Archive for July, 2012

Everybody Wins

Dave Killion — July 19, 2012

Here’s a letter to the Times Colonist –

Your article concerning the outcome of a dispute between the U.S. and Canada (Canada wins in B.C. lumber case, July 19) correctly depicts the resolution as a victory for Canada and for “workers in B.C.’s lumber industry.” What readers might not gather, however, is that aside from a few U.S. politicians and the special interests that support them, the decision is also a victory for America, for American consumers, and for American workers whose occupations benefit from lower-priced Canadian lumber.

It’s true that some of the least competitive U.S. lumber producers will lose business, and some will even have to close down and lay off their employees. But in Canada, every resource that goes into producing lumber is a resource that can’t be used to grow cotton or watermelon, build wooden boats or furniture, or cater to Canadian tourists traveling abroad. Likely, Canada will turn to the U.S. for help in acquiring these goods and services, and the market will quickly find mutually profitable use for all the resources recently freed from U.S. lumber production. This is the nature of trade; that the elimination of any barrier is not a zero-sum game, but rather, a win-win proposition.

A Free Market Is A Humane Market

Dave Killion — July 18, 2012


Know what a gestation crate is?

“A gestation crate, also known as a sow stall, is a 2 metres (6.6 ft) x 60 centimetres (2.0 ft) metal enclosure used in intensive pig farming, in which a female breeding pig (sow) may be kept during pregnancy, and in effect for most of her adult life.”

Between 60 and 70 percent of sows are kept in crates during pregnancy in the United States, each pregnancy lasting four months, with an average of 2.5 litters every year. Sows, which can weigh 600 pounds (270 kg), spend most of their three or four years of adult life in crates, giving birth to between five and eight litters. As the sows grow larger, they no longer fit in the crates, and must sleep on their chests, unable to turn, until they are slaughtered.”

Brutal. It’s difficult to read something like that and not think that these devices should be banned, and in some places they either have been, or will soon be –

“In the European Union, the crates are being phased out by 2013 after four weeks of pregnancy. They are already banned in Sweden and in the UK, and will be banned in Denmark in 2014.

In the US, they have been banned in Florida since 2002, Arizona since 2006 California since late 2008 and the latest being Rhode Island from June 2012, making it the 9th state in US to enforce the ban. They are also being phased out in Maine and Oregon.”

This is not the good news it appears to be. Banning gestation crates means higher pork prices, so unless consumers are demanding “gestation-crate-free” pork, retailers will have to find sources where there is no ban. That means pork might be brought in from places where animal welfare is an even lower priority. By resorting to coercive state power, well-intended people actually cause more suffering.

Happily, the market succeeds where government fails

“By the end of 2022, (Oscar Mayer) plans to obtain pork from suppliers who can provide pregnant sows with housing that “allows for greater movement for the animal, while ensuring their comfort,” instead of traditional stalls.

“We are committed to finding better ways to keep animals healthy and in a safe environment while treating them with respect,” Oscar Mayer spokeswoman Sydney Lindner said. “This is not only important to us, but also to our consumers who care about animal well-being and comfort.”

“Pork providers Smithfield and Hormel have pledged to stop using the confining gestation crates by 2017, and Cargill already is 50 percent crate-free, the organization said.”

For deep, sustainable, and far-reaching change, nothing beats free enterprise.


The Market Vs. The State

Dave Killion — July 17, 2012

Has The Economist slipped on the banana peel of logic?

“Between 2006 and 2012 gas went from providing 20% of America’s electricity to nearly 25%, mainly at the expense of coal. Cheap gas and environmental legislation under the Clean Air Act, aimed at emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide and mercury (but not carbon dioxide) from dirty coal plants, accelerated a trend that is set to continue. For decades coal had provided well over half America’s electricity. In 2011 coal-generated power was down to 42%, its lowest level since at least 1949, when records began. The EIA says the switch will speed up in 2012, with coal falling to just 36% of the total.

Gas has wrought some remarkable changes. Over the past five years America has recorded a decline in greenhouse-gas emissions of 450m tonnes, the biggest anywhere in the world. Ironically, given its far greater effort to tackle climate change, the European Union has seen its emissions rise, partly because its higher gas prices (linked to oil) have led to an increase in coal-fired power generation.”

If you’re looking for me, I’m at the corner of Perplexed Street and Confused Avenue. If the more heavily regulated EU has had rising emissions, why include regulation as one of the reasons emissions have fallen in the US? Is it not more likely that regulation in North America would also have led to higher emissions, had they not been offset by declines brought about by the market forces which have led to lower gas prices? The trend suggests to me that there should be a decrease in government regulation, and a more strict protection of market regulation. Then we might see some real progress.

Happy News

Dave Killion — July 16, 2012

From the time I started school in the late ’60s, I have heard an endless procession of apocalyptic environmental predictions, none of which have materialized to any great extent. We still have trees, and copper, and oil. Air and water quality have been improving in more and more areas, and not only have mass extinctions failed to materialize, many endangered animal populations are rebounding and repopulating areas from which they had disappeared. In some cases, bad government stewardship has been replaced  by better government stewardship, and in other cases private citizens, pursuing either profit or personal satisfaction, have been the driving force. For example –

Return of the King Salmon

Can Brown Bears Survive in the Pyrenees?

Bialowieza Forest – Remarkable Remnant of Europe’s Primeval Past

We only hear one story like these for every thousand predictions of doom, but you can’t sell newspapers or get research funding by saying things are getting better. So, try not to be disheartened. Things are better than some people want us to believe.

Pride Toronto And The Libertarian Party of Canada

Dave Killion — July 15, 2012

Katrina Chowne, leader of the Libertarian Party of Canada, has posted an article; “Defending the Libertarian Party’s attendance at Toronto Pride“. Here’s a sample –

“… this was a no-brainer.  Just as you would expect the Libertarian Party to stand upto apartheid, we stand up to those that discriminate based on gender.  No one chooses their gender in the same way we do not choose eye colour, skin colour, height or ear size.”

I’m sorry, but this does not follow. I would have expected the LP to oppose apartheid not because we are opposed to discrimination, but because we are opposed to the initiation of force. Apartheid was the state using violence (and the threat of violence) to force people to discriminate, and so libertarians had to oppose it. But libertarianism requires no tolerance beyond that which is required to avoid violating the natural rights of others. Beyond that, freedom of association prevails.

Not being well versed on the subject, I don’t know if the Canadian government discriminates against homosexuals, but I am certainly opposed if they do. In fact, though, as far as I know homosexuals not only enjoy the same rights as all other Canadians, they also receive special protection from ‘hate’ speech and private discrimination. It is also my understanding that Pride wishes to expand and increase these benefits, which come at the expense of the rights of straight people. If that is the case, then the LP must oppose their efforts. If Pride is merely a celebration of the LGBT community, then there is no reason to expect any libertarians to support it merely because we are libertarians. At best, Pride seems like an event some individual libertarians might wish to support, but unless the state is violating the natural rights of LGBT community members, the LP has no business taking part.

The Turning Of The Tide

Dave Killion — July 15, 2012

I have never met anyone who understood libertarianism that wasn’t libertarian, so reading what non-libertarians write about libertarians is often a painful exercise. This article at Vice proves an exception –

“Most people, when they think of a libertarian, picture some kind of outsider, a weirdo—a lip-smacking Texas fireworks salesman in a ten-gallon hat, or someone like that sloshed constitutionalist whose DUI arrest video went viral last year. I’ve often heard liberals write libertarians off as “idiots.” But Danny and Matt are two of my best friends, and they aren’t idiots. They’re smart, thoughtful guys. I don’t exactly agree with their politics, but I understand where they’re coming from. Both voted for Obama in 2008. Now they can’t stand him. But they’re not so keen on Romney or the political right, either. Danny and Matt are fed up with everything, the whole political system.”

The article goes on to suggest a bright future for libertarianism, as socially liberal and increasingly fiscally conservative young people find their voices and each other. One can only hope.

Props To My Man Warren

Dave Killion — July 13, 2012

I Want You... to look after yourselves for a change

Neatorama lists 10 Presidents Nobody Remembers, and is pretty tough on Warren G. Harding –

“… Harding ran the White House like a kind of boys’ club, where he and some friends known as the “Ohio Gang” enjoyed drinking, playing golf, and cheating on their wives…

After admitting to friends that he felt overmatched by the job of president, Harding gave his Cabinet free reign and treated the presidency as more of a ceremonial post.”

Look at almost any historical ranking of US presidents, and you’ll find Harding in the bottom ten, and Lincoln sharing the top spots with both of the Roosevelts. But is this fair? I think not. Consider the case as made by historian David Beito –

“…Warren G. Harding (was) a president who successfully promoted economic prosperity, cut taxes, balanced the budget, reduced the national debt, released all of his predecessor’s political prisoners, supported anti-lynching legislation, and instituted the most substantial naval arms reduction agreement in world history. Go figure.”

Perhaps if Harding had gotten America involved in a major conflict that destroyed massive amounts of wealth and spilled lakes of blood, he would be better remembered and more admired, like most of the other highly ranked presidents. Sadly, we voters seem to be electing one potentially “great” leader after another, instead of looking to someone dedicated to peace and prosperity. Or better yet, looking to ourselves.

Free Markets Are Good For The Environment

Dave Killion — July 12, 2012

Original image here.

Choice Is Good, Even When It Comes To Zoning

Dave Killion — July 11, 2012

Victoria Vision has posted another reason why the municipalities of Greater Victoria should amalgamate; too many zoning classifications

“Not counting Victoria, (there are) 522 zoning classifications and 198 comprehensive development zones.   This is simply utterly over the top and ludicrous.   Why bother with zoning bylaws at all if we have so many of them?   It is not only the number of zones that is a problem.”

“Our region is very badly zoned and will always be so until we have a unified planning and zoning process.  Only amalgamation can fix this.”

If the pro-amalgamation crowd is going to advance this position, they are going to have to demonstrate that all the municipalities are badly zoned, and they are going to have to prove that areas that have more centralized governance are never badly zoned. Otherwise, assertions that amalgamation will bring about superior zoning are groundless. Plus, when bad zoning happens, it is much better to have the damage contained within one smaller municipality than spread over an entire region. That fact alone suggests that we would benefit from far more zoning choices, rather than fewer.

There doesn’t seem to be much of an appetite for discussing amalgamation right now, but should it arise, in view of the arguments proponents are offering, they are going to have a very difficult time.

For-Profit Justice

Dave Killion — July 10, 2012

A. Barton Hinkle wants to remind us that justice is harder to come by when you’re not a attractive, youthful, caucasian female –

“Not many have heard about Amilkar Figeroa. The 26-year-old was shot and killed in South Richmond in 2009. A year later – the last time it got any coverage – the case remained unsolved. Ditto for Levon Alford andJomond Lightfoot, two other open-case homicide victims in Richmond. And Ashraf Alatiyat, who was killed during a robbery at the Come and Go Food Market he owned on Jeff Davis Highway. During the past five years Richmond alone has racked up 31 unsolved homicides of black men and women. When was the last time you saw one of them on TV?

We hear a lot about the disparate treatment of minorities in the criminal-justice system. Young blacks are arrested for drug crimes 10 times more often than whites, even though five times more whites than blacks use drugs. But there is also widely disparate treatment of minorities in non-judicial realm as well.”

“This is not a new or original insight. There is even a name for the phenomenon: Missing White Woman Syndrome (MWWS). “

The article suggests some reasons why pretty young white female victims get all the attention, but I want to point out that the damage created by the phenomenon is greatly exacerbated by the type of legal system we have. Currently, when police must choose between expending resources on a low-profile case or a high-profile case, they will get more positive publicity and bigger budgets if they solve the latter. However, in a system where the expense of pursuit, trial, and incarceration are borne by the convicted, the pay day for solving the slaying of a black or hispanic woman is likely to be equal to that of a white woman’s. Private detectives would be lining up to take on cases even where the victim cannot be identified! Until that happy day, I’m afraid we are stuck with a system where too many minorities disappear, and perpetrators can get away with murder.