Archive for Justice

Canada Still Funding Repression

Dave Killion — October 19, 2014

The pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong continue their efforts, despite arrests and a violent police response. Although I think Hong Kongers might find find having democracy not such a wonderful thing as wanting democracy, I certainly would never go so far as to provide support for their opponents. At least, not voluntarily

“Many have persistently questioned why China received bilateral aid from Canada, given its economic superpower status, military muscle and increasing influence on world affairs, including a growing development budget of its own.

“When you go to the eastern part of China, which is where probably where 99 per cent of Canadians, if they go to China, do go, places like Beijing or Shanghai, they would put to shame almost any Canadian city,” said Bruce Muirhead, associate vice-president of external research at the University of Waterloo, who has studied the issue of Canadian aid to China.

“But if you go a little bit into the interior, it’s a completely different situation. … It’s not the urban areas where CIDA puts its money, it’s in the rural areas. Those people really need help.”

Then those people should get it directly from the people who are trying to help them! Because when the Canadian government gives money to the Chinese government, it all goes in to one big pool, no matter how much anyone pretends it gets spent on one thing and not another. So long as the money moves from one government to another, taxpayers are funding mace and truncheons for opression to the same degree as they are funding health care and eduction for liberty.

Small comfort to the protesters currently being clubbed, but aid to China ceases at the end of the year.

Doug Christie (1946-2013)

Dave Killion — March 13, 2013

The passing of noted defence attorney Doug Christie has received enough attention that there is no reason for me to repeat the story of his life, or recount the history of his cases, either of which can be found in any one of many articles. But if you’re looking for a mainstream media article that isn’t slanted against Mr. Christie, I can’t help you. This is one of the better ones, but even so –

“Christie has always been careful not to publicly support the views of his clients, insisting his cases were about protecting the right to free speech.”

In fact, there appears to be no evidence that Mr. Christie ever supported the views of his clients, publicly or privately. But why say that, when you can suggest that he not only supported those views, but was so enthused he had to be careful not to let it slip out publicly! And make sure that when you write about his career, write that he defended holocaust deniers, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and hate-mongers. That’s more exciting, and most people won’t notice that what he was actually defending was the right of all of us to not only speak, but to hear.

As for Mr. Christie’s critics, the less said, the better. I have seen, repeatedly, condemnations based on the fact that he never defended the free speech of any non-white. Well, when the time comes that hate crimes are charged against a Muslim, a feminist, a Black Canadian, an aboriginal, or anyone other than a white Christian male, then I will give this criticism more weight.

The fact is, there are people who so hate what they believed Mr. Christie’s clients to be, that they hated him for the simple fact that he defended them. Even the ones found innocent. And there is no one who could have defended those clients who would not have been subjected to the wrath of these hate-filled people, such was their rage, their contempt for due process, and their desire to strike down anyone who says something they don’t like. These are the people who truly threaten us, and it was Doug Christie who stepped forward to battle them on our behalf. We have been more fortunate than we deserve.

Another Black Eye For Canada

Dave Killion — March 6, 2013

Over at the website for the Canadian Constitution Foundation, Derek From writes about the recent and terrible outcome of Whatcott v. Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal – 

“The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision is a devastating blow to free speech and the rights of every individual Canadian. In principle, this decision means that the government can silence your speech on issues of public importance if that speech is deemed hateful. It doesn’t matter if what you said was true, that it caused no one any harm, or that you never intended to say anything discriminatory – you can still be dragged into court and lose for committing a victimless crime.”

Keep in mind that it is not only the right to speak freely that has been harmed here. This ruling violates the right of all Canadians to listen and to watch. You are no longer free to seek out or reject certain ideas or influences without government interference or control. This ruling diminishes each and every Canadian far more than does anything said by bigots.

By the way, I have selected the Canadian Constitution Foundation for this month’s $50 contribution. Please consider supporting them.

Reaction to Les Miserables

Antony — January 17, 2013

Following on from Dave’s post, I also recently watched the movie version of Les Miserables, and have a few comments. While I agree with Dave’s point that Jean Valjean should not be absolved from guilt for stealing the bread, the legal consequence he suffered were completely disproportionate, and would never occur in a libertarian society. In a libertarian restitution-based justice system, the primary goal of the law would be to seek appropriate compensation for the victim. For such a petty crime, it would not be worth the cost to invest huge resources needed to pursue Valjean over many years, since the damage done was so minimal. It is only by using the resources of the state that Javert’s costly manhunt can be maintained.

The fact that the state has taken over the codification and application of law in our society is what leads to the possibility for these excesses. The criminalization of “victimless crimes” is one example of this phenomenon; in a system of private law focused on restitution, it is unlikely that anyone would devote sufficient resources to banning or regulating acts that hurt no-one. For an excellent analysis of private versus state law, check out this recent talk by Stephan Kinsella.

The principle of restitution-based justice is demonstrated when Jean Valjean’s commits his second act of theft – stealing silver from the monastery. In this case the victim, the bishop, chooses not to seek restitution, in fact he does the opposite and actually gives more silver to Valjean. It is up to him whether to seek compensation, and in this case he exercises his prerogative to give Valjean a second chance, to seek his redemption, thereby setting the stage for the entire rest of the movie.

Who Rightfully Owns Mineral Resources?

Dave Killion — October 22, 2012

Advocates of estate/inheritance taxes argue, in part, that the heir has not earned the newly-acquired wealth and is therefore not entitled to keep all of it. But have said advocates considered the ramifications such an argument has for people in poor countries where there are substantial natural resources? Tim Newman asks us to consider

“… a country which sits on a sizeable mineral wealth which it has no idea how to extract.  For hundreds of years this wealth remains unrealised as it sits beneath the ground, whilst the people living above it barely know it exists.  Then some foreigners turn up and spend years (sometimes decades), millions if not billions of dollars, and the lives of thousands of individuals working in pretty dire conditions to figure out how to extract this resource and make it worth something.  Eventually these efforts pay off, and the foreigners start making some money.  Thus far, the locals have contributed next to nothing.  So what share of the proceeds are they entitled to?

According to the likes of Richard Murphy, they are entitled to most of it.  After all, they happened to be born sitting on top of an oilfield.  Yet the same justification is not applied to our fortunate heir in the example I gave above.  He is…. reaping the rewards of unearned wealth, whereas the governments of oil exporting countries are reaping the rewards of what is theirs by right.

The two positions are somewhat inconsistent, aren’t they?”

I don’t think Newman is doing much here to counter the estate-tax proponents. All the same, I’m happy to encounter this argument because I have been worried that when I buy oil, gas, and other mineral resources from countries with corrupt governments, I have essentially been buying stolen goods (because those resources are actually the property of the populace, rather than the state). But Newman’s example reminds me that government claims of ownership over dormant mineral resources are, from a libertarian point of view, very weak. In fact, businesses that extract and distribute those resources establish a much more robust claim of ownership, by dint of their efforts and investments. That certainly goes a long way toward alleviating my anxiety.

Libertarianism Loses A Great Warrior

Dave Killion — September 12, 2012

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.

Gypsy Law: Justice For Me, But Not For Thee

Dave Killion — September 8, 2012

As I promised yesterday, here is the quote I highlighted from the chapter on Gypsy law

“The rules, in large part common to the different communities, can be usefully grouped into two categories. One consists of ordinary legal rules covering the obligations of gypsies to each other. Swindling or stealing from a fellow gypsy is an offense to be dealt with, swindling or stealing from a non-gypsy comes under gypsy law only to the extent that it creates problems for other gypsies.”

This first category sounds as if it could have come from a book I read recently ; ” The Invisible Hook“, by Peter Leeson. The rules by which pirates regulated themselves were very much in the vein of maintaining peaceful, honest conduct within the group, while permitting (or more correctly, encouraging) violent, dishonest behaviour toward outsiders. I imagine such systems have been very common throughout history. You can read a summary of Leeson’s thoughts here.

While on the topic of pirates, I’ll let you know that during our next meeting, the club will be discussing the chapter on Somali Law from the Friedman book I cited yesterday. Have a look, and consider sharing with us any thoughts you might have.



Would A Libertarian Society Protect Free Speech That Incites Crime?

Dave Killion — August 30, 2012

In the last Subsidiarity Podcast, Ashley Johnston and I discussed a blog post by Akosua Matthews over at the Canadian Constitution Foundation’s blog “The Justice Report“. The subject was free speech, and I have since had some fleeting thoughts on the topic. To wit;

I think most libertarians would agree that threatening someone with the initiation of aggression is, in itself, an initiation of aggression and therefore criminal. However, determining when such a threat has been made is not always clear (see this discussion). If someone says to me, “Give me your money, or I will kill you”, then that is clearly coercion and I can retaliate. But if some people are caught discussing a plan to rob me, would libertarian philosophy consider that criminal? Further still, since libertarians recognize that taxes are theft, would anyone advocating coercive redistribution be prosecuted for inciting criminal activity?

On that final question, I think not, but I am confident that any such advocates would find themselves struggling to find and keep jobs, homes, and vendors willing to supply them with products. Instead, they would be shunned by the decent and right-thinking people into which most of society would have evolved. And that is yet another one of the beauties of libertarianism; it discourages conduct that is anti-social, even when it is not criminal.

Code Enforcement And Warrantless Entry

Dave Killion — August 26, 2012

The Township of Esquimalt is one of the many local governments that comprise Greater Victoria. Here are a couple interesting items in their Building Bylaw:

7.2 A Building Official:

7.2.1  may enter any land, building, structure, or premises at any reasonable times, for the purpose of ascertaining that the terms of this bylaw are being observed

7.2.2 where any residence or secondary suite is occupied, shall obtain the consent of the occupant or provide written notice to the occupant 24 hours in advance of entry



25.1 Every person who contravenes any provision of this bylaw commits an offence punishable on summary conviction and shall be liable to a fine of not more than $10,000.00 (Ten Thousand Dollars) or to imprisonment for not more than six months.


Every municipality in Greater Victoria, and likely all of British Columbia, has a building bylaw with similar clauses. As you see, the power of a building official to enter your property without your consent is much greater than that of a police officer, and the penalties for resisting or denying entry can be severe. And as can be seen from this post on the Volunteer Blog, this situation exists in provinces all across Canada.

I have worked with building inspectors and bylaw enforcement officers throughout Greater Victoria, and I have never heard of these rules being implemented to their full extent. I have, however, seen several instances where the threat of doing so has been used to attain compliance. Does this mean there really is no reason to worry about the existence of such regulations? No, it doesn’t. Regulations are weapons for the coercive state, and just like weapons, may sit harmlessly for ages. But when the state decides to pull the trigger, the effects will be devastating. Striking these rules is the equivalent of disarming violent criminals, and would best be done sooner, rather than later.

The Market for Security

Antony — July 23, 2012

Our book club’s current book The Market For Liberty makes the point that the source of the state’s power ultimately rest on its monopoly on use of force. It is not the fact that the state imposes taxes, or controls the money supply, that gives it power, but the fact that it prohibits competition in the areas of security, defence and justice. Even under a “voluntary government” with “voluntary taxation”, a monopoly on security still entrenches power in the state. The monopoly on force is what allows the state to initiate aggression. Without this monopoly, individuals could hire other security firms to protect themselves from taxes and other state interventions. The state would then have to compete for their business, becoming effectively just another firm in the market.

The more of a market there is in the provision of security, the more free people can be to choose alternatives that are better for them. This is why the decentralization of political power should be favoured by libertarians. Smaller independent states give people more freedom to move to better jurisdictions. Within states, moving policing under the control of local municipalities or communities allows for more options to live in areas with better policing, and to keep their budgets in check.

In the book Guns Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond speculates as to why Europe became a dominant empire, whereas in China, which had been much more advanced earlier, progress stagnated. He speculates that the reason was the fractured nature of the European nation states. This allowed persecuted groups to move from one country to another, fleeing tyrannical rulers for freer jurisdictions. Merchants could also move around to avoid taxes and regulation, leading to the flourishing of trade and prosperity in a succession of small European nations. This prevented a single ruler from completely shutting down progress and trade, as happened in China.

This “Atlas Shrugged” effect, in which businessmen and entrepreneurs flee stifling jurisdictions, can also be seen occurring today with record numbers of wealthy Americans renouncing U.S. citizenship, as Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin recently did in relocating to Singapore.

This idea also explains why the concept of parallel institutions could be a path towards a more free society. This is the concept of creating private institutions to provide services currently monopolized by the state. Some examples would be FedEx competing with the post office, or competing with the state court system. These parallel institutions give people real options to choose better services, and reduce their dependence on the state. These parallel institutions not only improve people’s lives immediately, they also demonstrate that these services can be provided on the free market, without needing a government to furnish them. In the longer run, these institutions could take on an increasingly large role in the economy while the state apparatus fades into the sunset of history.