let’s just say that Constable Adam Josephs of the Toronto Police Services is a bit hard to deal with.
  2. Ron Paul vs Lawrence O’Donnell
    Another TV announcer tries and fails to make Ron Paul look bad.
  3. It Can Happen Here
    An optimistic case is made for cutting government based on real examples in Canada, New Zealand and the US.
  4. How Would An Anarchist Society Handle Child Abuse?
    A conversation between Walter Block and Michael Fleischer.
  5. How to Profit by Expanding Freedom
    Good reasons for legalizing marijuana.
  6. Canada’s Middle Eastern Airline Debacle
    Harry Valentine explores the long-term negative consequences of economic regulation.
  7. Is Network Neutrality Necessary?
    Larry Deck exposes some of the problems that net neutrality regulations will bring about.
  8. The Collectivized Responsibility of Petty Socialism
    Jonathan Catalan analyses the negative externalities of medical socialism.
  9. Benjamin Constant
    Ralph Raico explores a man who was said to “love liberty as other men love power.”
  10. Conservatism on Ice
    Insight into Canada’s Conservative party.

Make Your Choice… Or Not.

Dave Killion — October 16, 2010

As I entered my local grocery today for some milk and bread, the grocer pointed to ten shopping carts, all filled to overflowing, and asked me which one I wanted.  I wasn’t really looking for a cart of groceries, but he told me that I might as well pick, because everyone in Victoria was required to pay for one of these carts, and anyone who didn’t pay would be punished in accordance to how hard they resist.

I didn’t like the sound of that, so I took a look at the different carts.  I didn’t really have the time to root through all of them, so I couldn’t tell most of what they contained, but I saw one had a bunch of prime rib, lobster, and other high-end items.  I really didn’t want to spend my money on that, so I looked at the next cart, which appeared to be mostly fresh produce, which I like but couldn’t eat before it spoiled.  The other carts all had problems, too, what with either too much processed food, or not enough dairy, or diapers and other stuff I didn’t need.

I was running out of time, so I picked the cart that looked the most acceptable, even though it still didn’t look too good.  I told the grocer which cart I was going to take, and I saw him write down my choice as I went to get my cart and take it to the register.  Before I could wheel my buggy away, the grocer told me I had made a mistake.  Although I would have to pay for one of those carts, I didn’t necessarily get the one I preferred.  It turns out that every shopper who came in that day would get to select a cart, and the cart that was most frequently selected would be the one that all the store’s customers would get, even those who hadn’t even come in to choose.  It also turns out that each cart had a different price, but no one could know for sure what it was until after the carts had all been delivered.  The items would be delivered in the whatever manner the grocer thought was best, and it was a certainty that the cart would be altered, added to, and subtracted from without much say on my part.

I didn’t like the sound of this, and I was telling the grocer so, when some other folks who were waiting said that I had chosen to come to this particular grocery store of my own free will, and so I had given my tacit consent to the process.  They also assured me that this was the best way to decide what groceries were optimal for all of society, and if I didn’t like it, I should just go to a different grocery store.  But apparently all the groceries in Canada work the same way, so what’s the use in that?

Of course, none of the above happened.  In fact, my grocer is relentlessly pursuing ways to make me happier with his store than I’ve ever been.  But in just under five weeks, the City of Victoria is having a by-election, and citizens are invited to choose a replacement for outgoing Councillor Sonya Chandler.  There are currently eleven candidates, and if you live in Victoria, you are going to get one of them, and you are going to pay for it.  No matter what’s in the cart.

Free Ain’t Cheap!

Dave Killion — October 13, 2010

In a recent post, Paul Willcocks writes about the huge amounts of electricity stolen from BC Hydro for grow ops.  Have a look in his comments to see me explain to another commenter how re-legalization and the free market will make that “free” electricity too expensive to bother with!

Here’s a sample from my comment –

Were it not for the artificially high price of marijuana, such operations would be unaffordable. If that were not the case, folks could make lots of money by stealing electricity for tomato grow-ops.

Pirates and Policy

Dave Killion — October 9, 2010

Although the Victoria Libertarian Book Club has been working its way through   “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, I must confess to seeing another book on the side. Peter Leeson has produced a fun piece called “The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates”, within which he examines the challenges faced by pirates in their pursuit of profit, and the mechanisms they developed to overcome those challenges. I have been particularly struck with the two chief means of minimizing conflict within the group: democracy and constitutions.

According to Leeson, each ship had a constitution which outlined such things as the division of plunder, code of conduct, and the manner in which officers were to be selected, and anyone who wished to be on the crew had to agree voluntarily to abide by the constitution. Constitutions typically permitted officers to be elected by a simple majority, and an election could be held at any time.

I find this striking. Because the constitution required 100% approval, it didn’t matter very much whom was the captain.  The captain was bound by rules that everyone knew, and to which everyone agreed. The rules were more important than the elected officials. I think a great many of our problems arise from being forced to obey governments ‘bound’ by constitutions we don’t understand, much less agree with.