In our latest podcast, my co-host Ashley Johnston and I discuss a possible link between universal health insurance and a PEI toddler’s brain damage, the legitimacy of intellectual property, our favourite sources of current events and topics of interest, and the Canadian journalist nominated for this year’s Bastiat Prize In Journalism. You can find links to the material we reference in our conversation by visiting Ashley’s blog (Liberty PEI).
Subscribe to the podcast here, and listen to Episode 5 here.
On Saturday, October 6, Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly will face off in a debate of some sort. Although the event is sold out, it will stream live on the internet, and you can listen to it for $4.95. Oh, and half the net profits go to charity. My advice? Donate $4.95 to the charity of your choice, and spare yourself the agony of listening to a Team Blue cheerleader and a Team Red cheerleader each trying to convince you that his team’s brand of authoritarianism is the most desirable.
You know what might have made this worth buying a ticket to? Having John Stossel take part. By having a libertarian in the mix, some people might have been woken up to the fact that no matter if the boot is red or if it is blue, they are still going to get kicked in the teeth. Such a shame.
Mr. Kettle, Mr. Pot has something he thinks you should know.
Despite growing evidence to the contrary, the Obama administration continues to declare that attacks on U.S. embassies around the world are motivated by Muslim offence over a film (the very existence of which is dubious) that depicts the prophet Mohammed in an unfavourable light. Although many of the non-governmental commenters I’ve seen have qualified their statements by denouncing the alleged filmmaker’s supposed message as deplorable, execrable, offensive, and so forth, support for his right to free speech has been robust. It seems the great majority of regular, everyday North Americans think that it is wrong to use violence against people peacefully exercising their rights.
Unless those people are exercising their right to keep what they’ve earned, or to consume what they please, or to not support whatever causes they deem unworthy, or a thousand other things. Then the great majority of regular, everyday North Americans are eager to sit back and watch (and often, encourage) the state when it uses its power to deprive such people of their freedom, their property, and their lives.
After running 2000 copies of his new album “No More Pennies”, Nova Scotian singer/songwriter Dave Gunning was informed by the Royal Canadian Mint that he owed them $1,200.00. Mr. Gunning used an image of the Canadian penny on the album cover, and the Mint is of the opinion that using said image entitles them to a fee –
“Although the copyright fee for the album’s initial run of 2,000 albums was waived, the Mint has conditions tied to any future copies of the CD. Gunning has made the requested alterations to the original design and has resubmitted his application for permission to use the one-cent likenesses. The Mint will now decide on what amount, if any, it will charge the musician. “We’re not preventing Dave Gunning from commemorating the penny through his album,” says Christine Aquino, the Mint’s communications director. “The issue is the use of the image, and we’ll be working with him on that.”
Got that? They’re not preventing him from using the image, they’re just making it more difficult and expensive.
The issue of intellectual property is one on which many libertarians have shifted position in recent years. Increasingly, many of us have been persuaded that copyrights, trademarks, patents and the like are immoral, unnecessary, and even counter-productive. The subject is complex, but the Victoria Libertarian Book Club read “Against Intellectual Monopoly” some time ago, and it was a great help in clarifying the matter. If you’re out there pirating stuff and feeling guilty about it, you might want to check it out, if only to ease your conscience.
“Known as the Denton House, its bones date back to 1795, when it was constructed as a farm house by one Joseph Denton, a descendent of the founder of the village of Hempstead. In 1860, it was given a Georgian makeover, complete with gingerbread ornamentation, and throughout the 1900′s, found commercial use as a funeral home and a series of restaurants.
By 1986, it was abandoned and on the verge of falling down.
McDonalds purchased the property with the intention of tearing it down and replacing it with a standard McDonald’s restaurant. Thank God for the citizens of the New Hyde Park, who worked to secure landmark status for the building in 1987.”
Thank God? Let me understand this: a group of citizens desires the preservation of a building, and achieves that goal by lobbying local government to place restrictions on the property that cause the existing owner to suffer an increase in costs AND a loss in property value. We’re to believe that God not only approved of such an outcome, but deserves praise for being somehow behind it? Well, as I recall, there is at least one commandment of the ten that expressed God’s position on theft, and I’m pretty sure he is opposed to it. I’m not saying these people are going to Hell… only that they deserve to.
Did the members of the community really want the building saved? It’s hard to say. If people were told they would have to pay for the cost of saving the building out of their own pockets, I bet many fewer would have said yes. But they weren’t asked that question. They were asked if they wanted the building saved, and they all knew without being told that someone else would have to pay. And, libertarians aside, who would have said no to that?
This satirical and anti-liberal game debuted back in 1980, and has gained attention recently as an album of images showing the board, the rules, and some of the game pieces has made its way around the net (see album here). Despite being denounced as callous, sexist, and racist, Public Assistance enjoyed some measure of popularity, and an attempt to ban the game through the courts failed on constitutional grounds. You can find a defense of the game by one of its producers here. From the article –
“Our lampoon was based on street knowledge and common sense. My partner and I saw ourselves more as packaging experts than game inventors. We often told people, “We didn’t invent this game; government liberals did. We just put it in a box.”
I must confess, the album had me laughing from time to time, but the game appears to be more critical of the recipients of public welfare than most libertarians will find fair. After all, poor people respond to incentives just like everyone else, and their conduct is often a rational response to the circumstances they’re in. Our true condemnation is reserved for the coercive government policies that create those incentives. Once we get rid of social welfare, no one will ever have to worry about banning Public Assistance.
In our latest podcast, my co-host Ashley Johnston and I discuss state subsidization of daycare, Free-Range Kids, efforts to stop a planned highway re-routing in PEI, and the severing of diplomatic relations between Canada and Iran. You can find links to the articles we discuss at Ashley’s blog (Liberty PEI).
Subscribe to the podcast here, and listen to Episode 4 here.
On September 8, psychiatrist and scholar Thomas Szasz passed away at the age of 92. His death has been marked by a great many testimonials throughout the libertarianism blogosphere, my favourite being that of the Cato Institute’s Trevor Burrus –
“Szasz advocated for individual liberty from a substantially different point of view than most libertarian intellectuals. Rather than focusing on economic arguments or political philosophy, Szasz focused on personal responsibility and how the institutions and practices of modern psychiatry fundamentally undermine the rights and responsibilities of individuals.”
“…Szasz believed mental illness to be a “myth”: If we call someone “mentally ill” without reference to a physical brain disorder but only as a “problem” with her behavior, then we are describing something that is difficult, if not impossible, to objectively quantify. We must invoke some norm to make our diagnosis more than a subjective opinion about “divergent” behavior. If homosexuality is a mental illness, then the norm of heterosexuality is presumed. If marital infidelity is a mental illness, then the norm of fidelity is presumed. Without any appeal an objective criterion we will inevitably institutionalize people based on our opinions about their personalities. As Szasz says, the obvious question always arises: “What kinds of behavior are regarded as indicative of mental illness, and by whom?”
As demonstrated by the Rosenhan Experiment, making such a determination appears to be beyond the talents of even trained professionals. Yet the legitimacy that psychiatry provides to the state’s ability to confine and drug people, without their consent and without trial, has proven irresistible not just to tyrannical governments, but even those thought to be more benevolent.
It was Thomas Szasz who taught us that psychiatry, when used in the legal system, is a tool for imprisoning innocent people, and for freeing criminals. For that insight alone, we are lucky to have had him on our side.
“The seasteader-in-chief is headed ashore. Patri Friedman (that’s Milton Friedman’s grandson to you), who stepped down as the chief executive of the Peter Thiel-backed Seasteading Institute in August, has resurfaced as the CEO of a new for-profit enterprise named Future Cities Development Inc., which aims to create new cities from scratch (on land this time) governed by “cutting-edge legal systems.” The startup may have found its first taker in Honduras, whose government amended its constitution in January to permit the creation of special autonomous zones exempt from local and federal laws. Future Cities has signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding to build a city in one such zone starting next year.”
“Citing laissez-faire entrepots such as Hong Kong and Singapore as examples, the company’s founders believe that strong property rights and business-friendly regulation are key to creating jobs, stimulating investment, and lifting millions out of poverty, a la China’s special economic zones. “
This won’t just be an economically free city… since residency in the new cities will be voluntary, no one will be subject to regulations on behaviour to which they have not previously agreed. Competition between the three cities for good workers will help insure such regulation is not overly restrictive.
Having a libertarian personality at the forefront of one of these projects is an exciting and promising development. Stay tuned for further development on what continues to look like a Very Big Deal.