Archive for December, 2010

Steel Your Resolve

Dave Killion — December 31, 2010

I always love a good New Year’s resolution, although I don’t like them to be too challenging.  Last year I promised to put on a little weight and lose some more hair.  Having successfully cleared those hurdles, I have decided to raise the bar a bit.  This year, I’m taking down the penny.  It costs 1.5¢ to make a penny, which means they’re expensive.  That isn’t bad in and of itself, but since hardly anyone wants to be bothered to pay in exact change, a bunch of money is being lost every year just so merchants can give us change at a level of accuracy most of us couldn’t care less about.  See where I’m going with this?  The penny needs to go, and I need a resolution?  That’s right… I’m boycotting the penny.  Join me, and soon the government will get the message and quit wasting our money.  Hopeless, you say?  We’re already part way there.  So, the next time you buy something and the clerk is grabbing coins out of the till, I hope you will be like me and say, “No pennies, please.”

Protection From Our Protectors

Dave Killion — December 28, 2010

I have previously linked to an excellent video by the good folks at Flex Your Rights, called “10 Rules for Dealing With the Police”.  What I failed to mention was an earlier film by the same folks, called “Busted: The Citizen’s Guide to Surviving Police Encounters.”  Let me correct that oversight –

When “Busted” first came out I made it a point to have my then-teenaged children watch it, and encouraged them to tell their friends all about it.  Even though both films were made in the USA, I think the recommendations apply equally well in Canada, and can help people avoid a lot of trouble.

Of course, there are folks who view any resistance to authority as poor citizenship.  In their minds, deference is the proper conduct when dealing with the police.  They say that if you haven’t done anything wrong,  if you don’t have anything to hide, then you don’t have anything to fear.  They’re wrong on both counts.

You don’t have to be guilty to get in trouble.  There are countless cases of innocent people who have fallen victim to the legal system, even at the cost of their lives.  Sometimes a statement taken out of context can be distorted by an unethical prosecutor to obtain a conviction, and sometimes an innocent person will accept a plea bargain simply to avoid the possibility of a worse outcome.  In my view, the potentially disastrous consequences built into any interaction with the police is more than sufficient grounds for taking every precaution available.

As to having nothing to hide, well, lots of folks have things to hide that aren’t illegal.  We don’t let strangers pry into our lives or go through our stuff without our permission, and we don’t permit agents of the state any exception unless they first meet some very rigid requirements.  Furthermore, you may have something to hide and not even know it.  Imagine consenting to a search of your vehicle, and watching the cops fish a backpack that you don’t recognize out from the back seat.  Did one of your kid’s friends leave it back there?  What’s in it?  Can you prove it’s not yours?  Don’t take any chances, I say.  Flex your rights.

Good Advice

Dave Killion — December 22, 2010

From the Gitmos –

A Little Experiment

Dave Killion — December 20, 2010

I wanted to try posting a video, so here is a little clip I made with my son and some of his friends at the 420 demonstration last April –

Recently Read

Dave Killion — December 18, 2010

If you are like most people, you probably spend a lot of time wondering, “What do the Victoria Libertarian Book Club members read other than the group-selected books?”  Well, brace yourself, because you’re about to find out –

Ben Chavis, a Native American Lumbee, takes over a failing charter school in Oakland, California and uses a combination of humiliation, cash rewards, punishment, and praise to turn the school into a paragon.  Between explaining the principles upon which the school is run, the book recounts the early days of Chavis’ efforts to repair the school’s physical and academic structure, as well as memories from a childhood as impoverished and violent as any that his students face.  Having succeeded despite his ethnicity and background, he has no tolerance for excuses, and runs a program heavy on discipline, strong academic fundamentals, hard work, and good attendance.  His program has been successfully adopted in other schools, and holds great promise for struggling inner-city schools.

Having read Barbara Erenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, young Adam Shepard conceived a project: having recently completed university, he will head for randomly-selected Charleston, South Carolina.  With only a gym bag, a tarp, a sleeping bag, $25, and the clothes he is wearing, he will attempt to acquire a working vehicle, a furnished apartment, and $2500 in savings within a year.  His story provides an interesting look at the conditions under which the impoverished labour, detailing not only the challenges but also the opportunities and the assistance available.  Applying for work and representing himself as nothing more than a high school graduate, Shepard gives a first-hand demonstration that those who claim poor Americans can no longer get ahead have, at the very least, overstated their case.  His story reminds us of the values of thrift, hard work, self-discipline, and the worth of delayed gratification.

On Confirmation Bias.

Dave Killion — December 15, 2010

There are few areas in which good judgement and discretion are more important than charity, yet when charity is dispensed through the state, the results are similar to chainsaw surgery.  It is, therefore, particularly irritating to me when people accept and promote obviously bad evidence when they believe it supports their endorsement of state-distributed charity.  Jody Paterson is just such a person, and has recently provided two such examples.

In her December 9 post, Paterson links to an article in The Tyee which links to an article by Social Policy in Ontario (SPON) which references an article in The Globe and Mail to which no link is provided.  According to SPON, the Globe and Mail article reports that recent OECD data on infant mortality show Canada falling from its 6th place rank to 24th.  The death rate of infants less than one year of age is reported as 5.1 per 1,000, which is apparently seen by some as “shockingly high”.  The Tyee article then goes on to allege that Canada has been suffering rising inequality, which produces all sorts of adverse consequences, including more infants dying unnecessarily.  Paterson gobbles it up, but since I’m a skeptic, I have to ask – where is the link to the OECD data?

This is important, because I know there are a lot of different ways to count infant mortality, and that can make nation-to-nation comparisons tricky.  So, I did a simple search and found that infant mortality in Canada has declined precipitously since 1960, and has been stable for the last 15 years.  This means even if allegations of increasing inequality have merit , Canada’s lost rankings come not from an increase in infant mortality within Canada but from a decrease in other countries.  This should be heralded as a great triumph, but is instead being misrepresented as a failure for the sake of promoting class warfare.

The Nov. 18 post is similar, with Paterson citing the HungerCount 2010 survey documenting increased use of this country’s food banks as evidence of increased poverty.  But as Rick August from The Frontier Centre for Public Policy points out, food bank use and poverty are two separate issues.  In short, as long as you are going to give away free food, more and more people are going to take it.  That doesn’t mean poverty is increasing.

Paterson hopes to get more support for increased government redistribution of private resources, but based on the evidence she provides, I’m surprised she can even convince herself.

Happy Holidays

Dave Killion — December 12, 2010

As Christmas approaches, street parking in my neighbourhood becomes increasingly difficult to find, thanks to the management at the nearby shopping centre forbidding employees to use the mall’s parking lot.  Staff naturally gravitate to the nearest free parking, and the mall enjoys a nice little benefit at the expense of my neighbours and me.  This is the time of the year when my thoughts turn to Robert Nelson.

Nelson points out that one of the biggest trends in housing worldwide has been the growth of private neighbourhoods, to the point that in the US last year, one of every two new homes purchased was in a private neighbourhood.  It is obvious that there are many people who feel living in a private neighbourhood conveys benefits they desire and enjoy, such as control over who gets to park on their streets.  Nelson further points out that the only way poorer people who live in older, publicly governed neighbourhoods can enjoy those perceived benefits is to move.  Neither he nor I think that is a satisfactory situation.

What is needed is some legal mechanism by which a community can elect to privatize itself.  Once a neighbourhood owns its streets, sidewalks, parks, and remaining infrastructure, all sorts of possibilities open up.  Unsightly boulevard trees can be replaced with new trees, park equipment can be as elaborate as locals desire, road access can be controlled to prevent vehicles from using the neighbourhood as a shortcut or parking lot, private security can patrol the area, and all the benefits of these improvements are captured by the community.  I suspect neighbourhood privatization would be of even greater benefit to poorer, older communities than they are to new developments.

Until that great day arrives, I still have the option of lobbying City Hall to declare my neighbourhood streets “Residential Parking Only”.  Then I can spend my holidays calling the City to complain about non-residents parking here.  Doesn’t sound very festive…

Unintended Consequences

Dave Killion — December 9, 2010

It is reported that a 49-year-old woman from Spain has registered her ownership of the Sun with a local notary public, and desires to charge a fee on those who make use of it.  This fee is to be divided amongst the Spanish government, the nation’s pension fund, research, world hunger, and herself.  According to the article, the woman claims that she is not stupid, and that she knows the law.  I’m not so sure.  The Sun may fit the definition of a public good, but there are no free-rider problems nor tragedy-of-the-commons problems, so there are no grounds for forced payment.  Plus if she owns it, that makes it a private good.  And if it’s a private good, then even if she can’t collect for the benefits ‘her’ Sun provides, she can certainly be held liable for the damage it causes.  I imagine after a class-action suit from some melanoma sufferers, some heat stroke victims, and a few farmers who have lost their crops to heat, she will be pretty quick to relinquish her claim.

Sir Wilfred Laurier: Canada’s Libertarian Prime Minister

David — December 8, 2010

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

“Canada is free and freedom is its nationality.” — Sir Wilfred Laurier

As a young conservative growing up in Canada I looked to the Founding Father’s of the United States as champions of liberty. In my twenties, as my political philosophy shifted to libertarianism, I looked to the Austrian economists and their precursors for inspiration. I found the politics of my mother country drab. What a joy it has been to discover that Canada’s seventh prime minister, Sir Wilfred Laurier, was a classical liberal. He served as Canada’s leader from July, 11 1896—October 5, 1911.

Sir Laurier’s chief political ideals were individual liberty and decentralisation of power. Like every good libertarian he opposed conscription and war. Specifically he stood in opposition to Canada’s entrance into World War 1. Under his leadership Saskatchewan and Alberta were brought into confederation. Rather than opposing the British Empire he believed that Canada should be an autonomous nation within it as long as it was based on “absolute liberty political and commercial”. On the same note he believed the provinces should have maximum freedom within the larger framework of Canada.

Brian Lee Crowley, Jason Clemens and Niels Veldhuis’s new book The Canadian Century mentions Sir Wilfred Laurier and Canada’s classical liberal roots. Recently reviewed on the Western Standard’s blog the authors of this new book argue that it is only since the 1960’s that Canada has taken on a socialist identity.  The authors represent a growing number of classical liberals in Canada who don’t feel it is appropriate to look to the US as a beacon of liberty anymore. The Bush/Obama years have cast a shadow over the US with its wars, inflation and suppression of civil liberties. The authors argue that libertarian minded individuals in Canada need to look to our roots and forge a new path forward.

All hail Sir Wilfred Laurier: Canada’s libertarian Prime Minister!

“Nothing will prevent me from continuing my task of preserving at all cost our civil liberty.” — Sir Wilfred Laurier

The Wonders Of Wealth

Dave Killion — December 7, 2010

Hans Rosling presents an abbreviated version of his earlier TED talk that you will want to see.  Of particular interest to me is that the countries that were the first to move out of the poor/sick corner moved first to wealth and then to increased life spans, while the countries that moved later gained in life span before becoming wealthier.  This suggests that advances in health care made possible by increased wealth were adopted by the slower moving countries.  I think this is an outstanding demonstration of how even the less-well-off  benefit from the increased wealth of others.