Archive for November, 2011

One More Step on the Road to Ruin

Antony — November 30, 2011

This morning the world’s major central banks announced coordinated measures to “ease liquidity”. What this really means is that they are paving the way for more money printing and quantitative easing. It is a show of force that the keepers of the printing presses are willing and able to coordinate their action, thereby centralizing control of all major world currencies.

They are using their money-creating power to bail out governments and big banks.  The effect is to divert resources away from individuals and their preferences for consumption, investment or holding cash, and to redirect those resources to areas chosen forcefully by government policy. The distortion of interest rates also sends faulty signals to entrepreneurs about people’s time preferences and amount of savings. Both of these effects waste resources by diverting them away from where they would best serve the free preferences of all individuals.

The central banks are fighting reality. The reality is that there is too much debt that cannot be paid back. There are not enough savings to fund capital investment. And what savings there are are being misdirected and squandered by government policies and faulty interest rate signals. They are trying to counter these realities by hiding risks, and propping up unsustainable debts. These measures do nothing to address the real problems, they simply mask them in an illusion of stability.

But the illusion cannot last forever, reality has a tendency to make itself known eventually.

Wheat Board

Antony — November 28, 2011

Today, the House of Commons voted to allow western farmers to sell wheat and barley to whomever they choose. This move was vociferously opposed by some Wheat Board supporters, but the government stuck to their guns and actually followed through on their promise. Although it’s nice to see this expansion of freedom, it is a bit disconcerting how much opposition there seems to be to removing the use of force in this area. The freedom to voluntarily buy and sell goods, and enter into contracts with whoever you choose is a fundamental aspect of property rights. It will be interesting to observe what happens to farm production and profits in the west. Although there might be some who lose out, this change will certainly lead to increased prosperity overall, and increased opportunities for the farmers involved.

When everyone breaks the law, the law is broken

G — November 26, 2011

Reflecting recently on the polygamy case decision, it startles me how many laws are actually out there that don’t go enforced.  If a given act truly is a ‘crime’, shouldn’t then all acts of that type be prosecuted across the board?  In the recent polygamy ruling, this will likely not be the case.  People in polygamous relationships will likely not be affected at all by this ruling except for those in Bountiful, for which this ruling is specifically targeted.  I can say this with confidence because if harm to women or children were truly the issue, then those involved in harming women or children would be prosecuted now, without the need for this trial.  I am not advocating enforcement of violent laws, of course, but I am saying that if the crimes on the books were truly enforced consistently across the board based on the rationale and guise for which they are created, people would quickly see how authoritarian our laws have become and how selective and punitive they were in the past (aka ‘prosecutor discretion’).

Either it is a crime across the board based on the rationale for which it is created, or it is not.

To have a weapon for which to pick and choose a crime to fit those you wish to attack, that is not justice, that is totalitarianism.

Reflections on the Polygamy Reference Case

JMaddock — November 23, 2011

I have a couple of thoughts on today’s BC Supreme Court decision upholding Section 293 of the Criminal Code, which makes it a criminal offence to live in a polygamous relationship, punishable by up to five years of jail time.

First of all, I was amazed by how brazenly utilitarian the judge’s reasoning was, and how he generalized that the negative consequences of some polygamous relationships were reason enough to ban all polygamous relationships.

I was also surprised by some of the alleged “harms” of polygamy used to justify the criminal law. For example, it was alleged (and the judge accepted) that children from polygamous families “tend to suffer more emotional, behavioural and physical problems, as well as lower educational achievement…” The same generalization could undoubtedly be made about single-parent families, yet nobody is clamoring to make single parenthood illegal. (Here, it’s worth mentioning that the polygamous community of Bountiful actually has one of the best-performing schools in BC.)

Also, the judge found that “the inability of fathers to give sufficient affection and disciplinary attention to all of their children can further reduce children’s emotional security.” This is more an argument against large families, and again single parenthood, than it is against polygamy.

These same kinds of utilitarian arguments were basically declared off-limits when it came to granting marriage rights to homosexual couples, which demonstrates the effects that powerful, well-funded interest groups can have. It also demonstrates how much government loves to expand its own power (i.e. by expanding the institution of marriage beyond its traditional scope), but never to reduce it (i.e. by leaving people alone to make their own relationships and live their own lives). When government makes concessions to interest groups, it generally does so to increase, not reduce, its own power in the lives of citizens.

Now that the decision has come down (assuming it isn’t overturned on appeal), it will be interesting to see just how far the government is willing to go in persecuting Canadian polygamous communities, particularly the one in Bountiful, BC.

Time will tell if the police will actually go in with guns, break up a peaceful community, and turn several hundred children into wards of the State. If so, we could be looking at the residential school fiasco all over again. If not, this whole reference case was just a colossal waste of money.

Is Ron Paul an Anarchist?

Antony — November 23, 2011

Following from Dave’s post yesterday, there are various opinions on the best ways to advance the cause of Liberty, and whether it’s worthwhile participating in the political process. It is interesting to imagine an ideal free society and what it would be like. But it is far more challenging to come up with a realistic path that could lead us there from our current state.

Many libertarians are attracted to Ron Paul’s ideas, but have concerns that getting involved in politics may be pointless, or even counterproductive. They are not interested in legitimizing the state, or making it more efficient. But what are Ron Paul’s goals? Is he trying to make the current system work better, or is he working towards more revolutionary change?

Ron Paul’s philosophy follows in the tradition of figures like Lew Rockwell, Murray Rothbard, and Ludwig von Mises. This video traces the sources of some of Ron Paul’s ideas, then goes on to make the case that he is a Rothbardian anarchist, using limited government positions and constitutionalist rhetoric as a means to promote liberty and lay the groundwork to begin dismantling the apparatus of state.

Someone worth supporting?

Dave Killion — November 22, 2011

The book club originally began as a Ron Paul meetup group, and many of our members are still Paul-boosters despite living in Canada. It is very heartening to see Paul becoming an increasingly viable option in the race for the Republican nomination for the US Presidency. On the other hand, there are some in the group who question the wisdom of placing much, if any, faith in either government or the political process. I think they have a strong argument, since we know from both experience and Public Choice Theory that politicians face powerful incentives to behave in ways that are incompatible with the best interests of the public. It follows that while a Ron Paul presidency might be the least of evils, it will still be far from a good thing. Even if Paul were elected, would the US simply revert to its authoritarian ways after he serves?

In search of reassurance, I emailed the Rio Grande Foundation (New Mexico’s free market think tank). New Mexico is a ‘blue’ state, yet elected libertarian Gary Johnson governor for two terms. I asked –

“Since the departure of Governor Gary Johnson, has New Mexico continued to move in a socially liberal, economically conservative direction?”

President Paul Gessing replied –

“Yes, that would be a generally-correct assessment. Richardson dramatically reduced income tax and capital gains tax rates. He also eliminated the death penalty.”

So, New Mexico may not be libertarian paradise, but the election of a libertarian has had long-term benefits. Since the US is going to have president of one sort or another, rooting for Paul might be a good idea.

Get a haircut, too!

Dave Killion — November 21, 2011

Down in the US, Republican-presidential-wannabe Newt Gingrich was recently bad-mouthing the Occupy Wall Street crowd by advising them to ‘take a bath’ and ‘get a job’. Over at Boingboing, Rob Beschizza takes exception

“… 2011 is not an age of plenty. There is little prosperity sloshing around, and no virtue to gain by condemning those of their generation who accept it. They want a cut, and they want to work. The kids are not dropping out. They have been excluded.”

Nope. Thanks to the boom resulting from fracking, McDonald’s is paying people $15 an hour to start… in North Dakota. And according to Mark Perry at Carpe Diem, there are labour shortages in the US and around the world. It’s a fact that none of these positions will allow workers to utilize the knowledge they gained while acquiring their degree in Icelandic Literature, but nobody with the self-discipline to endure a job that is tough and unpleasant will be excluded.

Beschizza’s post is typical of the poor commentary found at Boingboing, and I’ve decided to withdraw my earlier recommendation of the site. It turns out most of the stuff I had enjoyed there originated at Neatorama, so I’ve decided to boot the former and bookmark the latter. I suggest you do likewise.

The state confesses

Dave Killion — November 20, 2011

I'm gonna need a closer look at your buns.

Many people consider government regulation necessary to to protect consumers from foods that are unsafe because of insufficient sanitation, poor handling, mislabeling, and so on, but the fact is that in a free marketplace there is vigorous competition between suppliers to provide every consumer with goods that are not only safe and healthy but also priced to give desired value. Suppliers who fail to do so are crushed in both the market and in the courts. But don’t take my word for it! Just ask the Canadian Food Inspection Agency

“Most recalls in Canada are voluntary, which means that the recalls are initiated and carried out by the manufacturer, importer, distributor or retailer responsible. The CFIA works with the firm to ensure the effectiveness of the recall. However, in the event that a company is unable, or refuses, to voluntarily recall a product, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has the power to order a mandatory recall for products that pose a health risk.”

Even the government acknowledges that it is really the market that protects us. And as to those items that are not voluntarily recalled despite the fact that the government declares they “pose a health risk”? What do you want to bet that those are products that are not actually dangerous, but are subject to some popular hysteria that makes recalling them politically expedient?

Club Meeting

Dave Killion — November 19, 2011

The Victoria Libertarian Book Club had its bi-weekly meetup a couple nights ago, where we discussed not only our current readings from The Driver, but also voting in the upcoming municipal elections. I have expressed my views on the matter previously, and although some in our group have indicated they will be voting for the lesser of evils, I personally advocate a different tack.

As to the reading, although I have found the book so enjoyable that I finished the whole thing in just a few days, I find little that has much of an impact when quoted out of context. Here is what we have from the latest portion –

“Naïve trust in the power of words to command reality is found in all mass delusions.”

“It is easier to believe than to think.”

I have added these gems to my notebook, and look forward to using them in the future. Take my word for it, though. “The Driver” in its entirety is a very enjoyable read.

[Inter]national Ammo Day

Dave Killion — November 17, 2011

Mark your calenders

November 19 is National Ammo Day.
It is a nationwide BUYcott of ammunition.  You buy ammunition.  100 Rounds a person.

… The goal of National Ammo Day is to empty the ammunition from the shelves of your local gun store, sporting goods, or hardware store and put that ammunition in the hands of law-abiding citizens.”

I propose we in Canada also take part,turning this into an international event! And if you can’t find time to pick up ammo on the 19th? Not to worry –

“National Ammo Day is on November 19 and that is the day when you mark your calendar. In the text above you may have noticed that we used the phrase “Ammo Day Week.” That is because it is sometimes impossible for someone to get to the store on that specific day to buy ammunition, so we broaden the time when someone may make a purchase, but still have it count towards an Ammo Day purchase.”

So if you are legally permitted to purchase ammo but can’t aim for the 19th, anytime from then through the 26th ‘counts’. Net result; over 300 million rounds of ammo in the hand of law-abiding Canadians.