Archive for September, 2011

Look to the East

Dave Killion — September 30, 2011

Remember how I told you to visit Liberty PEI for an east coast free-market take on the issues? Well, if you neglected to follow my advice, here is some of what you missed -

The performance of PEI on the latest Freedom of Information Audit,

The participation of Saint John’s police force in Crime Mapping, AND

this terrific video on the unintended consequences of price control from Learn Liberty -

Make sure to comment, and let them know you appreciate the info!

Something smells rotten

Dave Killion — September 29, 2011

The Swomee Swans should be returning anytime now.

The World Health Organization reports on air quality, and finds that not only is Canada’s among the best, but British Columbia’s is particularly good -

“British Columbia cities have some of the cleanest air on earth, according to the World Health Organization, which collected air quality data from over a thousand cities around the world.”

“Amongst countries, Estonia topped the list with the best air quality, and Mauritius ranked second, while Canada tied with Australia for third.

Before assuming that this is a benefit of government regulation, read what Bruce Yandle discovered in his review of  Indur Goklany’sClearing the air: the real story of the war on air pollution” -

“The book concludes with a carefully drawn and sad assessment of the federal regulatory experience. One part of the unpleasant outcome is related to the following facts: (1) Command-and-control regulation has been excessively costly, relative to performance standards or use of economic incentives. (2) Federal programs unduly limit state action in the name of controlling interstate pollution when much of the problem is intrastate. (3) There are profitable risk-reducing opportunities for increasing the level of control for some pollutants and decreasing the level for others. The second part of the unhappy result relates to the central finding of the book: Significant progress in controlling air pollution occurred in the absence of federal programs whenever problems were perceived and incomes allowed for action to be taken. If left to state, local, or private action, at least part of the cost of the federal saga could have been avoided and some of the benefits expanded.”

Enjoy the clean, fresh air… you earned it.

Noted in passing

Dave Killion — September 28, 2011

And since they're skinny, you know they'll share their Doritos with you!

I had wondered on this very blog how different the reaction would be to the death of a great entrepreneur compared to the death of a prominent politician, and now we know -

“Arch West, a retired Frito-Lay marketing executive credited with creating Doritos as the first national tortilla chip brand, has died in Dallas at age 97.”

It must have been a great comfort to West in his final years to know his creation will continue to bring pleasure to millions of people for years and years to come. It is a blessing to mankind that there have been, and will be, so many people making similarly tremendous contributions to human happiness and well-being that the passing of any one of them is hardly even noted. How different they are from those self-serving politicians who rely on state institutions to stage elaborate funerals and ceremonies in order to shore up the illusion of their importance.

Homemade resistance

Dave Killion — September 27, 2011

I have posted previously about government-busting technologies such as Bitcoin and mobile-phone apps, and to this list I think we can add open-source 3D printing. One user at Thingiverse has posted details for printing a magazine for an AR-15 rifle, and another has done the same for a lower receiver.

Judging by the comments at the blog for Make magazine, there is nothing illegal about the manufacture of these items for personal use, and apparently there are lots of folks in the US who save money by ordering kits and parts from which they craft their own firearms. I am only passing familiar with Canadian gun laws, but I know enough to be sure the regulatory environment is more restrictive here. In any case, as the price and quality of  equipment for home-based manufacturing improves, the risk and difficulty of acquiring heavily-regulated goods will fall to the point that enforcing bans will be impossible. So take hope. The market is working hard to cut away the ever-increasing chains of coercive government, and we might still come out on top.

Be a handful

Dave Killion — September 26, 2011

The Book Club met last week to discuss another portion of “They Thought They Were Free” , which is the title we are currently reading. I have quoted some portions that I found particularly striking, which you can find here and here, and I have one more -

“You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to go out of your way to make trouble. Why not? Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.”

Happily, uncertainty is not a quality I find in abundance amongst libertarians. Unhappily, I find the same to be true amongst progressives and conservatives, therefore I think it’s important for libertarians to seek each other out so that none of us has to act alone, stand alone, or speak alone. I also think it’s important to get in the habit of making trouble – trouble in the form of knowing one’s rights, exercising them, and demanding they be respected; trouble in the form of resisting efforts by the state to increase its size and power. Because if we don’t practice standing up for our beliefs, we might not be able to do so when it’s really important.

More from our current reading

Dave Killion — September 24, 2011

Here are some more quotes from “They Thought They Were Free”. First, something humorous -

“Americans have not had the Germans’ troubles, perhaps by happy accident, perhaps because they have not made such troubles for others as the Germans have.”

I’m going for happy accident, as I am certain the USA has made a great deal of trouble for a great many others.

Later, Mayer is discussing with one of his friends the idea of the citizen as the sovereign, the highest office in America. When he asks if the idea becomes clearer if expressed by the phrase “Citizen Sovereign”, the friend agrees, but -

“Clearer, certainly,” said Herr Kessler, the bank clerk, “but wronger, if I may, Herr Professor. Those two words do not go together. The idea is not a  German idea. It says that the citizen is the ruler, but there are millions of citizens, so that would be anarchy. There could be no rule.”

This is not, I think, a mindset unique to Germans. Americans and Canadians may say that the voter rules, but cannot really conceive of society without some coercive ruling party to organize and direct. Another friend points out the tendency for corporatism to command when the people are permitted to rule themselves.

We have heard of your American cities ruled by gangsters working with dishonest politicians who steal the people’s money and give them poor service, bad roads, and such, charging them always for good roads or good sewers. That we have never known in Germany, not under the Kaiser, not under Hitler. That is a kind of Anarchie, maybe not mob rule, but something like it.”

Mayer’s friend is observant, although I think ‘monarchs’ like Mao or Castro make a pretty tough counter-argument. Libertarians have no affection for unbridled democracy, but on the whole I think immigration stats show were people want to be.

Tune in tomorow for the final installment!

Club meeting

Dave Killion — September 23, 2011

The club met last night to discuss chapters 5 – 13 of “They Thought They Were Free“, as well as decide what book we will be reading next. In the past we would nominate titles which were turned into a poll on the Meetup page, but that process was unsatisfactory in different ways. This time it was agreed we would consider works of fiction, and after discussing four nominations, the group selected Garet Garrett’s “The Driver”. Despite having nominated the other three titles myself, I was very happy with this choice because I’m familiar with Garret’s work and enjoy it. I hope you will all read along with us when the time comes.

There was a lot to like in the chapters we discussed. Author Milton Mayer continues to examine the appeal of the National Socialist Party, and finds class warfare played its part -

He was not, of course, sure of the New Germany or of himself; he was still, after fifty years of being Karl-Heinz Schwenke, Karl-Heinz Schwenke, and the Herr Professor was still the Herr Professor. The New Germany was, of course, Schwenke’s, but the Herr Professor had something, and something German, the the New German had not.

Tailor Schwenke would not, after 1933, any more than before, have failed to tip his hat to the Herr Professor; all the more joyously he received the revelation that half the academics were traitors and the other half dupes and boobies who might be tolerated under close surveillance by the New Germany which Tailor Schwenke, at your service, Sir, represented.”

Mayer also finds that physical and social separation, as well as unfamiliarity, also made demonizing Jews much easier -

Traditional anti-Semitism (what Nietzsche, beloved by the Nazis for his superman, called “the antiSemitic swindle”) played an important role in softening the Germans as a whole to the Nazi doctrine, but it was seperation, not prejudice, that made Nazism possible, the mere separation of Jews and non-Jews. None of my ten friends except Herr Hildebrandt, the teacher, had ever known a Jew at all intimately in a town of twenty thousand, which included a nine-hundred-year-old Jewish community numbering six or eight hundred persons.”

There’s more, but this post is long enough that I’ll leave the rest for later. Make sure you come back!

Where Do You Draw the Line?

BHolt — September 22, 2011

A funny thing happened today. Scanning my facebook feed, I found out that many of my Progressive friends think government power should be limited! Now this was shocking. Moreover, it wasn’t just a few of my friends who felt this way. No, Progressives everywhere were calling for a limit on state power! What was happening? Why didn’t anybody tell me it was backwards day? Usually libertarians are the ones saying government authority is harmful, while liberals call those libertarians heartless and crazy.

Actually, I’d like to apologize to my progressive friends for the sarcastic tone of the previous paragraph. I am so accustomed to debate and disagreement that I sometimes can’t help but crow when progressives recognize the danger of unchecked state power.

The story that brought about this situation was the execution by the State of Georgia of Troy Davis, who was convicted of murder. Davis always maintained that he was innocent, and his supporters argued that there were flaws in the testimony that led to his conviction. Many of my progressive friends, and liberals around the internet see this case, and the death penalty in general, as a violation of human rights.

This is not an article about the death penalty, though. Frankly, I don’t know if there is a consensus among libertarians on the death penalty, but I personally oppose it. I originally intended to use this article to prove that even the staunchest progressives understand fundamentally that the individual must, at least at times, be protected from the state. In fact, what I want to argue is that libertarians and liberals should recognize how much they have in common, particularly on social issues. Libertarians and liberals generally agree with each other on subjects such as drug criminalization, LGBT issues, and war. We should cooperate where we can, rather than tear each other down. Why are we spending our time arguing over the issues we can’t agree on, when we could be out there together, defending the ideas we share?

I think there is a tendency among those of us who are politically-inclined to take absolute positions, and I think it’s a harmful habit. Because we are convinced that we are right, we must show our opponents where they are wrong. Although arguing can be satisfying, it may ultimately be counterproductive if it prevents us from finding points of mutual concern, or ruins a friendship. I will keep this in mind the next time I’m sitting and stewing, trying to think of the cleverest and most vindictive retort to post on Facebook.

Many happy returns!

Dave Killion — September 21, 2011

Personally, I try to live every day as if it’s World Rhino Day -

Behold!

Dave Killion — September 21, 2011

Feel the hate -

It is amazing that so much contempt and dislike could have been so well concealed, and yet such is the power of trade that all this vile sentiment was restrained merely by the self-interest of the retailers and their employees. Instead of indulging in disdain for the consumer, vendors instead muster up patience, vigour, and sunny dispositions in pursuit of your business. Free enterprise is a system of kindness.