Archive for May, 2011

The Vancouver Libertarian Book Club

David — May 21, 2011

The Vancouver Libertarian Book Club logo over a map of Vancouver with a map push pin in the center.

My girlfriend recently took a job in Vancouver and thus I will be going over to visit her every second weekend starting in June. While pondering what I would do on weekend visits I decided that spending a few hours with liberty minded people would be a wise use of time. So a few days ago I created the Vancouver Libertarian Book Club through Meetup.com. No changes will be made to the book club in Victoria: same time, place and good conversation.

There are a couple of things which make a book club work and there are some things which don’t work. When trying to get libertarians together it can be difficult. As my prolific co-blogger Dave says, “organising libertarians is like trying to herd cats.”

After pondering what it is that makes a book club successful I have come up with at least part of the formula. Below is a list of recommendations:

  1. Have a set meeting time and place. Thanks to Todd Kuipers of the Calgary Libertarian Meetup Group for suggesting this.
  2. Find the right meeting place. Currently the Victoria Libertarian Book Club meets in the best space in downtown Victoria for this kind of thing: QVs Cafe & Bakery. The staff are friendly and there is a ton of options for food and drink. They also have the space to accommodate us when we need it.
  3. Stay focused: Groups need a focal point to engage in meaningful discussion. Without it people lose interest and discussion strays off topic. That is why from its inception the Victoria Libertarian Book Club was named as such and focuses on classic libertarian literature. There are a lot of liberty clubs who just get together to talk about current events and there is nothing wrong with this, but what I have noticed is that when groups read and discuss books together it has a transformative effect. Hearts and minds are changed. Deeper realisations occur and the conversation that ensues is more intelligent.
  4. Stick to a schedule: Well, we don’t always do this, but we try. Having a meeting start and finish time is good. Our group enjoys discussing both the book we’re reading and current events.
  5. Mix it up a bit: Too much repetition and things get stale. From time to time do a topic night that is of particular interest to libertarians and try to get everyone to bring essays and do research on the topic. If you really want to make things fun then have a debate night. Give everyone the opportunity to play devils advocate on a topic that libertarians are often chided for.

The recommendations above apply to almost any type of book club. Below are five categories that I think every libertarian group should focus on:

  • Foreign policy: end the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan and promote peace & non-interventionism.
  • Money & banking: abolish central banks and encourage sound money.
  • Substances: end drug prohibition.
  • Size of government: reduce taxation and regulation.
  • Self defense: end gun registration and allow people to defend themselves.

I am looking forward to meeting like minded individuals in Vancouver. For those interested in joining this newly formed group here is the URL: http://www.meetup.com/vancouver-libertarian-bookclub/

 

Winged

Dave Killion — May 20, 2011

I often hear or read expressions like ‘hard-right libertarian’ or ‘ultra-right-wing libertarian’, and man, I do. Not. Like it! Libertarians support gay marriage, prostitution, freedom of association, and drug decriminalization. We oppose censorship, national ID, and conscription. You cannot be a right-winnger and endorse these views. That aside, there is no question that both the right and left view libertarians as being in the Conservative/Republican/Right Wing camp. Why?

There are two reasons, I think. First of all, the left HATES libertarians, probably even more than they hate the right. I’m not clear why, but I wonder if they worry libertarian ideology may be more threatening to their world view than is right-wing ideology. The second is gun control. The left is supposed to be about personal freedom, the right about economic freedom. But the right opposes gun-control, which is a social issue. I can’t think of an economic control to which the left is opposed. That means the right is, in theory, the party more supportive of freedom. And that means if a libertarians feel they have to choose between Team Red and Team Blue, Team Red gets the nod. Right? Correct?

The Lone Mountain Compact

Dave Killion — May 19, 2011

The Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) works out of Bozeman, Montana, where they demonstrate the ways in which the environment is degraded through government regulation and bureaucracy, and promote the use of markets and property rights for improving the environment in a process known as free market environmentalism –

“To back up their ideas, PERC researchers found real world examples of how FME was already working. To further the spread of FME from theory to action, PERC established a program to empower individuals – environmental entrepreneurs – by showing them how to use property, contracts and the market process to enhance environmental quality. PERC’s Enviropreneur Institute attracts people from around the globe who are seeking to put FME to work.”

For a taste of the calm, sensible approach advocated by PERC, please take a minute to read their collection of principles for preserving freedom and livability in America’s cities and suburbs; The Lone Mountain Compact. Here is a sample –

“The unprecedented increase in prosperity over the last 25 years has created a large and growing upper middle class in America. New modes of work and leisure combined with population growth have fueled successive waves of suburban expansion in the 20th century. Technological progress is likely to increase housing choice and community diversity even further in the 21st century, enabling more people to live and work outside the conventional urban forms of our time. These choices will likely include low-density, medium-density, and high-density urban forms. This growth brings rapid change to our communities, often with negative side effects, such as traffic congestion, crowded public schools, and the loss of familiar open space. All of these factors are bound up in the controversy that goes by the term “sprawl.” The heightened public concern over the character of our cities and suburbs is a healthy expression of citizen demand for solutions that are responsive to our changing needs and wants. Yet tradeoffs between different policy options for addressing these concerns are poorly understood.”

And the next time Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, or the World Wildlife Fund come knocking at your door, please consider making a donation instead to PERC, and help them promote meaningful, sustainable environmentalism.

Blog recommendation

Dave Killion — May 18, 2011

There are a lot of well known libertarian blogs and they usually reference each other from time to time, so once a person starts reading Cafe Hayek, Hit and Run, or Cato@liberty, sooner or later they are going to get introduced to all the major players. But just like the up-and-coming Victoria Libertarian Book Club, there are many individuals and small groups doing their part to spread the message of peace and prosperity that is libertarianism. One of the best of these that I have found is The Whited Sepulchre. Allen Patterson of Fort Worth, Texas, riffs on current affairs and matters concerning work and family. He also blogs more about wiener dogs than any other person I know. The only complaint… not enough wiener dog photos. With some luck, Allen will read this post and remedy this unfortunate situation. But you won’t know unless you visit his blog. So visit his blog!

The Market Never Rests; Newfoundland Edition

Dave Killion — May 17, 2011

I’ve heard it said that in Newfoundland that the chance of hitting a moose with your car is so great that locals joke that a hunting license should be issued to anyone applying for or renewing a driver’s license.

That being the case, it is no surprise that the inventor of “Moosedar“, James Oakley,  is a former Newfoundlander.

You would be driving down a road or a highway in Newfoundland and a light or an indicator would come on in your vehicle saying that there’s a moose within 500 metres. So then you would slow down,” said Oakley.”

Cool idea, but I wonder if the Iphone doesn’t already have an app for that.

Strange Bedfellows

Dave Killion — May 16, 2011

Here’s a letter to the Vancouver Sun

In response to your May 12th article “Seven men arrested after Chilliwack report of shots fired“, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the RCMP on behalf of those who are grateful for the work of the police, but who are prevented by circumstance from speaking themselves; other drug dealers.

Although the capture of these seven individuals reminds other drug dealers of the potential risks involved in supplying illegal substances, the absence of them and their product creates a market opportunity for both remaining suppliers and aspirants who had previously found the barriers to entry too high to overcome. As this bust has done nothing to decrease demand, the lower availability of distributors and drugs means higher profits. Typically, dealers wishing to increase market share must risk their own lives and resources in order to drive out competition, but in this case the costs are borne entirely by the cops and the taxpayers. It is harder to imagine a sweeter set up.

So to all you drug warriors out there, rest assured that no matter what anyone else thinks, drug dealers will always be grateful for your sacrifice. Without you, none of this would be possible.

Pack Your Trunks

Dave Killion — May 15, 2011

The National Post reports on the controversy at the Toronto Zoo surrounding the relocation of their three aging elephants. From the article –

Ultimately, the Toronto Zoo can no longer afford to have [the elephants]. The zoo has never shown it can raise this money, we don’t have it, and the city won’t give it to us,” Councillor Josh Colle, a member of the Zoo board, said on Thursday. “We have to look at this as an opportunity. We have to reinvent ourselves. We have to be meaningful to more Torontonians.

The zoo receives nearly 25% of it’s funding from local government, so what should have been a decision considering satisfying the desires of people who love the zoo and its animals is needlessly complicated by the involvement of city councillors. Since libertarians don’t object to limited government, I can entertain arguments for government provision of cops and soldiers, but I’m sorry to see no one cited in the article wondering why we have state provision of elephants. Worse still, no one has pointed out that due to the displacement effect of government provided institutions, in Toronto you get government elephants, or you get no elephants at all.

 

photo source

Rum Runner

Dave Killion — May 14, 2011

The Canadian Press reports that on Friday, radio host Terry David Mulligan carried out his previously announced intention to violate the federal Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act of 1928, by carrying a few bottles of British Columbia wine and beer across the BC/Alberta border. You will be relieved as I was that the state declined to rough-up, cage, and seize the property of the 68-year-old bootlegger, choosing instead to subject all of us to pronouncements from state-approved mouthpieces. For your convenience, I have translated them from Politispeak™ into plain ol’ English. First up – Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commision spokesperson Lynn Hutchings-Mah –

We’re not after the person who goes to B.C. and brings back some wine for their personal use. Our concern is if a business wants to do business in Alberta compete with Alberta businesses, we want them to do it legally to kneecap them.”

We’re saying to the wineries if you Alberta consumers want your product in Alberta, you can bring it in too bad. Just do it through It will be too expensive after you go through all the legal channels.”

Next –

“This is a planned event by an individual and we have no intention of being at the border to participate doing anything to him while people are looking,” said RCMP Sgt. Patrick Webb.

“He’s an individual who wants to make a point. Is there a public interest in vote to be gained by pursuing this investigation or is it not in the public’s any public official’s interest to do it? That’s what our consideration is.”

Good on T.D. Mulligan for taking this risk. Government shouldn’t be allowed to violate the rights of Canadians to trade freely with one another.

The Freedom of Slavery

Dave Killion — May 13, 2011

As the Book Club continues to work our way through  “A Renegade History of the United States“, there is no question in my mind that the most stunning paragraph I’ve read so far is as follows –

But we must come to terms with the fact that a majority of ex-slaves who offered an evaluation of slavery – field hands and house slaves, men and women – had a positive view of the institution, and many unabashedly wished to return to their slave days.”

Like many other people, I have never made a study of the history of slavery, and based my thoughts and feelings on that information which had been offered to me through government schools and the mass media. The notion that anyone who had been a slave could desire re-enslavement seemed inconceivable, yet history shows that slaves, by way of being property, held a guarantee of food, shelter, clothing, and health care that was more secure than that enjoyed by poor whites. Slaves were unrestricted by social conventions restricting the behaviour of whites concerning dress, sex, and demeanour. As property, they had market value that served to restrict the number and severity of their beatings, and although they could be forced to work continually, slaves could not be forced to work hard or productively. With the incentives slaves faced to avoid work, it has been well proven that slaves themselves felt they worked only half as hard as free men. But I could not understand why a free person would ever desire to return to a state in which they were beat at all.

The answer is simple. When I learned that slaves suffered terrible physically abuse, I never bother to ask myself, “Compared to what?” And it turns out that during those times when slavery was practiced, free people lived in an environment of terrible violence at the hands of husbands, parents, teachers, employers, criminals, the state, and each other that was so great that abuse faced by slaves begins to look downright reasonable.

As the book asks –

Liberated from the responsibility of sustaining themselves and their off spring, should we be surprised that they sang and danced with a joy that was unknown to whites?”

Charity by Force

Dave Killion — May 12, 2011

Jody Paterson was kind enough to leave a reply in the comments to my post concerning her post. From the comment –

“Point taken, Dave… I agree with your view on the role of a civil society, but our communities are not paying attention.”

What this actually means, though, is that communities are not paying as much attention as she would like.

The fact is, though, that when it comes to giving time, attention, and money to looking after others, everybody donates either as much as they can or as much as they want. If the government tries to take more from them by using the threat of force, they will simply decrease the amount that is given voluntarily. The time has now come that most of the resources the community used to put into caring for its vulnerable now get taken by government, as does the responsibility for that care. A huge chunk of those resources are diverted to support an inefficient bureaucracy, funding is subject to political whim, and holding someone accountable for tasing an 11-year-old is a long and difficult process likely to end unsatisfactorily. It is hard to imagine a crueler, less sustainable system. What I would like Paterson to know is that it cannot be fixed. It can only be replaced.