Archive for July, 2011

Palliative Care

Dave Killion — July 19, 2011

 

Boingboing points us toward this interesting Reuter’s report on an interesting bit of low-tech –

In many of the world’s poor neighborhoods, homes are built out of whatever materials people can get their hands on, often without windows or electricity. That means the buildings are awfully dark during the day, reducing quality of life, safety, and productivity.

But the situation can be improved with only a used soda bottle, some water, and some bleach. Check out this clever solution, developed by MIT and distributed by the Liter of Light project.”

I get a kick out of clever things like this, but Appropriate Technology is really just addressing symptoms without curing the underlying disease. The poor don’t need windmills, solar ovens, or pop-bottle lighting near so much as they need liberty, secure property rights, and free trade.

 

 

Should elected officials and municipal employees live where they serve?

Dave Killion — July 18, 2011

Probably don't live in the municipality in which they work

This question is being debated over at the Vibrant Victoria forum, where more people seem concerned about the elected officials than the municipal employees –

As we (g)et close to elections, I thought I would opening(sic) a debate on if municipal staff, especially council and mayor should be required to live in the cities that the(sic) serve.

So what do you think? Should a Victoria city council member be living in say Oak Bay? Vice versa?

Do you think that decisions about a city should be made by someone not living in that city?

What about other services, like polic(e) and fire?. Should they be required to live and be a part of the cities that the(y) serve?”

As far as politicians are concerned, the answer is clear for libertarians – you have a right to choose your own leader, and no one has a right to interfere with that choice. That aside, some commenters make good arguments for electing residents.

The residency of  employees is a bigger concern to me. It’s impossible for the federal government to avoid hiring from its voter pool, and nearly impossible for provincial governments, too, but municipal governments have a much easier time avoiding hiring people to whom they must answer on election day. If elected officials could negotiate with employees who can’t vote them out of office, they would have a much easier time keeping wages and benefits under control. I think it would be wise to require that non-elected local government employees reside outside of the municipalities in which they are employed, but I’ve never heard of a place where this is the case.

Boundaries

Dave Killion — July 17, 2011

US President Barack Obama has met with the Dalai Lama, and the Chinese government is unhappy

“China spoke out strongly Sunday against a meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama, saying it “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and harmed Sino-U.S. relations.”

“This action seriously interfered with China’s internal affairs,” said Ma Zhaoxu, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, in a statement, adding that officials have lodged formal complaints with their U.S. counterparts in Beijing and Washington.”

Relax, says Washington –

“During the closed-door visit at the White House, Obama stressed the U.S. policy that “Tibet is a part of the People’s Republic of China and the United States does not support independence for Tibet,” the White House said.”

STFU, White House! First of all, the US government is not the United States, so don’t none of y’all go saying, “The US supports this” or “The US doesn’t support that”. Secondly, the US government isn’t supposed to go sticking it’s nose into the internal affairs of any other country. If Tibet, or Xinjiang, or Sichuan, or any other province wants independence from China, that’s not a concern for the US government. Americans who want to support one side or the other can do so, but when the federal government starts in, sooner or later you’re dropping civilian-killing bombs on places like Libya and encouraging resentment against your whole country. Just knock it off, feds.

Good Intentions

Dave Killion — July 15, 2011

 

Source: The Cato Institute

Self-justification

Dave Killion — July 14, 2011

I said no trans-fats for you, porky!

I said no trans-fats for you, porky!

Over at the Acton Institute Power Blog, Elise Amyx digs into an old Obama campaign speech to see how it fits in with the administration’s current conduct –

“Back in February 2008, then candidate for president Barack Obama addressed a crowd at a General Motors Assembly Plant in Janesville, Wis. He said,

…I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper– that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue out individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. E pluribus Unum. Out of many, one.”

Amyx makes some good points that are well worth reading, but I want to make a point that she didn’t. Said point: the paternalistic sentiment underlying positions like this are entirely unpalatable to the libertarian, but not because we are opposed to helping others. We object because we’ve been to zoos, and we know what the difference is between the keepers and the kept. And we don’t want to be either.

Image source

Minimum Wages = Maximum Barriers

Dave Killion — July 13, 2011

Over at the Vibrant Victoria forum, a discussion on tipping and the service industry has turned to the minimum wage. Commentator “nparker” for the defense –

“Are you saying that without minimum wage labour laws (and a host of other well-fought-for labour regulations) no employer would ever exploit their workers with slave-labour wages? Now THAT defies human nature. Are you familiar with the firm of Marley & Scrooge?”

Well, yes, I am. Marley & Scrooge is a fictional entity, like Wayne Enterprises or Stark Industries. So, not such an effective example.

But more to the point, how much money is currently being earned by people who would get slave-labour wages in the absence of minimum-wage laws? Answer: The same they will earn if the minimum wage is increased – nothing! If someone is only worth slave-labour wages, they are currently prevented from entering the market by minimum wage laws.

And “exploitation” is something that cuts both ways. True, the employer exploits competition between workers in order to minimize wages and benefits. But employers must compete with each other for workers who provide value, and workers exploit that competition in order to maximize the wages and benefits they receive. Left free of government interference, people will enter the market at whatever wage they can command, and in time they can work their way up the ladder. The only thing minimum wage laws do is keep some people out of the market for good. Who’s in support of that?

image source

Brain Freeze

Dave Killion — July 10, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

Just look at what those evil corporations are trying to pull now!

Birth of a Nation

Dave Killion — July 9, 2011

Al Jazeera reports that after decades of war, a referendum has led to the creation of the Republic of South Sudan –

“The Republic of South Sudan has become the world’s newest nation by officially breaking away from Sudan after two civil wars and over five decades of conflict with the north. It is the 193rd country recognised by the UN.

A mood of joy and celebration swept through its capital Juba at midnight on Friday, with scenes of jubilation and sounds of church bells ringing.

Thousands of people gathered with friends and family on the streets singing, dancing, banging drums and honking horns in celebration.”

Governments are monopolies, and I’m glad to see a big monopoly broken down into two smaller ones. Unfortunately, there is still a lot that could go wrong –

“Northern and southern leaders have still not agreed on a list of sensitive issues, most importantly the exact line of the border and how they will handle oil revenues, the lifeblood of both economies.”

There are not many countries that do well when the state is heavily reliant on oil revenues, and since most of the oil is located in the south, it will be a source of endless contention. My advice to North Sudan? Let the oil go. Privatize your own reserves and let the market diversify your economy. Take my counsel, and I promise your people will know peace and prosperity all their days.

Welcome to the Club

Dave Killion — July 8, 2011

Here’s good news for those of us who like to keep abreast of developments in the fight for liberty here in Canada! The Canadian Constitution Foundation has a new blog – “The Justice Report“. From their first post –

“In an interesting article this week in the Financial Post, lawyer Ian Blue argues that the Fathers of Confederation wanted “Canada to be a harmonious economic union with no internal trade barriers”. He argues that section 121 of the Constitution was intended to ensure free trade among provinces and that, “A proper legal analysis of Section 121 today would result in the elimination of numerous provincially-erected trade barriers that currently benefit a small minority at the expense of the many”.

Lawyers working for justice. What a novel concept! Let’s hope it catches on.

Your Rights, on the Radio

Dave Killion — July 7, 2011

I had the CBC on while I was driving home tonight, and I heard mention of a program they are running called “Know Your Rights“-

“Know Your Rights is an on-the-ground and in-the-field exploration of our rights as Canadian citizens. Host Craig Norris navigates the complex world of what we legally can and cannot do in our country. What freedoms do we have? And how far can we push it before someone pushes back?”

I have always found the CBC to be pro-state, pro-regulation, and pro-government, so I don’t have high expectations for this series. I will even go so far as to wager that the series will operate from the assumption that people don’t actually have any rights not granted to them by the state. Still, I am prepared to have my expectations of disappointment disappointed, and hope springs eternal. So watch this space for more on this topic. Or better yet, take a listen yourself, and tell us what you think.