Archive for December, 2011

2011 Highlights

Dave Killion — December 31, 2011

Our most read post – Quantitative Consequences by Antony Zegers

Most commented upon – Pee-ew! by Dave Killion

Best Comment (as picked by me) – Ashley Johnston commenting on Where Do You Draw the Line? :

While I would not encourage vindictiveness, I am a fan of finding common ground, but this should not be confused with compromise.

At the Porcupine Freedom Festival, during one of the discussions about the usefulness of politics, somebody made the point that while he might vote to ‘free half the slaves’ you wouldn’t find him holding a sign campaigning to ‘free half the slaves’. I take this to mean vote for what you agree with, but campaign for what you believe in.

That is to say I will campaign with liberals to end the death penalty and war; I will vote for medical marijuana and tax credits for seniors, but I will not campaign to legalize half the drugs, or free half the tax slaves.” (emphasis mine)

Thank you all for your attention and your input this year. Please keep coming back, and please don’t hesitate to comment on and pass along our posts. This blog is an opportunity for you and for us to be more than just spectators, so let’s make the most of it!

Identifying the symptoms, misdiagnosing the cause

Dave Killion — December 30, 2011

Over at Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreax has listed some lessons he feels careful readers will take away from reading this longish-but-fascinating New York Times article about Dharavi, India. Rather than simply repeating him here, I want to point out something else that I see all too frequently –

“The problem is that government hasn’t provided easy channels to be employed in the formal sector.”

“It is a visual eyesore, a symbol of raw inequality that epitomizes the failure of policy makers to accommodate the millions of rural migrants searching for opportunity in Indian cities.”

“If China’s authoritarian leaders have deliberately steered the country’s surplus rural work force into urban factories, Indian leaders have done little to promote job opportunities in cities for rural migrants.”

It is common for writers concerned about the developing world to talk about government doing too little, and of failing to provide infrastructure, opportunities, or what have you. This conveys a tragic misunderstanding of the situation. The fact is, if the formal sector is in need of employees, employers will themselves provide easy channels to employment. If the appropriate conditions exist, then the market will promote job opportunities in cities for rural migrants. And if rural migrants seek opportunities in Indian cities, entrepreneurs will slave to provide accommodation for them.

And since these things require no government action to come into being, it is safe to conclude that their failure to materialize is the result of too much, rather than too little, government intervention. I wish more journalists would get this right.

Ron Paul & Doug Wead

David — December 28, 2011

There are some great quotes from this recent Haaretz interview with Ron Paul:

“‘Any kind of racism or anti-Semitism is incompatible with my philosophy,’ Paul said in an interview with Haaretz, conducted by email. ‘Ludwig von Mises, the great economist whose writing helped inspire my political career, was a Jew who was forced to leave his native Austria to escape the Nazis. Mises wrote about the folly of seeing people as part of groups rather than as individuals,’ Paul said.”

“Q. Do you support completely cutting all foreign aid, including the aid to Israel? Paul: Yes, I am personally against all foreign aid. We give $3 billion to Israel and $12 billion to her avowed enemies. How does that help Israel? And in return, we act like her master and demand veto power over her foreign policy.”

Also, check out Megan Kelly’s interview with Doug Wead, senior advisor to the Good Doctor:

Mr. Wead needs to be in the spotlight more as he is very effective at answering questions.

Imaginary Menace

Dave Killion — December 28, 2011

Although seriously alarmed by government monopoly, which survives only through force and fraud, libertarians are concerned with private sector monopolies only so far as they exist as a result of government policy. In the absence of tariffs, subsidies, licensing restrictions and requirements, and other such state-based mischief, monopolies are difficult to create, impossible to sustain, and beneficial for almost the entirety of their brief existences. Hans F. Senholzlays lays out the argument in the longish-but-worthy essay, ” The Phantom Called “Monopoly” ” –

“…  even if competitors of similar size and structure should be absent, the monopolist must be mindful of the potential competi­tion that can arise overnight. Numerous financiers, promoters, and speculators continuously search for opportunities to estab­lish new enterprises. They have formed new giant companies in the past. And they are willing to risk their capital again if they see an opportunity for profits.

Dreading the promoter who may invade his field, the monopolist therefore must act as if he were surrounded by numerous competitors. He must be alert and always “competitive.” He must continu­ously improve his product and re­duce its price. For if he should relax, another company will soon invade his field. The newcomer is likely to be a formidable competi­tor for he has new machinery and equipment. He has new ideas and applies new methods of production. And he enjoys the good will of all customers. Indeed, a monopolist who relaxes invites disaster.”

Anyone doubting the truth of the above may wish to acquaint themselves with this brief history of the rise and decline of  De Beers, perhaps the strongest monopoly ever. Interesting stuff!

Crossing the thin blue line

Dave Killion — December 24, 2011

Doug Smith, an investigative journalist from Fox 13 in Tampa, Florida, reports that an Ohio man was stripped, masked, restrained, and pepper-sprayed by Lee County police until he died

“The District 21 Medical Examiner ruled his death was a homicide because he had been restrained and sprayed with pepper sprayed by law enforcement officers. But to this day, nobody has ever been charged with a crime, and the Lee County State Attorney cleared the sheriff’s office of any wrong doing.”

The jury is, almost literally, still out on this, but I have read of so many similar incidents that whenever there is any question as to whether or not the police have committed an injustice I can no longer give them the benefit of the doubt.  Policing should be one of our most honoured and honourable professions, but so long as the constabulary answers directly to the state rather than the citizen, performance and respectability will continue to decline.

Art, extinction, and the free market

Dave Killion — December 24, 2011

The other white meat?

An unconventional taxidermist is facing up to five years in jail and as much as $250,00 in fines –

” [Enrique Gomez De Molina] pleaded guilty to illegally importing parts from endangered species to make the unique pieces of art after his arrest in November, reports Miami New Times…

The artist had not obtained the required permits to import the animal parts, and police claim De Molina knew what he was doing was illegal as he asked the people he bought them from to wrap them in carbon paper, according to the MN Times.”

Artistic sensibilities aside, why is it a person can’t buy endangered species or their parts? We do that with pigs, cows, and chickens, and as a result, they are in no danger of extinction. If people could make money breeding and selling slow loris, mouse deer, and birds-of-paradise, there would be so many of them that works such as De Molina’s would only be metaphorically criminal.

Great quotes

Dave Killion — December 23, 2011

Rightwing News presents their 3rd annual list of the years best political quotes, but you don’t have to read all of it if you don’t want to because The Whited Sepulchre narrowed that down from 50 quotes to the 33 libertarian-ish ones –

“42) Weighing benefits against costs is the way most people make decisions — and the way most businesses make decisions, if they want to stay in business. Only in government is any benefit, however small, considered to be worth any cost, however large. — Thomas Sowell”

By the way, you should be reading The Whited Sepulchre regularly, so even if you go to the first link, make sure you go to the second, too. Tell him the Libertarian Book Club sent you.

Unconstitutional laws; convenient and profitable!

Dave Killion — December 21, 2011

Isn't there supposed to be a trial or something first?

The Province of British Columbia has some new drunk-driving laws, sections of which were recently found by the B.C. Supreme Court to be unconstitutional. The Vancouver Sun reports that the provincial government is asking permission to keep violating the rights of its electorate for a little while longer

“The province asked Monday for a six-month delay of a B.C. Supreme Court decision, to give the legislature time to react to a ruling that found sections of new drunk-driving laws to be unconstitutional.

In the interim, the tougher drunk-driving laws should remain in place, said provincial lawyer George Copley.

“There is a danger to the public if this legislation is not kept in force,” said Copley.”

This is remarkably weak. Should we all be kept locked in padded cells because letting people move about creates a danger to the public? Of course not. The court should reject the argument that the existence of some level of danger is justification for violating the rights of BC residents.

“Copley also argued the court should consider the financial “chaos” of repealing the law and having to reimburse drivers who have incurred penalties, estimating that fines and other costs collected have reached $50 million.”

Oh, really? Well, perhaps the government should consider the financial “chaos” of recklessly enacting constitutionally indefensible regulations. Then maybe they would vet their legislative proposals a little more carefully before mugging the taxpayer. Hopefully the court will not entertain the notion that the province should be permitted to keep behaving like criminals simply because it’s cheaper than doing otherwise. It’s about time someone taught these ethically-challenged politicians that the ends don’t justify the means.

Not, in fact, facts

Dave Killion — December 20, 2011

Would you like something to help wash down those lies?

Back in January the Washington Post revived a website called The Fact Checker –

The purpose of this website, and an accompanying column in the Post, is to “truth squad” the statements of political figures regarding issues of great importance, be they national, international or local. As the 2012 presidential election approaches, we will increasingly focus on statements made in the heat of the presidential contest. But we will not be limited to political charges or countercharges. We will seek to explain difficult issues, provide missing context and provide analysis and explanation of various “code words” used by politicians, diplomats and others to obscure or shade the truth….

…We will strive to be dispassionate and non-partisan, drawing attention to inaccurate statements on both left and right.”

About three months later I compared the number and ‘size’ of the lies attributed to both Republicans and Democrats, and saw the the Republicans came off much the worse. My conclusion? Either Fact Checker was partisan, or Republicans actually ARE the lying-est liars ever. I suspected the former.

Three months later, Fact Checker did their own review and found things had balanced out. I was pleased to see this, and carried on, content that Fact Checker was doing valuable work showing both parties were crammed full of the truth-challenged. Foolish me. I never considered the possibility that Fact Checker (or any other purported ‘fact checker’ ) may not actually recognize that their opinions do not constitute facts. Happily, the Weekly Standard recently woke me to my carelessness

“They call themselves “fact checkers,” and with the name comes a veneer of objectivity doubling as a license to go after any remark by a public figure they find disagreeable for any reason.”

“If the stated goal seems simple enough​—​providing an impartial referee to help readers sort out acrimonious and hyperbolic political disputes​—​in practice PolitiFact does nothing of the sort.”

This has been an embarrassing oversight on my part, but I share it hoping others will learn from my mistake.

Fiscal responsibility and firearms

Dave Killion — December 19, 2011

Dan Mitchell is a fiscal-policy wonk whose work I know through the Cato Institute, and it is difficult for me to think of anything I have read or heard from him that wasn’t focused on taxes, budgets, or the like. So when someone like Mitchell starts talking about why owning the right to own firearms is increasingly important, you better believe it’s time to start paying attention –

“About a year ago, I spoke at a conference in Europe that attracted a lot of very rich people from all over the continent, as well as a lot of people who manage money for high-net-worth individuals.

What made this conference remarkable was not the presentations, though they were generally quite interesting. The stunning part of the conference was learning – as part of casual conversation during breaks, meals, and other socializing time – how many rich people are planning for the eventual collapse of European society.”

Libertarians endorse firearms ownership as personal protection and as a means to resist government oppression, but I hadn’t thought of the need for personal protection in the event of social collapse caused by government economic policy.

If you don’t care to read the article, you might instead enjoy this interview of Mitchell in which he discusses it –