Wednesday, December 31, 2014

repudiate the national debt

Leaving aside the question for the moment of unfunded liabilities direct debt in Canada is around 1.2 trillion dollars for all levels of government. Should this money be repaid and if so how should the funds for it be obtained? Who is it owed to? Government debt is often wrongly equated with private debt. While money borrowed by an individual or organization, lent from a high time preference individual to someone with a lower time preference, is productive and constitutes a contract which morally must be fulfilled (indeed, to not repay debt one incurs is tantamount to theft) when the state pays for wasteful spending with a deficit this money can only be repaid by extorting the taxpayer. This represents then not so much a morally and legally binding contract but rather a plan to commit an act of aggression and both the government official and loan profiteer in question are culpable. Since we can hardly sanction the manifest evil that is taxation (and who can deny that it is wrong to obtain revenue by threatening to lock someone in a cage if they do not give up their cash?) we are left with two options for handling this sum. The first is repudiation; the second auctioning off assets held by the government such as crown land or government buildings.

While it is immoral to tax, this is not the only problem with repayment. Raising a trillion dollars through taxation would also be a powerful blow to our future economic prosperity. Such a large amount of wealth taken from the hands of the individuals who created it would leave our nation significantly poorer. It would mean factories not built, jobs not created and it would also mean a much lower standard of living for many people. People or businesses might simply flea in favour of a nation where they can keep more of their income.

Now it's true that repudiation would make it difficult, if not impossible for the Canadian government to borrow in the future but is this a curse or more of a blessing? Take the example of stimulus spending during a recession. We are told that this is necessary for the government to borrow money during a recession to rescue us from the economic downturn but this Keynesian explanation of the business cycle has been dis-proven by history. Far from depressions occurring as a result of a failure of aggregate demand the real culprit is bank credit expansion and artificial tinkering with interest rates. The trough is actually the healthy stage of the business cycle, in which malinvestments in capital goods industries are liquidated and reallocated on the basis of consumer demand. Efforts by the state to rescue the economy will actually make the problem worse in the long run when taxes are collected to repay the funds borrowed to pay for stimulus or malinvestments are again liquidated. Government planners would be better served to study the example of Harding rather than FDR or Hoover. Saye's law, that supply of x constitutes demand for y, illustrates that there is no such thing as a failure of aggregate demand or a general glut of overproduction.

But what about war? Here we have a bit of a mixed bag. In the eventuality that say the Russians invaded it would indeed make sense to borrow significant funds to raise a larger army and fight them off. But this is a truly remote possibility indeed. Canada is not only in possession of significant natural defenses, to whit our oceans, we are also geo-politically connected with regards to our alliance with the Hegemony and the E.U. The boogieman of invading Reds is simply a convenient prop for our elites and the imperialist class. Still it does make sense to prepare for the possibility of a defensive war at some point in the future, by liberalizing gun laws, by allowing for greater acceptance of immigrants and refugees and by adopting the principles of laissez-faire in our economy, the latter two points being critical to national security since we will need a much larger population and industrial base if we are to fend off the rampaging Chinese or Indian hordes of the hypothetical wars of the late 21st or early 22nd century. At any rate the massive nuclear arsenal of our close American allies renders the prospect of foreign invasion of North America an extremely unlikely event. But debt can be financed to use an entirely different set of wars as well, not only those fought defensively here at home but also those which occur in other nations, such as Afghanistan or Iraq. And while it would be good to be able to borrow money to keep our country safe it is terrible to finance wars of aggression in the middle which actually make us less safe by inciting hatred for us both domestically and around the world. Not only do these wars hurt our popularity they also contribute to the murder of countless souls and bankrupt our nation, and while a defensive war is a remote possibility an offensive war or police keeping action is an almost certain reality.

Another problem with repudiation is that a significant chunk of the debt is held by Canadian banks. Could this not send a shock through the banking system? What if the banks shut down and people lost their savings? While it would be possible to settle these debts through the sale of crown lands, it is also important to recognize that money is not exactly wealth. Even if this did cause the banks to collapse and a massive reorganization of the economy to occur the wealth of the nation would still be intact. Farms would still produce foods, factories would still churn out goods and the tar sands would still extract fuel. Indeed there is a strong argument that the banks should collapse since they are fundamentally unsound and the fractional reserve system is both fraudulent and dangerous. Were it not for constant government intervention to protect bankers, that is to say if we had a system of free banking and sound money, they would be forced to engage in full reserve banking and our society and economy would be far better off. It would be far more difficult to fund wars of aggression or any manner of ill advised government spending and we would see rates of economic growth which are scarcely imagined possible in the developed world.

Repudiation is a radical step. It is not discussed by anyone in the political mainstream except to be dismissed but it is the only moral approach to handling government debt and our society would be far better off if it is adopted.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

corporate welfare in Ontario

Decades of intervention in markets in Ontario has created unfavourable economic conditions. Unemployment is high and businesses are reluctant to invest in a locality where all of their profits will be expropriated by the state. Instead of taking the logical step of repealing the confiscatory tax rates and onerous regulation that makes Ontario such an inhospitable place for industry, the Wynne government has hit upon a brilliant plan : tax giveaways! And why not? Truly, what problem cannot be solved by spending more of the taxpayers hard earned lucre?

There's $220 million for Cisco, $110 million for Open Text Corp, some $27.7 billion in corporate subsidies in total were given away during the 90's and 00's and around $3 billion a year every year for the latest years. Keep adding up the billions and pretty soon you are talking real money. But what about the competitors of the firms who receive this gift? Why must they be taxed so that the companies the are competing against on the market may receive the subsidy? How is that fair? It seems as if the Liberals would have us revert to the mercantilism of 16th and 17th century Europe. Instead of free competition in the market they would have carefully staked out economic fiefdoms, where a few prosper at the expense of everyone else. Instead of economists being bold champions of freedom they are today toadies of those in power, rationalizing and explaining away idiotic state policy. Now, instead of business fighting to see who can provide the public with the best product at the lower price, the real battle is to see who can lobby Queen's Park for the best subsidy. Why compete on the market place when you can compete in the political arena instead? Why subject your firm to the vagaries of the open market when the proper grant from the state can ensure you of profits for decades to come?

Instead of the government picking winners and losers it would be far better for Ontario to revert to the free market. Direct these subsidies into a general reduction of taxes for all and attract business not by unfair favouritism but by a more hospitable business climate in general. Lower taxes dramatically and deregulate radically! Eliminate labour laws and special privileges for unions. Enshrine property rights in law and ensure the court system makes this it's priority in settling disputes. Then capital would flow from around the world to this province and the economy would boom. Unfortunately this corrupt gang of menshevik crooks will never make these changes. It's up to the people of Ontario to rise up, to denounce these etatist policies and shout down the voices of those who apologize for idiot economic policies. Then, and only then, we can again know prosperity.

the city's still breathing but barely it's true, through buildings gone missing like teeth

Ah Winnipeg, birth place of The Weakerthans, murder capital of Canada, consistently voted #1 place you don't want to get caught outdoors in after midnight. A new report from Statistics Canada shows that over 1 in 4 Manitobans are employed by the state (the remainder of the population, presumably, are unemployed natives) and that the wages of these bureaucrats are neatly outstripping inflation. With the NDP in charge the bureaucracy expands, verily. The Selinger government with a lowly 17% approval rating seems destined to fall in the next election, which may coincide with the federal voting day (October 2015 although both dates are tenuous) and already a palace coup has been launched with both Steve Ashton and Theresa Oswald vying for the dubious honour of head of the Manitoba NDP. Both Ashton and Oswald are now emphatically against the extremely unpopular sales tax hike which they previously trumpeted.

But what's wrong with all this government hiring anyway? Doesn't government spending stimulate the economy, doesn't the wealth paid to bureaucrats trickle down to the rest of the economy? The problem is first of all, every dollar which is paid out in salary must be raised in taxes, or borrowed or inflated. Let's deal with taxation first. First there is the issue of justice. If someone creates wealth, how can it be just for anyone else to take that wealth from him and spend it? And what is the means by which the state raises taxes? The money is not requested voluntarily; it is taken through force! The punishment for declining to pay taxes is incarceration, and if you have never had the misfortune of being locked away in one of our dungeons I can assure you the experience is savage indeed. Surely we can all concede that it is wrong to use force to get what you want? But putting aside justice for a moment, how about social efficiency? When people have money they will necessarily spend it on the things they value most. They will satisfy their most urgent ends, then move on to their second most urgent, and so on and so on until they or their wife have spent all the cash. Or they could save some of it, although how anyone saves anything with the confiscatory tax rates and high inflation of our economy is beyond me. So by choosing for themselves they necessarily obtain the highest utility. But what happens when that wealth is taken by the state and then spent on their behalf? Necessarily the spending decisions of the government reflect not the values of the person who's behalf the spending is being done, the taxpayer, but rather the consumptive decisions of the bureaucrat in charge of spending. So there will be a great loss in utility.

But doesn't government spending stimulate the economy, especially in times of recession? This is nothing more than Bastiat's broken window fallacy. And like Bastiat we must consider ce qu'on voit et ce qu'on ne voit pas. We must consider not only the hiring of the bureaucrat and the spending that bureaucrat makes in the private sector, buying clothes, housing, an auto perhaps but also the taxes which finance his salary, and the spending which the taxpayer can no longer do, the clothes, television sets and automobiles they can no longer buy. When you consider not only the immediate effect of a government policy but also the secondary and tertiary ripples of state action then you realize that it is not necessarily the rosy picture depicted by would be planners.

We must finally consider another aspect of this spending. If the government spent money only on roads, police and courts, for example, it wouldn't really be all that bad. We must drive on roads and surely someone must tackle the murders and evil doers out there. These are the most productive areas of government spending. These things are vital to the future of our society. But what of all the other things that government does? Take the regulatory state for example. A lot of their work is actually counterproductive. Forcing business owners to jump through pointless hoops and retarding our economy with layer after layer of red tape and bureaucrats to ensure it is all observed scrupulously. From the pointless dictates of the competition bureau (like the latest crackdown on price gouging), to needless war in the middle east, to the pointless war on drugs here at home, there are no shortages of foolish government policy. Here there is a double loss, first in the money which is taken out of the public sector through taxes, but then secondly in the harm that is inflicted through these types of harmful government spending.

But then, the etatist might argue, what if we don't tax the money, but instead inflate or borrow? These methods of financing government spending come with their own attendant costs. Inflation is a tax on those who save and it's also a disincentive towards saving money. But without savings how will our economy grow? Where will the supply of funds for much needed capital come from? And the new money does not enter the economy evenly, instead those who get it first benefit by spending it at old pre-inflation levels whereas those who get it last suffer the the bulk of the effects. It is also no coincidence that war coincides with inflation. War is extremely expensive and requires both the ability to collect taxes coercively and to debase the money supply in order to afford it. So by enabling the state to inflate we also enable it to finance it's monstrous wars of aggression.

As for borrowing? Government borrowing crowds out the private sector demand for funds. There is only so much money which can be lent out. Further, the money will eventually be repaid, at which point taxes must be raised to do so and you have simply delayed the problem for a few years but it has grown worse in the meantime.

So perhaps when Pallister gets in next year things will be different. Perhaps taxes will be reduced, the bureaucracy cut, the system reformed... but I won't be holding my breath. Hope lies outside the political spectrum, beyond the decisions of the governments of the day, in the minds and beliefs of Canadians across the country. It is the power of ideas that shape history; instead of waiting for the good king to arrive at last we should focus on what we can improve, in our own lives and our interactions with others.

Friday, December 26, 2014

prentice has avarice on the mind

While the rest of North America is celebrating the fact that they can finally afford to till up their car falling oil prices have left everyone here in Alberta a little unhappy. No one is less impressed with this state of affairs than Jim Prentice, Premier of Alberta, who has been pontificating on how his government can make up for lost oil royalties. This is actually a wonderful opportunity for the province of Ontario to reduce the burden of government in this region. While Prentice et. al are sure to look at higher taxes as the way forward this would be the wrong approach. It is a truism that the greater the level of economic freedom in a locality, the greater the prosperity. Lower taxes and less regulation, ceteris paribus, mean people are financially better off. Instead of borrowing the money to make up this short fall or taxing it the government of Alberta should simply reduce how much of our money they are spending every year. Far from putting Alberta into a recession, as Prentice claims, this would usher in a new golden era of prosperity, if the cuts were drastic enough.

But where to cut? To the libertarian the answer is easy. Anywhere and everywhere, the more severe, the better. Why not reduce the number and salaries of the bureaucracy? Pensions could be clawed back, services privatized, land and buildings auctioned off. Why should MLA's make 200k+ a year when they could easily get by on 50? Auction off all the schools. Get rid of the ministry of aboriginal relations, the ministry of seniors, of jobs and skills training. Wield an axe mercilessly and let it land where it may. Shut these ministries down, fire all the bureaucrats that work with them, don't give them a dime in severance pay, take back their pensions and auction off all the buildings in which they pretended to work. Let these resources be reallocated back to the private sector (including the labour, such as it may be), where they can go to work creating wealth instead of mindlessly consuming it.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

shut down health canada

Where would we be without our omniscient state to watch over us like a guardian angle, ever ready to swoop in at the last moment and save us from ourselves? Far better off no doubt. What an infantile view of themselves most Canadians must have to welcome the ever present oversight of the regulatory state. Here's an idea : if you think a drug is too dangerous, how about you just don't take it? When did we all become so incompetent that we require the guidance of bureaucrats to control our treatment options? And what of those who languish needlessly while some blithering bureaucrat decides whether or not medicine can go to market?

It takes an especially shallow view of other people (or an excessively generous perspective on one's own wisdom) to assume that you know better than a stranger how they should live their life.  That anyone could know better than anyone else how that person should conduct their affairs and manage their health. The truth is we are all profoundly different people with disparate ends and varied means. It is nothing short of hubris to imagine that without the benefit of having lived a person's life in it's totality that you are better informed on their decisions than they themselves are. Instead of dictating to others, or having the state do so by proxy, why don't we just all live our own lives, mind our own business and let others go about theirs?

To be sure drugs can be extremely dangerous. They can also be rather benign, like caffeine. Either way the decision on whether or not to take a drug should be up to an individual, ideally with the aid of a physician or some other expert. What we don't need is to insert an officious and narrow minded bureaucracy into the process. There is a dangerous incentive in the regulatory process, whereby if a drug is released and people die then heads will roll and the bureaucrat who rejected the drug is liable to lose their job. On the other hand, if a drug is not released, which would have saved people, then nobody is really any the wiser. The people best suited to weigh the risks and benefits of a particular drug are the individual at risk and the physician who is treating them not some far removed central planner. What we need to do is scrap the regulatory process altogether. It's unfortunate that when considering this problem people seem to only consider the risk of a dangerous drug being brought to market but not the equally appreciable risk of life saving medicine being delayed or denied entirely.

LOTR : the return of the king

One message of Return of the King with which surely libertarians can relate is the importance of courage in the face of overwhelming opposition.  Even when it seems as if Aragorn, the true king of Gondor, has abandoned the fight and defeat is certain Theodin, King of Rohan, rides in to battle.  Even when forbidding mountains and an army of ten thousand orcs stands between Frodo and the fires of mount doom he and Samwise proceed valiantly into what appears to be certain doom. And why not? If the cause is noble enough, as surely our struggle for the free society is, then what  choice do you have but to take up arms? So even when every media outlet, political candidate and etatist intellectual espouses the belief that central planning is the only path forward for our society we must not succumb to the temptation of defeatism and withdraw from the struggle.
There is also a certain agreeable strand of feminism in the movie. Instead of asserting that men and women are equal, or if not or should be made to be so, it is precisely Lady Éowyn's femininity that allows her to slay the Witch King of Angmar. The differences between men and women should not be denied but celebrated.
In the siege of Gondor we have at last the good war, the just war, entirely defensive in nature. This is quite different from Western military adventures, which occur not at home but in other nations and are motivated not so much by the necessity of self preservation but by base economic interests and the machinations of the imperialist classes. There are no merchants of death lobbying for wars of aggression in Rohan or Gondor, only brave knights taking up the heroic struggle for the freedom of their people.
While it is tempting to look at the roles of Aragorn and the Stewart of Gondor as a reiteration of the myth of the benevolent despot perhaps there is a more sophisticated interpretation than simply the modern idea that we are always one election away from choosing the right technocrats to command the state apparatus. The kings of middle earth, and indeed the kings of old on actual earth, were not exactly analogous with modern governments. They had nowhere near the powers of coercive taxation, debasement of money or arbitrary regulation which exist today. The omnipotent state is still a relatively recent invention. Libertarians are not anarchists (without rulers) per se, not necessarily opposed to the notion of rulers entirely. Instead we demand that all relationships be voluntary and uncoerced. Why not view the illegitimate rule of Wormtongue in Rohan and the Stewart in Gondor as an involuntary, deceitful relationship between ruler and ruled and contrast with the good, healthy and voluntary rule of the true kings. What is wrong with a king who serves his peoples interests, who does not rule through plunder but instead through voluntary means, fighting personally for their freedom in battle and leading the charge against the forces of evil?
All in all it was an incredible film, with several recurring libertarian themes and aside from that a cinematic masterpiece.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Two Towers

Probably one of the best things about Two Towers is that virtually everyone is armed and all very quick to use their weapons in self defense. Defensive violence is glorious and the movie rightly trumpets it.  One of the central ideas of this movie is the importance of actively resisting evil.  It's not enough to simply withdraw, as the elves did to Valinor or the Rohan did to Helms deep, but instead you must do battle and confront malicious forces wherever they exist. In short tu ne cede malis sed contra audentior ito. Another common theme is as Acton said that "power corrupts". A craven love for the ring turns Smeagol into a deceitful, murderous beast; he becomes obsessed with weilding power and this in turn destroys him.  The movie isn't perfectly anti-authoritarian. The myth of the 'good king' is pervasive. Theodan, King of the Rohan, has his rule subverted by Wormtongue acting at the behest of Sauroman acting at the behest of Sauron but once the spell is broken all is well again in the Kingdom  (well, except for the ever present threat of ramapaging orcs of course). Throughout the movie kings, at least true kings, are seen as a great force battling on the behalf of their people, instead of the exploiters they truly are. Another troubling pro authority message is  Gollum's slave-master relationship with Frodo, which seems to be a positive influence on him. Over all it was a great movie, which stresses the importance of friendship and the ability of small people to effect great change in the world.

Full Privatization of Ontario's Energy Sector a Must

Socialists of all stripes are aghast at the Wynne government's plan to sell off Hydro One Brampton but instead of these tiny, halting steps in the right direction it would be far better to have the totality of the state monopolized energy sector auctioned off to the highest bidder. It is precisely the most important industries, such as power, which must be wrested away from state control post haste. How else but through a freely fluctuating price system realized with the actions of producers and consumers are we to determine which forms of power are most economic? Does anyone really believe that the decisions of bureaucrats and planners can compare with market competition and entrepreneurial activity when it comes to allocating scarce resources efficiently? Can anyone tell me with a straight face that a government monopoly, highly bureaucratic and without competition to keep it in check is going to do a better job than various competing firms on a free market?

So let's not just auction off Hydro One Brampton; let's sell off both Hydro One in it's entirety and Ontario Power Generation as well and get the government out of the electricity game all together. And after you privatize power, don't tax or regulate this industry either. Let a market flourish, free of the burden of taxation and unnecessary regulation. Use the proceeds from this auction to cut taxes and call it a day.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The latest edition of the Planet of the Apes saga finds a group of fledgling survivors grasping at nascent technology left over from before the simian flu wrought it's apocalyptic havoc upon mankind. The flu, conveniently enough, was caused by man's experiments on apes, a not so thinly veiled hat tip to environmentalist and animal rights wackjobs. This was a great movie, which raised interesting questions about the rights of non human life forms, especially those with demonstrated intelligence, and made a righteous condemnation of imperialism and war in general. It unfortunately promoted the great man (or rather, great ape) theory of history, as represented by the benevolent despot Caesar and juxtaposed with the bellicose and illegitimate rule of Koba.  While the movie does portray the human authority figure Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) properly as incompetent and ever eager to succumb to hubris In a neat trick, Koba staged a false flag event in order to provoke the apes to war with the humans. The war is also triggered in part by Dreyfus' efforts to restart the power generator, perhaps a euphemism for the West's current bloody wars for oil in the middle east. All in all a great and exciting picture.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Better Red than Dead

Harper, eager to fulfill his new role as the yapping miniature attack dog of NATO, is pushing through a new round of sanctions on Russia, in an effort to shore up support among Ukranian nationals and national security voters in the upcoming 2015 election.  These new sanctions include travel bans on a few selection individuals, as well as financial prohibitions (which make it difficult for Russian oligarchs to move money around) and restrictions on exporting technology used in Russia's energy sector.  These measures copy those instituted by the E.U. and our American allies.

Instead of falling in line with the Western bloc Canada should eschew imposing sanctions on any nation and instead trade freely with everyone in the world.  The path which Western elites are dragging us down is insanely dangerous.  Provoking war with a nuclear power is not a great idea. Nor can we, who intervene so freely throughout the world, condemn the Russian incursion into the Crimea without being the worst type of hypocrite.  While there is little to laud about Putin or the Russian state in general our foreign policy should be one of strict non intervention and unilateral free trade instead of belligerence, protectionism and bellicosity. Instead of sanctimoniously lecturing the world about how to behave we should seek to end our own military engagements overseas; we should withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan permanently and refrain from sending troops to the middle east or, as the NDP are advocating, to the Central African Republic or anywhere else.  Our military, if we are even to have a standing army, should be a peaceful defensive fighting force stationed within our own borders.

This whole nasty affair with Russia demonstrates the dangers of entangling alliances.  It is time for Canada to pull out NATO and to have a foreign policy determined not by the imperial ambitions of Washington but of a careful assessment of our own national interest along the lines which I have outlined above.  Peace and commerce with all nations, war and entangling alliances with none.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Cancer Ward

People have been rightly rankled by the Prentice governments decision to cancel and / or delay Calgary's proposed cancer center; perhaps if Redford hadn't been wasting all the taxpayer monies on her high flying, sky palace ways there would still be enough in the coffers for this project.  This would never be a problem in a laissez-faire economy.  When you have a market based society the decision as to where resources should be allocated is based on consumer demand.  Unfortunately too much of our money is in the hands of the state, where the consumption decision of bureaucrats, not the needs of the people who created the wealth in the first place, rule the day.

Prentice wasn't in office for more than a few minutes before he proposed crippling the Albertan economy with a progressive income tax.  The reason why this part of the country is so rich is because we're economically free, dummy, and the first thing you want to do in office is destroy that!  We don't need higher taxes and we don't need to copy the beggar provinces out East.  Alberta should play to it's strengths.  Instead of raising taxes, you should lower them.  To find the money for this project try cutting your own bloated salary and the wages of the rest of the bureaucrats in your employ. Privatize! Reduce the size of the state!  Auction off land held by the Province of Alberta.  But alas, Prentice is just a carbon copy of all the other social democratic clowns in this country, and if he is given sufficient free reign then Alberta's heyday of economic prowess will be only a memory.

The real solution is the separation of state and economy.  Instead of quibbling over which technocrat is best suited to run the machinery of the modern state, let's engage in a massive descaling of the role of government in our society.  Let's return to laissez-faire, to free market capitalism, let's privatize health care and let consumers, through the price system and the actions of profit seeking entrepreneurs make the decisions about what is going on in our society.

Friday, December 19, 2014

frack you Gallant

The Province of New Brunswick, caving to First Nation and radical left wing environmentalist groups, is introducing a moratorium on fracking following in the footsteps of New York and Vermont.  While luddites of all stripes have been protesting this new technology and hysteria concerning it is at an all time high, fracking is quickly emerging as a safe and effective means of meeting the world's energy needs. Beyond this temporary ban on the method of natural gas extraction Brian Gallant, Premier of New Brunswick, is also looking to get his grubby little hands on a piece of the pie, and is vowing to tax the process by putting in place a royalty structure. Whatever pleasure the radical left may derive from once again sabotaging the machinery of industry in this nation this move is a slap in the face of the businessmen who have already begun exploration for natural gas and a blow to the already moribund Eastern economy.  Is it any wonder that unemployment in this area is at a whopping 9.3%?

This is just the latest of showdowns between free enterprise and the anti-energy left.  The fundamental premise of the environmentalist movement is that nature is a pristine state and any effort by man to alleviate scarcity through transforming nature to better serve the needs of humanity is perverse and must be opposed.  They are not simply against oil or gas but rather against energy whole cloth; they are opposed to the progress and prosperity of the human race.  Well too bad!  We need the natural gas and the high paying jobs created by the search for and exploitation thereof.  The only bright side here is that the unmitigated greed of the state will no doubt allow for the taming of this resource once Gallant's office are assured they receive their tribute.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The ghost Maynard present

The Keynesian paradigm views the role of the central bank like that of a driver carefully steering a vehicle across a very narrow steep, with the looming abysses of inflation on one hand and unemployment on the other.  Despite the unsound theoretical basis for this view, as well as the economic history which disputes it (stagflation, anyone?) the ghost of Keynes is still alive and well and centrally planning Western economies.  The reason for this is simple; prior to Keynes the role of economists was that of iconoclast, ever smashing the erroneous and self serving post hoc rationalizations of state power.  But armed with the Keynesian paradigm this profession was perverted, no longer at war with Big Brother but now safely in his embrace, serving not to challenge state power but to aggrandize it.  Whereas the classical economists mostly enunciated what the state could not do the new school were filled with ideas about what the state could do; mercantilism revisited.  While their ideas were not true, they were useful to those in power.

The Bank of Canada under the omniscient guidance of Stephen Poloz has maintained a 1% interest rate throughout his term.  This low rate is certain to trigger a future recession.  When the central bank keeps interest rates artificially low (artificial compared to the market rate, which is determined by overall consumer saving vs consumption) this triggers malinvestment in capital goods industries. Entrepreneurs are fooled into believing that consumers time preferences have lengthened.  Resources are erroneously diverted into long term production; enter the boom.  But consumer time preferences have not lengthened and these investments are eventually found to be uneconomic and liquidated; enter the bust.  It is telling that the bust occurs primarily not in consumer goods industries, as is predicted by the 'overproduction view' (a view disproved long ago by Saye's law), but in capital goods industries.  Like a hung over drunk, desperate to escape the consequences of their poor decisions the night before, central banks often prolong artificially low interest rates, perhaps for political considerations (to get past the next election) but the end result is simply a deeper recession when the time for reckoning comes.

So should the Bank of Canada raise interest rates?  I suppose, but far better still to smash the central bank entirely and it's fiat currency, to return to commodity backed currency (or bitcoin!) and allow the market to determine interest rates.  This would end forever the boom bust business cycle (as well as being a powerful check on the imperialist tendencies of the executive branch) and usher into a golden of unprecedented prosperity, the likes of which modern developed nations have never seen.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

and the walls come tumbling down in the city that we love

After five long decades of isolation the embargo imposed upon the Cuban people by Eisenhower and strengthened by many Presidents since is finally being lifted.  We Canadians have been trading with the Cubans throughout the totality of this unpleasant policy (if only because we felt the need to avail ourselves of their wonderfully warm beaches during our long and brutal winters) but it's good to see there has finally been a sensible decision made in Washington. It is clear the sanctions did nothing to destabilize Fidel (in fact they appear to have shored up support for his regime and that of his brother) and they have taken a monstrous toll on the Cuban people, almost as much as the economic system put in place by the island dictator or the political repression of his state.  Perhaps now the Cuban people will have something aside from rice and beans to eat every meal and the women can live comfortably without having to resort to prostitution.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

rob the mob (2014)

Rob the Mob is a dark and depressing film based on the real life story of Bonnie and Clyde-esque Thomas and Rosemarie Uva who, well, robbed the mob.  Littered with gratuitous sex and violence the only two relatable characters are newspaper editor Jerry Cardozo (Ray Romano) and mob boss Big Al (Andy Garcia).  The film from start to finish is filled with coarse language and unjustified aggression.  Whatever happened to the good old days of the Godfather?

let's make draconian reforms to our prison system

Those milquetoast mensheviks are at it again.  This time they want to eliminate even the minor punishment available to prison staff to handle unruly inmates, namely solitary confinement.  But instead of looking for ways to improve the lives of murders and violent thugs, perhaps we should go in a different direction.

There are many in the libertarian movement who join in the social democratic urge to coddle criminals.  Perhaps they buy into this idiot notion that somehow the real blame for criminal activity lies not in the conscious actions of individuals but with society.  Crime is a consequence of poverty or not being hugged enough as a child or racist institutions or whatever.  Poppycock!  Violent criminals are simply people who have chosen force over voluntary interactions and instead of handling them with kid gloves they should be dealt with harshly, with an eye towards restitution for the victims of their actions.

Section 718 of the Canadian Code lays out the varied purposes of sentencing, namely denunciation, deterrence, separating offenders from society, rehabilitation, reparations and to promote a sense of responsibility in offenders.  These goals are unnecessarily broad; instead we should focus on restitution for victims as the goal of our legal system.  Those who can pay sufficient restitution as to appease the victim or their family and as for those who cannot?  Enter the gulag.

Soviet dissidents, some guilty of such inauspicious offenses as prayer in their own homes, were sent to brutal work camps for 10 or 25 year sentences.  There they were given minimal rations and medical attention and subjected to long, brutal labour in the harsh cold.  Of course our gulags should not be filled with people who criticize the government or dare to believe in God but instead with violent criminals, child molesters, rapists and other such scum.  They should be sent to the arctic north to labour under brutal conditions with the proceeds of their internment to be shared between the corporations which oversee this project and the victims of their crimes.  Let us carve out a new future in the north of the backs of those who victimize others.  Instead of comfortable cells with radios, televisions, even video games and computers let them languish in frigid conditions, with minimal rations and nothing but long, brutal days of hard labour to occupy their time.  Let's eliminate the vast stretches of the criminal code which criminalize vice or peaceful market activities but let's give teeth to our legal system so that anyone who thinks about hurting innocent people has a second thought about their activity.

And while we're at it, let's bring back the death penalty.

CETA a mixed bag

While free trade has been a clarion call of libertarians for centuries it's always important to understand that not all which is called free trade is actually free trade.  The libertarian position is clear : unilateral free trade NOW, with all nations.  What we've seen with NAFTA and now CETA is not really free trade but rather managed trade.  Still there are some benefits to treaty and it's incumbent upon us to consider it in it's entirety.

The best thing about this agreement is the widespread reduction in tariffs and easing of quotas with regards to goods coming to and going from our borders.  Lower tariffs mean lower prices for consumers and increased competition for our own domestic industry.  While domestic dairy farmer are concerned about European cheese being made with highly subsidized European milk being sold in Canadian grocery stores if European governments really want to subsidize Canadian dinner tables should we object to their generosity?

Still there are downsides.  The treaty comes with a strengthening of intellectual property (I.P.) rights in Canada.  These grants of monopoly privilege are not so much property rights as a violation thereof which limit competition and innovation.  Imposing patent term restoration will increase the duration which patents are held and granting the right of appeal to patent holders will weaken the notice of compliance granted to generic competition.  Prior to this treaty Canadian courts have held that a notice renders any appeal by the patent holder moot.  This treaty will also extend I.P. rights in plants and seeds enabling corporations to ask courts to seize farm assets and freeze farmer's bank accounts for alleged infringements even before a determination is made before a court.

The investor-state dispute settlement allows companies to sue and receive compensation from our government if regulations or government policies interfere with their profits.  As if the burden to the Canadian taxpayer weren't already high enough!

Over all the treaty is a mixed bag.  Far better would be to simply adopt the libertarian solution of unilateral free trade.  Eliminate quotas and tariffs on all goods coming to our shores and ignore whatever actions are taken by foreign governments to restrict trade; let the world make their own mistakes and focus on what we can control.

something's rotten in Manitoba, Toronto, Edmonton and other jurisdictions which are cracking down on Uber

Despite vows by the Selinger government (Manitoba), the City of Toronto, the City of Edmonton and other jurisdictions to crack down on Uber, the renegade company is making baby steps into the Canadian market much to the horror of medallion owners and the delight of consumers.  The struggle by the daring taxi company to breach this strictly licensed industry demonstrates how far Canada has devolved into a mercantilist economy where tightly controlled economic fiefdoms and not free market competition are the rule of the day; where economic analysis is generally more of a post hoc rationalization for grants of monopoly privilege than a principled examination of marketplaces and their mechanisms.

The two main problems with the taxi industry as it exists presently are that prices are fixed, not freely fluctuating and that licenses are artificially restricted.  The former hurts both both consumers, drivers and owners and the latter hurts consumers and drivers but benefits those who own taxi medallions (owners).  Prices fixed above the market clearing price (the intersection of supply and demand) mean you will have an unsold surplus.  Prices fixed below the market clearing price mean shortages.  The City of Edmonton has attempted to address this somewhat by charging a higher fixed price for rides during peak times on weekends but this is only a tiny step in the right direction; much better would be to allow taxi companies to set their own rates.  A freely fluctuating price system is at the heart of the market economy.  An increase in demand, ceteris paribus (all other things being equal), means a higher price.  This higher price signals to entrepreneurs that resources need to be redirected to this area of the economy.  These smoothly fluctuating prices are what effortlessly enable the economic calculation of the capitalist economy.  Restrictions on price fluctuations will necessarily result in dysfunctional markets.

The restrictions on licensure benefit those lucky enough to own a taxi medallion - a tiny elite group - but harm consumers, who pay higher prices because of this artificial limitation on supply, but also harm drivers who must rent use of the taxi from the license holder.  Better still to do away with the licensing system all together and let anyone who wants to drive a cab, drive a cab, in whatever vehicle they can obtain.  And why not?  Why must we inflict higher prices on taxi consumers - often relatively vulnerable members of our society, like the elderly and the disabled - just to benefit to select few?  So instead of criminalizing Uber we should hail them as the saviors of the taxi market which they are.  Let's deregulate the taxi market and enable freely fluctuating prices and open entrance for anyone willing to drive.

Monday, December 15, 2014

long live the witch; the witch is dead

Oh for the heady days of fall.  The scandal ridden Redford government seemed certain to collapse; the Wild Rose Party had all but officially taken office.  But a season is an eternity in politics and following a crippling electoral sweep during four by-elections and a few high profile defections the Wild Rose Party seems all but finished and the Conservatives seem destined to extend their 43 year reign.  The latest blow to Alberta's official opposition comes in the form of merger talks laced with the threat of four or more defections of Wild Rose MLA's to the Tory caucus.  Like rats scurrying off a sinking ship. These politicians are desperate to hold on to the meager power they have obtained and will do anything necessary to maintain it.

And why not?  Like all mainstream political parties in Canada the differences between Cons and Roses were in terms of rhetoric, not policies.  There is no substantive difference in the attitudes or beliefs of politicians of all stripes.  We are all social democrats now.  All politicians in this country serve themselves first and the state second.  They all believe in government intervention.  What we are offered at the ballot box is not a choice but an echo.  So why not merge these parties and make official what any disinterested observer can readily ascertain - that there is a one party system in Canada and that is the party of state control.

So good riddance to bad rubbish.  Let one more party of mensheviks bite the dust.  Perhaps from it's ashes will rise a new organization, devoted not to principle of personal power but opposed to the state entirely.  A new party, which does not squabble about how best to spend looted tax money but seeks instead to return this treasure to it's rightful owners.  A party based upon sound economic thinking.  A party of laissez-faire, fiscal restraint and social tolerance.  A party of principle and ideology.  A Libertarian Party of Alberta.  And why not?  Here, of all the provinces, the attitudes among the man on the street are most in line with the pro capitalist anti-government thinking of libertarians.  This is, after all, the most economically of all entrants into Confederation.  Surely if we can succeed anywhere it is here.

Perhaps some good will come of this after all

they took our jerbs!

The hysteria surrounding the Temporary Foreign Worker's Program is much ado about nothing.  The panic among unemployed Canadians, spurred on by irresponsible yellow journalism and first class race baiting, is economically unfounded and frankly stupid.  There is no finite supply of jobs and it is well past time we stopped scapegoating newcomers to our shores. Instead of blaming immigrants for our own failings we should recognize that they provide valuable contributions to both the wealth and culture of our nation.  The real problem with this program is it's transient nature.  What we need more than this stop gap is a policy of open borders.

When someone comes here to work this benefits their employer (since why else would they be hired if they were not an asset to the company) and the individual in question who receives an economic opportunity greatly in access of what they would find back home, especially when the immigrant is from the third world.  They must of course purchase food and shelter here to survive and so everyone whom they interact with economically benefits as well.  Many of these workers send money back home, to their desperately poor relatives.  Here we have the best type of foreign aid - directly targeted to families in need where it will do the most good instead of being sent to shore up a corrupt regime, and at no cost to the taxpayer.

There are benefits to immigration beyond those conferred on the economy.  While not all cultures and or the ideas of all societies are equally valid, sameness is boring and it's delightful to encounter those who have different beliefs, attitudes and traditions.  Instead of demanding cultural monotony we should embrace the notion that Canada can be a home to people from around the world with their own distinct attitudes and philosophies.    

There is outrage over the serious unemployment this country faces, and it is a real problem, but the anger is misplaced.  Instead of scapegoating people who come here from different lands to work we should think about repealing government intervention in the labour market.  The minimum wage in particular makes it criminal to hire someone who's skill set and background demands a sub-minimum wage salary.  Repealing the minimum wage would go a long way to curing the endemic problem of people being out of work.  If we eliminated compulsory licensure and restrictions on apprenticeship this would also help ease this issue.  Finally we could drastically reduce government spending and put an end to inflation.  But let's stop blaming people who travel across the world looking for nothing more than an honest day's work and an honest day's pay; they might be a convenient target but the real problem is the state.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Fair Rail for Farmers Act is Unfair

“Anyone who says that economic security is a human right, has been to much babied. While he babbles, other men are risking and losing their lives to protect him. They are fighting the sea, fighting the land, fighting disease and insects and weather and space and time, for him, while he chatters that all men have a right to security and that some pagan god—Society, The State, The Government, The Commune—must give it to them. Let the fighting men stop fighting this inhuman earth for one hour, and he will learn how much security there is.”

Rose Wilder Lane

The arguments for voluntarism, claimed Milton Friedman, are complex whereas the arguments for state action are fairly simple. During 2013-2014 a record wheat crop coupled with a brutal winter caused some challenges for the transport of wheat via rail. These problems were exacerbated by the grain revenue cap which sets a maximum price on some grain transport by rail west of Thunder Bay. In a classic case of intervention begetting intervention the Harper government decided to compound the problem by setting a quota of grain to be shipped every week, some 345,000 metric tonnes (to increase to 465,000 tones in March 22, 2015).  It also requires the railroads to report grain car movements to the "Grain Monitor"; an additional entirely unnecessary cost.  To an etatist the problem and solution must be elegantly simple; there is too much wheat not being moved to port, by golly let's move it to port (or rather, let's use the threat of fines to compel those damn lazy railroadmen to do their jobs)!  But it is incumbent upon us to look a little deeper into this problem and consider both ce qu'on voit et ce qu'on ne voit pas.

Railroads, like any other industry, require the infusion of capital to function competitively. Regulations which limit the profits of an industry can deter capital investment therein.  Instead of imposing further onerous regulations on companies which are already struggling under the weight of unnecessary red tape why not look to how we can deregulate markets? Do we really think that the politicians and bureaucrats in Ottawa know more about how to operate a railroad then the people who have been involved in the railroad business their entire lives and have a financial stake in the success of their company?  Hasn't anyone learned the lesson of the 20th century that command economics is both morally and functionally bankrupt?

While imposing draconian conditions upon CN & CP may be popular with Western farmers they too will suffer in the long run if the government continues it's assault on the free enterprise system.  Who will deliver their crop to Asia when the railroads have atrophied because no one wants to invest in an industry rendered moribund by heavy handed government regulation?  A freely floating price system is critical to the success of a capitalist economy.  When prices go up, this is a signal to entrepreneurs to redirect resources into this segment of the economy.  Price fixing prevents this essential flexibility and can lead to catastrophe.

Instead of agitating for government intervention at the first sign of trouble we should empathize with the plight of railroads beset with bumper crops and harsh conditions on one hand and crippling regulation on the other.  The solution is not for more government involvement here but less, not further regulation but instead we need to deregulate and allow the free and unhampered market to work it's wonder.  Either we progress, towards laissez-faire, or we devolve, towards state control. The choice is up to us.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

no welfare for the merchants of death

In the lead up to the 2015 general election two Conservative Party of Canada bigwigs (Denis Lebel and James Moore, respectively) were proud to crow about the sweetheart deal made between Pratt & Whitney and the Canadian government in the urban voting blocs of Longueuil and Mississauga (Montreal and Toronto).  A Fraser Institute report suggests this now makes 3.6 billion inflation adjusted dollars in "repayable contributions" from the federal government to the aeronautics giant. This subsidy takes the form of an interest free loan which may or may not be repaid depending on the success of the project.  Even if the loan is repaid it is really of no great benefit to the Canadian taxpayer whom the money was extorted from; it is not like they will ever be seeing the money again. Instead it will go to purchase more implements of war from the merchants of death, to hire more
bureaucrats at the competition bureau to wreck havoc on the free enterprise system and to build more public schools in which our children can be indoctrinated into love of and obeisance to the state.

Massive spending projects in major urban areas out east in the lead up to a general election are sadly nothing new to Canadian politics; vote buying is a time honoured tradition in this great nation of ours.  It is certainly unfair that wealth should be redistributed for political purposes but this is the nature of the state; that some should benefit at the expense of others.  So long as an organization in our society with a monopoly on force and the ability to coercively tax exists these sort of incidents will occur.  The taxpayers will suffer because of this deal, not only to the degree which they were taxed in order to finance the loan for the project, but also when they are again forced to purchase the jet engines created.

Instead of increasing military spending it would greatly benefit Canadians if the Harper government drastically reduced expenditures on munitions and radically scaled back the size of our armed forces. Given our close alliance with the hegemony, our substantial natural defenses (the oceans and our geographic isolation) as well as our good terms with Europe there is really no credible threat to our national security.  Instead of inflicting punitive taxes upon the productive economic class in order to subsidize the merchants of death and to increase military spending we should allow workers and businessmen to keep their wealth and reinvest it in the economy or consume it as they please.  This will make our economy stronger and our nation wealthier so that should the unfortunate time ever come when we are called to take up arms to defend our nation we will be able to afford to do so having not already drowned in debt and spent our treasure on buying votes or increasing the wealth of a few politically connected cronies.  We should also open our borders to those who wish to flee their own repressive governments or the brutal conditions of third world countries.  This immigration would be a great boon to the economy but also is critical to our national security in being able to turn out a more sizable defensive fighting force.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Iveson and his merry gang of crooks are at it again

For those of us with an interest in fighting the expanse of the state the world can be an unhappy place. It seems like every story in the newspaper or blurb on the radio contains the details of the demise of our movement.  Taxes and spending are always going up and politicians are constantly encroaching upon the domain of free enterprise.  Still we should not give up hope.  There are many reasons to remain optimistic about the future.  Despite spendthrift politicians and a fawning media there are still a good number of people in this country who believe in liberty and if we are tireless in our opposition to the state we can prevail.

The latest set back to our cause is a whopping 6% property tax increase unanimously approved by Edmonton city council.  While they would like us to believe their hands are tied this is emphatically not the case.  There are any number of ways by which city hall could be reducing the tax burden it's citizens.  Why not go after the bloated salaries and pensions of the bureaucrats employed here?  How about no new rec centers?  How about not engaging in ridiculous boondoggles like the downtown arena?  There is no shortage of positions to be cut amongst the paper pushers at city hall.  Let's look to debt repudiation as well.  While private debt is productive and a valid obligation which must be repaid (failure to do so is essentially theft) public debt can only be repaid through engaging in extortion.  It's not a valid contract but instead a criminal conspiracy to loot the public.  As for the municipal creditors?  Dance with the devil and you might get burned.  Plus it would be a great way to ensure that no one would lend these irresponsible politicians money in the future.

There are either two directions a society can head; towards laissez-faire capitalism or towards central economic planning.  The history of the world speaks to the failures of socialism, so as Edmontonians let's embrace the peaceful social cooperation of the market place and reject state planning and state control.  Let's privatize city operations - and not the faux privatization of outsourcing, not the playing of market which is so popular but actual, honest to goodness privatization, with free competition and no state involvement.  There are no problems so complex that they require the use of initiatory force to solve.

brook no dissent

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.
Adam Smith

Yesterday the British Columbian government pulled it's approval for the proposed Trinity Western University law school, following a decision by the B.C. Law Society to deny accreditation to Trinity graduates.  Economically this move, and the Law Society in general, serves to limit the supply of lawyers to the great benefit of shysters across Canada but to the detriment of joe public. It also serves to legally disenfranchise this segment of society.  The Trinity law school should be allowed to be built and it's lawyers should be allowed to practice but better still would be systemic reform, to wit smashing the compulsory licensure system altogether.

Anyone who thinks that they need an attorney who has gone through the rigorous schooling of the present system would be free to choose only such barristers who are licensed (voluntarily) by an agency which certifies that they have undertaken said education.  But what about those who cannot afford to pay the inflated salary costs of an industry where supply is kept artificially low?  Why should they be denied some legal representation, even if it is from someone who is self taught, a paralegal perhaps?  The less educated and cheaper attorney could still compete by devoting more time to a case, doing more research and consulting with other more experienced lawyers.

Licensure is a scam, an unnecessary evil which protects not consumers but the pocketbooks of accredited professionals; let's end it.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

In defense of the tar sands

Trapped beneath 141,000 square kilometers of boreal forest and muskeg lie large deposits of bitumen, estimated to amount to 168 billion barrels of oil. Over the past few decades the machinery of free enterprise has transformed the area around Fort McMurray into a booming and vibrant economy.  Tens of thousands of people are directly employed by this project and the jobs of over a hundred thousand souls depend on it.  Wages are high, hours are long, paycheques are huge.

The oil extracted from the bitumen is used to vehicles on land, sea and air across the world.  It heats homes and is used in the production of computers, shoes, plastics, synthetic fibers and other vital components of daily life. A lot of the oil in the world is controlled by autocratic regimes who are hostile to the West, such as Venezuela, Russia or the Arab states.  The tar sands project represents an opportunity for Canada and the USA to reduce their dependency on foreign oil and to protect our nations from any sudden gasoline shortages.  It enables us to provide a valuable alternative to our closest and most important ally from the vagaries of trading with your enemies.

There are also tremendous opportunities in the oil sands projects and Alberta in general for newcomers both from out of province and out of country.  The relative economic freedom of this province attracts many who are hungry for labour and success.  Canada is the second most spacious nation in the world with a population less than Tokyo.  There is land here for the living on and we should welcome those who come to join us.  Projects like the tar sands enable newcomers to settle in otherwise unfriendly terrain.  Having a larger population makes us a stronger nation and a lot of the income of these foreign workers goes back home, to desperately poor people in the third world.  This paycheck relief offered to relatives is an incredible form of targeted foreign aid for which the hapless taxpayer need not be extorted.  We should open our doors to those who wish to come here and work and live; instead those who are too lazy or incompetent to make something of themselves scapegoat these hard working migrants.

The project is not without it's detractors.  First they object to the deforestation which preceded it. Where would Europe and North America have been if we had listened to Greenpeace et. al. a thousand years ago and never ripped out all the trees in the first place in order to build our farms, factories and cities?  We wouldn't have a fraction of the global prosperity or population which we have today. It is necessary for humanity to transform the environment in which we live from it's natural state to one which can better serve the needs of sentient human beings.  There may be issues with pollution but these can be handled by a two pronged attack of privatization and a restructuring of how the courts handle the issue.  All of the lakes and rivers, all land in general should be privatized. The reason why lakes in the past have become polluted is because they are owned by "us" that is to say by the state.  It is the tragedy of the commons.  When something is owned by everyone it is cared for by no one.  Were we to have private property in lakes then the owner of the lakes would agitate to prevent it from being polluted.  Were the offending company to own the lake then the owner of the lake downstream would sue to ensure their water was not contaminated by the offender.  And pollution must be viewed legally as the act of aggression it is, subject to criminal sanction and restitution.

Instead of slandering the great work and incredible risk taken to extract the bitumen and process the crude we should celebrate all that has been done on our behalf by the brave men and women who dared to risk the complacency of ordinary life for the uncertain reward of a modern day frontier.  The world needs oil.  The world needs Fort McMurray.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

any price is a fair price

At the beginning of the 14th century the great Thomas Aquinas in a letter to Jacopo da Viterbo (later archbishop of Naples) described the common market price as the "just price".  Unfortunately this early insight seems to have dropped through the Orwellian memory hole as per the recent Harper government pledge to crack down on 'price gouging'.  Prompting the crusaders over at the competition bureau to launch an inquisition into the activities of the poor saps who are foolish enough to engage in entrepreneurial activity in this country will do nothing to bring down the prices paid by Canadian consumers.  The price of a homogenous good is determined not by the callousness or greed of businessmen but rather by the intersection of supply and demand. What will occur is that some businessmen will be capriciously targeted and have to go through the rigmarole of justifying their prices and potentially facing sanction by the state if their explanations are deemed unsatisfactory.

If it is true that prices are higher in Canada (the question is entirely irrelevant, since as old Tommy boy said, any price is a fair price) then perhaps we need to look for a different culprit than the much maligned captain of industry.  It's more rational to assume that burden of blame should be placed on the endless red tape, bureaucratic tyranny, crippling regulation and incessant taxation which those who wish to engage in commercial activity in this nation must wade through.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ontario pension plan? No thanks Wynne

As if the CPP wasn't bad enough, Wynne and her merry gang of mensheviks have decided to inflict a more localized ponzi scheme on the unsuspecting fools in Ontario. It's really hubris for anyone to think that they know how other people should be spending their money.  It's important to understand that the value scales, the wants and needs of every person in society differ.  Some have a high time preference, which is to say they value the immediate more than the future, whereas some people are savers, even saving beyond their lifetime to ensure that their children are taken care of.  It really isn't the purview of the discipline of economics to comment on whether someone should save or consume.  That's up to some other field of scientific knowledge.  Economics can tell us if our given means are suitable to accomplish a given ends but has nothing to say about the goal in question.  What if this person who the new pension plan forces to save has a terminal illness?  Or is buried in credit card debt?  Or just generally buried in expenses and needs to buy clothing, food or whatever for themselves and their families?  Of course saving is a healthy, even vital part of the market economy but that doesn't mean that people should be forced to do it.  All interactions in life should be voluntary.  It is wrong to force someone to save some aspect of their income they would want to consume and it is hubris to imagine that we know better than someone else how they should live their life.

Isn't it ironic that a government which is almost 300 billion in debt is telling, nay forcing, the rest of us to save more?  Physician heal thyself.  Perhaps it's true and the money will be handled by a new arms length agency - three cheers for a further extension of government bureaucracy - but more likely the funds raised by the new payroll tax will be raided and replaced by a bunch of worthless IOUs.  Will people of my generation ever actually see the money they are forced to contribute?  It seems doubtful.  And won't this, like the CPP,

It's entirely possible that there is a 'crisis of under saving' occurring in Ontario or in Canada in general but if this is true then the way to address it is through alleviating the burden of confiscatory tax rates and putting an end to the inflation that has plagued our nation for so long, not through the creation of a new government bureaucracy.

Monday, December 8, 2014


Nightcrawler follows the meteoric rags to riches rise of Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), a crime scene paparazzi or 'nightcrawler'.  Our protagonist is dark and macabre, callously manipulating and exploiting everyone around him in pursuit of his own selfish goals and desires.  His closest friend and business colleague, a male prostitute turned intern in Jake's fledgling business, is sacrificed on the altar of profit and prudence and his love interest is savagely entrapped into a sexual relationship through blackmail.

It was an incredible picture.  The dialogue is intelligent and humorous.  Much of Lou's speech mimics the terminology of the modern business world.  This veiled criticism of modern developed capitalism completely misses the mark.  The market is not a cruel, savage place where only ruthless individuals who harm everyone around them succeed but is instead peaceful social cooperation where people make mutually beneficial trades.  It is the state, not the market, which can be described as the rule of the jungle in which some benefit only at the expense of others.  The central issue with the media in today's society, that it acts as a megaphone for the voices of power, is not really discussed at all in this film.

Inevitably and predictably our hero crosses the line between observing the news and creating it although at least the producers of this film spared us the gory and trite path of putting Gyllenhaal on a wanton crime spree.  Instead he subtly manipulates events and benefits from the resulting chaos and carnage.   Powerful questions are raised about the line between an individual's right to privacy and the role the media plays in covering events, as well as ethical questions concerning news coverage.  The film was exciting and fresh, with virtuoso performances by Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed (Lou Bloom's idiot sidekick, Rick).

Friday, December 5, 2014

smash the senate

Must Canadians really finance the 'house of sober second thought'?  And really, what is the purpose of the senate aside from a partisan double stamp of their parties plans and priorities?  Their have been calls for an elected or democratic senate by some but that thought fills us at the Forum with horror.  Even more election campaigns, eliciting even more donations from special interest groups and a further gouging of the taxpayer by the elected officials to repay said contributions?  Thanks but no thanks.  Why not just shut it down?  The state is a racket and the senate is perhaps the most brazen example of it in action.  So let's strike a blow for joe public and put an end to this ridiculous farce.

Let's stop criminalizing vice already

Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere might be happy. - H. L. Mencken
It was only a year ago, back in the heady days of last December when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down our nation's laws against prostitution.  Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin, writing for a unanimous court said “The prohibitions all heighten the risks. . . . They do not merely impose conditions on how prostitutes operate. They go a critical step further, by imposing dangerous conditions on prostitution; they prevent people engaged in a risky – but legal – activity from taking steps to protect themselves from the risks.”  It was a great moment for anyone concerned about the health and safety of sex workers.  Unfortunately that was then and this is now.  Tomorrow Canada's new anti-prostitution laws go into effect and the veil of secrecy associated with black market activities will once again be wrapped around practitioners of the world's oldest profession.  Driven underground once again by the official condemnation of the state sex workers will be needlessly placed at risk of assault, rape or murder.

Have we all forgotten about Robert Pickton?  The criminalization of the purchasing of sex and other related activities needlessly endangers the women who have undertaken this profession.  Instead of the pointless moralizing of criminalizing vice we should recognize that the purpose of law is not to perfect us all morally but to preserve and defend property rights and to enable redress for the victims of aggression.   The provision against exploitation and advertising will militate against the formation of safe enterprises where prostitutes can ply their trade in relative safety, such as a brothel, and force these women into less safe situations.

If a woman decides to make a living selling her body that is her decision.  How other people choose to live their lives is up to them.  It's not our place to condemn or ostracize people who make choices concerning their own body or their own property which we might not agree with and it is certainly not the providence of our legal system to reform these errant souls.  If only the moral busybodies in Ottawa could learn to mind their own business and stop lecturing the rest of us about how to conduct ours.

hold the applause

Between the recent launch of NASA's Orion spacecraft aimed at the eventual human exploration of Mars and the ESA's historical Rosetta mission which saw spacecraft landing on the surface of a comet space exploration has been in vogue recently.  Surely here at last is a justification for the leviathan's rule!  And we here at The Forum will confess to a certain romantic attachment to the notion of the exploration of outer space.  It is scarcely possible to conceive of a nobler, more exciting task than than to venture forth into the heavens, boldly going where no man has gone before.  And yet, some niggling doubts must remain in the back of our minds.  How is it that on a planet suffering from such abject scarcity that we have the resources to spend trillions to place man and machine into space?  And is it really just to use coercive taxation as a means of funding these wild eyed plans?  What if the hapless taxpayer who is forced to fund these programs really doesn't give a damn about what is going on beyond the stratosphere.  Necessarily government spending does not reflect the goals and the priorities on the people who's money is extorted but is instead the consumptive decisions of bureaucrats.

Instead of applauding these missions and the rest conducted by government space agencies around the world we, as libertarians, should denounce them for what they are - the systematic plundering of the productive class.  If space is to be explored or perhaps even one day colonized then let it be done voluntarily with the consent of the people who fund it instead of through the evil machinery of the state.

Carter Replaces Hagel as Defense Secretary

In an early Christmas present to war mongers on both sides of the aisle in Washington Obama has replaced outgoing defense chief Chuck Hagel with the hawkish Ashton Carter who has lauded the policy of preemptive force and advocated for military strikes on North Korea and Iran.  Obama's choice of Carter re-emphasizes what no one could have rationally began to question in the first place, that the War Party is still very much in control of American foreign policy.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Maze Runner

The Maze Runner was worth the price of admission, if only just barely.  There were some libertarian moments; the capricious and superstitious nature of the laws imposed on their rag tag little society by it's fledgling state as personified by the character Gally, for example, or the insurrection against his insane rule but over all the film failed to impress.  For one thing it was a total sausage fest (Kaya Scodelario's brief but satisfying performance notwithstanding) and for another the ending was perfect until they ruined it by setting up the sequel.  And the rationalization for the distopian world our protagonist and his fellow lab rats found themselves in was both flimsy and disturbing.  The message shifted from one of gallant struggle against a cruel and invisible oppressor to 'sometimes to make an omelette you need to break some eggs'.  Truly, by the end, we had begun to love big sister (Patricia Clarkson, who does a good job for the thirty seconds she is in the film).  And what of the messianic portrayal of Thomas (Dylan O'Brien), here at last to save first the stranded boys and then humanity itself?  Could one think of a more simplistic narrative?  Still, over all the movie was enjoyable.  It was suspenseful, interesting and unpretentious but picture of the year it was not.

gay straight alliances

The opinion molding class is up in arms again over the issue of gay-straight alliances in Albertan public schools.  From the outrage expressed in media outlets and by pandering politicians let there be no doubt that the social democratic mob is just as firmly in power here in the West as they are in the rest of Canada.  Well let me be the first to say it - there is no such thing as gay rights.  There is no such thing as women's rights, gay rights, straight rights, night person rights or any other such nonsense.  Even human rights are a concoction designed not to protect individuals but to exploit them.  A right to health care, for example, means the right to force someone else to pay for your health care.  The only rights that truly exist are property rights.  You don't have a right to free speech but you do have a right to use your property, including your body, in any manner you please including speaking out on topics that concern you.  Gay people as individuals have rights not because of their sexual orientation but because they are sentient beings capable of understanding the world in which they exist.

Back to the issue of gay-straight alliances in public schools.  Opinions on how these institutions should be ran are irrelevant.  The while thing is a criminal enterprise.  An elaborate racket.  Schools are funded through taxation, which is revenue the state obtains through coercion.  Since it is malum in se and should be malum prohibitum as well to run an extortion racket, even if you are the organization known as the state, then it becomes mere sophistry to discuss the details of how such a racket should be ran.  One does not pontificate on the finer points of executing a home invasion but instead one condemns the enterprise and seeks to punish the perpetrators of it.  What we should do instead is smash the public education racket, auction off all the publicly owned schools and allow the market and individuals to educate their children.  This would be a far more ethical way of educating youngsters and the quality of their tutelage would be incomparably better.  Plus all those bureaucrats at the school boards would no longer receive their undeserved bloated salaries and be forced to go forth into the world to find real work serving consumers (though what marketable skills they've acquired sitting on their fat asses is certainly beyond this impartial observer).

From my cold dead hands, Mulcair

The gun grabbing elites are at it again.  The latest call for registration - just one more incremental step towards the eventual goal of total confiscation - comes from the NDP leader Tommy Mulcair (never one to let the memory of a good tragedy go to waste) on the anniversary of the Ecole Polytechnique massacre.  Can Quebec finally separate, please, and take all the pro gun control socialists they love so much with them to form their own people's republic, replete with snow and maple syrup?

Whatever traction gun control may have in the major urban voting blocks of Ontario and Quebec, it's bad policy.  It's cruel to leave law abiding citizens at the mercy of thugs.  While the milquetoasts of Toronto and Montreal may prefer to cower in fear and wait for the police to arrive in the event of a home invasion there are some of us in this world who would rather defend ourselves or our families - with lethal force, if necessary - if we are attacked.  There is still a certain frontier spirit in this country which has not been crushed by the social conditioning of compulsory education.  There are still some among us that recognize we live in what can be a cruel and inhospitable world against which we must wrangle our very existence.

There are many reasons to own guns.  Hunting is a fun and exciting sport; as is target practice.  Being able to defend yourself against an aggressor is a critical element of a free society.  Your rights only exist to the degree which you can enforce them.  And what if Mulcair and the rest of the commies in the body politic get their way and we do see the nationalization of heavy industry and the establishment of total state domination over society?  Interventionism is unstable.  Society must either progress towards capitalism or devolve towards state control.  Collectivism inevitably breeds tyranny.  And how are we expected to overthrow our tyrannical overlords without weapons?  Which I suppose is kind of his point.  Or how can we fight off the ominous Russian invasion (ha!) the media has been alluding to as of late.  Of course the cold war currently being pimped by the political elite is fictitious (as are most of the crises which leave us clamorous for the salvation of our political masters) but what if Canada were to be invaded by a foreign conqueror?  Shouldn't we all be armed to the teeth to defend our home and native land?

Efforts to regulate, register or seize weapons must be resisted by the Canadian public and not in any lackluster manner either.  Give the police or politicians an inch and they will take a mile.  Instead of a simple reactionary outcry against the latest incremental measure we need concerted, dedicated effort to repeal present gun control legislation and to secure once and for all the right of our countrymen to keep and bear arms.

The Tory Plan to Fight Gridlock

        The latest 'Tory Plan to Fight Gridlock' is typical of the much beloved social democratic approach to problem solving in Ontario.  There are committees to be formed, fines to be levied, tax dollars to be spent and bureaucrats to be hired.    There is so much to be done and so little time!  You can be certain this call to action will do absolutely everything under the sun aside from actually solving the issue of congestion.  The one great idea that came out of the mayor's press conference was that notion that Tory should "chip in and drive a tow truck himself".  Great idea Tory!  Why don't you start towing cars for a living and leave the rest of us alone for a while?

        Tory seems to think the problem is people "sitting in the middle of an intersection blocking traffic" and that a crack down by parking enforcement will help solve it.   As if us urban bumpkins have nothing better to do with our days than tie up crucial intersections while we twiddle our thumbs and only the benevolent intervention of our saintly government masters could save the day.  Wouldn't adding the burden of additional vehicles (in this case, parking enforcement agents) to an area already struggling from too many cars and too few roads only exacerbate the problem?  While this suggested sweep by the vehicular gendarmes will not do anything to lessen the struggle of drivers stuck during rush hour it will no doubt extort some additional funds for the city's coffers from hapless motorists, which is really the point.  And how exactly is business going to get done in the city of Toronto if every delivery truck which dares to go about their work during rush hour ends up impounded?  Why is the solution of our omniscient central planners to a shortage always to extol consumers to 'use less'?  The proposed Tory crackdown is either simply idle talk, in which case it is annoying but useless, or a dangerous threat to the economic livelihood of the metropolis.  Scapegoat people caught in traffic accidents or delivery drivers if you will but this problem is systemic not the fault of a few poor saps going about their day.

        Of course fines aren't the totality or the mayor's plan.  He's also going to kick construction into over drive (what problem can't be solved by spending more of the taxpayer's money, amirite Johnny boy?) and there's his nifty 'traffic control room' with live feeds of all the major arterial routes on a fancy control panel, behind which, presumably, Tory sits, clad only in a latex suit and cape emblazoned with a giant T, ready to dash off to the helipad on a moments notice and personally fly to the rescue of stranded motorists.  As if we weren't spied on enough already by the state.  No word yet on how much the city paid for all this fancy razzle dazzle technology, but hey, it's not his money he's spending, so who cares?  There's also the vague promise of 'doing a better job' on the timing of construction; truly Tory elevates Monday morning quarterbacking to a fine art.  Rest easy, good citizens, the one true king is here to personally oversee all the critical committees, your problems have been solved.

          Is congestion simply one of those inevitable facts of life like death and taxes?  Why do we never see shortages of say, j-cloths or television sets, yet we are constantly running out of health care or space for vehicles to travel on during peak times?  The answer is in the price charged to the end user.  On the market, if the demand for a good skyrockets and the supply stays stagnant then the price will go up until this whole process levels off and you reach a steady equilibrium.  There are no shortages.  These new higher prices also send a signal to entrepreneurs that consumers want more of a good or service and that there are profits to be made in supplying it.  Unfortunately we do not have a market in roads; what we have is road socialism.  Roads are supplied by the state and paid for by the taxpayer.  The cost to the end user is not zero because of the gasoline tax but this amount charged is arbitrary, determined by bureaucrats and politicians and not reflective of market processes.

        The solution to congestion - not a bunch of rigmarole, make work projects and fines inflicted upon the unwitting citizenry - but a real, honest to goodness solution is to simply privatize the roads.  Not the sort of 'faux privatization' talked about in newspaper outlets where a city or province outsources a task to a company (this isn't privatization at all but simply another flavour of socialism) but simply allowing private individuals and businesses to own and operate roads and to collect whatever tolls they please for their use.  Inevitably if a road company were faced with excessive demand during peak times then they would simply continue to increase their price until it leveled off and motorists could freely travel without the aggravation of bumper to bumper gridlock.  And eliminating the dread traffic jam would hardly be the only benefit of this proposal.  Road companies could advertise on the basis of safety and they would have an incentive to innovate in this regard as well.  Exactly how many roads SHOULD we have?  Without a price system there is really no way to determine whether we have too many, too few or just enough roads.  We're left with the - at best - educated guess of some plodding government official, a poor substitute for the profit and loss mechanism of capitalism.

        Perhaps some day in the future the flying cars promised to us by the creators of the Jetson's will arrive and we can leave the terrestrial problem of gridlock behind.  Until that day arrives let's do the sensible thing and de-socialize roads and highways.