Author Archive

Too Many Rich People?

JMaddock — October 14, 2012

I was a little surprised by this Gallup poll, which suggests that most Americans believe the U.S. has either enough rich people or “too many”. Only 21% take the position that there are “too few” rich people in America, which seems like it should be the logical answer from anyone who wants the country to improve and succeed.

1990-2011 Trend: Perceptions About Number of Rich People in the U.S.

Obviously, questions like this one are inherently subjective. What constitutes a “rich person” is anyone’s guess. What we should do to ensure the optimal proportion of “rich people” likewise goes unspecified.

What surprised me, however, was the sheer number of Americans who cringe at the very idea of “rich people”, to the point of suggesting that there should be less of them. In addition, a majority of respondents seem to think that if a greater number of Americans were to become wealthy through their own enterprise and initiative, that would be a bad thing for the country as a whole.

If most citizens see an increase in the creation of wealth as harmful to society, it’s no wonder that the U.S. isn’t prospering economically.

If Not a Bubble, Then What?

JMaddock — February 20, 2012

I recently came across this article, arguing that there is no bubble in Canada’s real estate market, yet concluding with a very telling prediction:

“Apart from some overheated niches in the market … we’ll more likely see home prices that simply go sideways for several years, allowing incomes to catch up.”

It seems that even though real estate prices were pushed into a bubble by too much easy credit over the last several years, politicians, central bankers, and establishment analysts still aren’t willing to admit it. Instead, they’ll keep interest rates tantalizingly low and provide even more easy credit, just to deliberately jack up other prices and make sure house prices “go sideways for several years,” rather than experiencing a correction.

But as house prices “go sideways for several years, allowing incomes to catch up,” the real value of real estate will, by definition, be going down. Thus, whichever way you look at it, Canada’s housing market is in a bubble. The government and central bank just don’t want to admit it. They’d rather transform the whole economy into a bubble to match.

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.

City Blocks Affordable Housing Plan

JMaddock — October 22, 2011

I was quite disgusted today to read that the City of Victoria is continuing to block a private developer’s efforts to offer affordable housing units in an unused downtown hotel. [See ‘It’s not going to cost the city a penny,’ Times Colonist, Oct. 22, 2011]

It seems that the City (which is really just another corporation, albeit one that happens to get most of its funding through the use of force) has a clear incentive not to allow new affordable housing units in the downtown core:

“Down the road sits another former Traveller’s Inn being used to house 36 low-income people, its stucco crumbling and its rotted railings propped up with newly painted 2X4s. This building, at 710 Queens Rd., is now known as Queens Manor and was one of two Traveller’s Inns bought by the city for $5.6 million.”

Wherever you come from ideologically, it’s difficult to deny that Victoria is in desperate need of more affordable housing. It’s one of the main talking points in every local election. But it seems that once they are elected, local politicians only support affordable housing that’s publicly funded and managed.

When a private entrepreneur comes along with a viable business model to turn an empty hotel into cheap housing for struggling Victorians, City Hall opposes it. Could it be that politicians only believe in helping people when they have a monopoly on doing it?

I was also a little shocked by at least one councilor’s rational for opposing the private affordable housing plan:

“Coun. Lynn Hunter is worried that the nature of the development could make it a magnet for single men, which could lead to added social costs such as police calls the city will have to pick up in the future.”

Can you imagine if this left-leaning councilor had said the same thing about blacks, natives, or basically any minority group other than “single men?”

Long Gun Registry Saved by a Vote: Sinister Forces at Work?

JMaddock — September 22, 2010

Canadian gun owners and sympathetic libertarians are undoubtedly frustrated by the sheer closeness of today’s vote on a private members bill to kill the long gun registry. A Liberal motion to quash said bill and save the registry passed by 153-to-151 — the closest margin possible without a tie.

The driving factors behind this: Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff ‘whipped the vote’ forcing all of his MPs to toe the party line, while NDP leader Jack Layton strongly suggested that his elected members get on board with his pro-registry position in this nominally “free vote.”

The end result: all the Liberals and exactly the right number of Layton’s henchmen voted to save the registry. But in reality, this vote might not be as close as it would seem. If the Liberal/NDP/Bloc coalition had needed to muster another vote, I’m sure another of the handful of NDP dissenters would have magically “seen the light” and changed positions.

Like dangling puppets on a string, all of our elected representatives seem to be bought in one way or another. This vote demonstrates that they answer to shadowy politicos pulling the strings within the big parties, who can literally determine the outcome of a motion in the House of Commons, right down to a single vote.

Whether they admit it or not the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois are already united as a silent left wing coalition, intent on killing any vaguely libertarian legislation that comes out of Stephen Harper’s government. Meanwhile, the Liberals at least, can be counted on to either support the Conservatives or abstain whenever Stephen Harper trots out some tough new “law and order” bill that restricts our civil liberties or compromises our privacy.

Canadian politics seems to be based on an unspoken agreement between the big parties to gradually expand the size of government and restrict individual liberty. It’s a sad state of affairs which begs the question, who’s really pulling the strings?

Has the Fraser Institute Lost its Way?

JMaddock — September 4, 2010

As we all know, libertarians and free market liberals tend to be skeptical of new taxes. That’s why it surprised me when the Fraser Institute, British Columbia’s leading “free market” think tank, came out so strongly in favour of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), which allows the federal government to impose consumption taxes on goods and services that were previously tax-exempt in BC.

I’m not saying that the Fraser Institute’s arguments are completely without merit. For certain industries (such as logging, mining, etc.), the HST will eliminate cases of unfair double taxation that were present under the previous “Provincial Sales Tax” (PST) regime. This should (in theory) lead to an increase in efficiency and create new jobs, which we all know the economy needs right now. Premier Gordon Campbell, in fact, called it the most important step that our province can take to recover from the recent recession.

But the same increase in efficiency could have easily been achieved by exempting business-to-business transactions from the PST and ensuring that sales taxes (federal or provincial) are only imposed at the point of consumption. Sure, this would have resulted in a loss of tax revenue, but isn’t it a bit disingenuous to give businesses (campaign contributors?) a tax break, then shift that very same tax burden onto consumers?

The Liberal government is, in effect, increasing taxes so as to “stimulate the economy” and “create new jobs.” Isn’t this exactly what genuine free market thinkers are supposed to oppose, both on principle and in practice?

That’s why the Fraser Institute’s support of the HST surprised me so much. Have they become a mere propaganda organ of the BC Liberal Party?