Monday, December 28, 2015

open borders not foreign aid

In 2012 the Canadian government spent 5.6 billion dollars on foreign aid, and given that our new Prime Minister has already pledged billions more to help third world nations fight climate change we can only expect this number to increase. These funds are mostly directed towards local CIDA employees, businesses and NGOs. There is no question that we have a moral obligation towards those who live in the third world, but is this band-aid solution really the best we can do?

There is another alternative, one which would not simply help a few people living in poverty get through another day, but which has the power to uplift billions out of poverty and benefit our nation at the same time. Canada should adopt a policy of open borders. This would simultaneously allow all of those who moved here enjoy a higher standard of living, which would in turn enable them to bring and support their families and friends. This massive increase in population would be a boon to our economy and these newcomers would be able send money back home to their families. Instead of forcing taxpayers to finance foreign aid schemes, why not simply let individuals who want to come here and send their own wages home, do so?

There really is no limit on how many people our society can absorb. Housing is flexible. No doubt initially, immigrants might have to pile a dozen into an apartment, but as they all found jobs this would normalize and the resultant increased demand would stimulate construction and over time balance things out. By allowing tens of millions of individuals suffering under the yoke of tyrannical governments and the oppressive poverty ubiquitous throughout the developing world we can transform their lives, and all without slipping our hands into the pockets of the working poor. Canada has the second largest land mass of any country in the world with a population of a very large metropolitan area. We have the room and people out there are suffering.  Why not let them in?  Why not turn our entire country into a safe space for those who wish simply to be left alone and to live in peace?

If we couple this program with a liberalizing of the economy, we could also help to transform the third world.  It is no coincidence that some nations are rich and some are poor. The deciding factor in the growth of the wealth of a nation is the degree of economic freedom which exists. By coupling an aggressive program of laissez-faire with a permissive immigration policy we would not only see phenomenal economic growth here at home we would also inspire the future leaders of third world nations to copy us and promote a free society in their homelands.  Ideals ultimately determine the course of history so it is incumbent upon us to advocate for the right ones.

Of course there are risks to immigration, as there are to anything.  Some who come might be criminals, and they would need to be deported and banned from ever re-entering our country. We should screen for disease, and cooperate with foreign governments or other organizations to try to keep out terrorists. But these risks are minor and functioning society need not fear newcomers.

Foreign aid is a stop gap measure. Instead of bailing out the boat, let's fix the damn hole, and bring on the immigrants.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

call off the lynch mob

There is no question that police brutality is a serious problem in North America.  In 2014, Eric Garner was choked to death by cops in New York city.  His crime?  Selling loose smokes.  Just recently in South Carolina people across the world were outraged when a teenage girl was body slammed by a police resource officer for not giving up her phone. The police are militarized, hopped up on steroids and able to literally get away with murder. But the shooting of Sammy Yatim was not an example of such.

Yatim, who masturbated on a street car while threatening to kill young girls met his fatal end as he walked, purposefully, knife extended, towards the officers who were called to deal with him. The threat he posed to the lives of the cops was palpable.  He had a weapon, he was completely out of control and he was moving deliberately towards them.  This is a textbook example of when force is justified in self defense.  Unfortunately social democrats don't like to attribute the blame for criminality to the criminal. Instead, they blame society or capitalism or inequality and they whine about the rights of murderers and rapists while ignoring their victims. And so, instead of focusing on the fact that Sammy Yatim was psychotic and quite likely to kill, they have decided to lynch Const. James Forcillo.  For doing his job. For sticking up for the innocent people on that bus.  For trying to keep us safe from criminals.

This wasn't an ambiguous situation.  There was a lethal threat and the police acted to defend themselves. This wasn't police brutality.  It was self preservation. The fact that Forcillo has gone to trial at all is insane. But to charge him with second degree murder? That is nothing more than a public lynching to appease the mob's distorted opinion of justice. This whole trial is a farce; Yatim committed suicide by cop and has only himself to blame.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

no truce yet in drug war

Despite newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau's promise to legalize marijuana there have been few if any indications that the war on drugs is slowing down.  According to Statistics Canada police have been ramping up efforts to target drug users at the expense of focusing on bringing more heinous criminals to justice. The vast majority of these cases are addicts or low level addict traffickers. To the Canadian legal system's credit, the typical sentence for simple drug possession, even in the case of hard drugs such as heroin or cocaine, is a fine or a very brief gaol sentence. Trafficking in these forbidden substances, on the other hand, will usually (but not always) result in a prison (2+ year) term. Even marijuana cultivation can land you in substantial criminal trouble if the operation is deemed to be commercial in scope.

One disturbing trend in 2015 has been the rise of fentanyl, an extremely toxic opiod. In Alberta 213 people have overdosed on this drug so far this year.  Overdoses are a byproduct of prohibition. Illegal drugs become extremely high priced on the black market, since the supply is kept artificially limited by police seizures and the fact that prohibition militates against the inclusion of large scale enterprise in production. Demand, on the other hand, is as strong as ever (it helps that the product is highly addictive and thus the demand is inelastic). Since the drug is so expensive, and the type of people who are attracted to the drug trade are often unscrupulous (to put it mildly), almost invariably the drugs are cut with some inexpensive (and potentially toxic) agent. So an addict gets used to using a certain amount of a drug to get the high they desire and when they stumble upon some less cut product they use their typical amount and overdose. Drug addiction is a social and medical problem and should be treated like one.  Were drugs legalized, you would no longer have this issue of uncertain quality. Further, if we eliminate the criminal stigma attached to drug use it would be far easier to get addicts the medical or psychological help they so clearly need. And if the supply of drugs were not artificially reduced by prohibition, the cost would be much lesser as well, meaning that addicts may not resort to anti-social behaviour such as robbery in order to finance their addiction. If a crack habit costs only $5 a day instead of $500, then they won't need to rob or whore to finance it. Probably most crackheads don't want to rob, since it is fairly dangerous and could lead to a prison sentence; they just really want crack.

Police resources are scarce.  Instead of fighting a no win war on drugs they should be focused on protecting property rights and bringing actual criminals to justice. The purpose of law is not to perfect us or save us from ourselves; it is to protect property rights and to address aggression. The war on drugs needs to end.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

on ISIS and the middle east, is there a third way?

The debate over Canada's role in the middle east most specifically with regards to combating ISIS seems to be narrowly defined.  On the one hand, you have the conservative position, which is that Canada should continue fighting ISIS.  On the other hand, you have the social democratic position, as enunciated by Mulcair and Trudeau, which is that Canada should continue fighting ISIS but not quite as directly.  Instead of bombing directly, we'll send money and train troops.  There isn't even a hint among the establishment political parties or their lapdogs in the media that there is a third option, specifically non intervention.

Which is curious, really, when you consider how terribly Western interventions in the middle east have worked out.  It was after all, the coup in Iran in 1953 which Washington carried out at the behest of British Petroleum that led eventually to the Khomeini revolution. And let's not forget that Al-Qaeda before it was Al-Qaeda was called the Muhjadeen and received funding and training from the CIA to fight off the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. The invasion of Iraq and the covert actions in Syria produced cumulatively over a million innocent casualties, but also paved the way for the rise of ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Virtually every foreign intervention in the middle east has resulted in blowback and inculcated hatred for the west. So why then is there not even a whisper in the press that perhaps we should consult the history books before rushing headlong once again into disaster?

The phenomenon of imperialism has been too brusquely treated by the social sciences.  One possible explanation advanced by Schumpeter, who conducted a survey of this phenomenon beginning in antiquity 'Imperialism', was simply that the weight of the military class carries the nation to war on it's own account. Whatever the cause it is important to consider the consequences that intervention has had in the past when analyzing the potential fall out from present day policy.

The foreign policy which the Canadian government should adopt is one of non intervention. It is not our role to reshape the world. We should not succumb to the hubris of Wilsonian imperialism; surely enough innocents have died at the hands of Western intervention in the middle east. Instead of bombing Syria and Iraq or funding and training a hated Vichy government we need to adopt a hands off policy and accept the limitations of our power. What hasn't worked in the past is not likely to work in the present.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

we'll always have paris



One of the first things on newly elected Prime Minister Trudeau's agenda is the U.N. Paris summit on climate change.  And why not take an opportunity for a first class all expenses paid trip to France's historic capital while simultaneously flexing your environmental bonfides? The first rule of being a member of Canada's elite political class is 'get while the getting is good'. In an example of unparalleled magnanimity the Prime Minister-elect has also offered to bring along his erstwhile menshevick allies including American born Green Party leader Elizabeth May.  And why not?  It's all on the public dime, so sky is the limit.

The media has been reluctant to point out the brazen hypocrisy of the massive carbon footprint associated with this epic summit but it is par for the course for celebrities and politicians who live in massive mansions and spend their time jet setting around the world to decry the fuel consumption of the little people. Couldn't this have all been done over the phone? Assuming of course that 'this' needs to be done at all, which is a very tenuous proposition indeed. This blog will not go as far as some and flatly deny the existence of anthropological climate change.  Man does on a constant basis alter the environment to suit his needs.  This is not only a simple fact of life it is also critical to the amelioration of scarcity and sustaining or increasing an ever larger human population. Surely if murder is evil, then allowing for the flourishing of human life must be good. And if we are opposed to human suffering than we must be in favour of activities which help to eliminate poverty. We will, however, dispute some of the claims advanced by global warming alarmists.  Their doomsday models have been disproved by more accurate temperature measurements.  There has been some modest warming as a result of human activities. But these activities, the development of industry and the consumption of fossil fuels, have also resulted in profound increases in the standards of living for billions of people. As with anything in life we must carefully weigh risk vs reward in order to come to a conclusion about the merits or demerits of a particular activity or policy and industrialization on net is clearly on the side of the angels.

The philosophy of etatism has done quite a lot to aggravate the situation.  The economic system of free market capitalism is endlessly innovative. Firms are always forced to come up with new products or improvements to old products in order to keep up with the competition. Unfortunately government intervention can greatly retard this process.  Corporate income taxes, for example, freeze investment in a particular firm instead of allowing it to move dynamically to other opportunities. Mercantilist grants of monopoly privilege enable established business interests to profit without innovation. Regulations, by defining good X in a certain manner, legally prevent improvements to it. Further the siphoning off of wealth from the private sector slows economic growth and with it technological development. The irony is that all of these policies prevent the development of new technology that would eventually replace fossil fuels. It is important to understand that oil, until recently, was simply gunk in a farmers field that interfered with the growing of crops. The miracle that is capitalism enabled us to harness this energy source, and left alone over time the market will find even better ways to power the global economy. Taxing carbon or instituting a 'cap n' trade' scheme will simply serve to further benefit the state and those who are politically connected while putting additional strain on our already heavily taxed and over regulated private sector.


Friday, October 23, 2015

safety at what cost?

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
H. L. Mencken


To those who view the government as a mostly benevolent, even lovable organization, establishing a national security apparatus to spy on Canadians is no big deal. The state, having access to our private communications through electronic eavesdropping, will lead to greater security. The menace of terrorism must be stamped out! And what better means of detecting and defeating evil doers than through the omniscient eye of a powerful intelligence agency? But to those of us who take a more critical view of the state and it's relationship with society and the individual the development of an Orwellian surveillance state seems like a very dangerous trend.

The state, in the Rothbardian view, is not simply an alternative and equally valid means or organizing society as the market but rather an institution of plunder and exploitation.  It is a means by which some may rule over others. It is an instrument of compulsion, coercion and control. One of the most terrifying things about the Soviet Union was the NKVD, secret police who would arrive in the dead of night and whisk you away to a gulag for a tenner for even the most innocuous of activities (like belonging to a socialist but non bolshevick political party or praying in your home). Under this totalitarian regime there was no privacy and individuals had no rights.  There existed only the right of the state, the right of the powerful to smash the weak. Of course Canada, with it's tradition of individual rights, is very far from a totalitarian society but the erosion of privacy which we have seen in the name of combating the scourge of drugs and now the menace of terrorism is moving us, however half heartedly, in this direction. Instead of waiting until it is too late, why not oppose this trend while it is still in it's infancy?

It's important to contrast both the danger of terrorism with the threat to the destruction of privacy. Exactly how much threat to jihadists really pose to Canadians?  And how does this compare to the potential abuses attendant with expanding the national security state and it's surveillance arm? The proper means of dealing with criminal actions is the legal system. Is not in this case the cure worse than the disease? Don't we have a right to privacy?  A right to live our lives without being constantly under the microscope of some government agent?

The threat of terrorism has been greatly exaggerated as a means of rationalizing an ever more intrusive role for the state in our lives.  The far greater concern is the rise of the national surveillance state and the death of our privacy.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Free Tuition?

Recently Canadian Green Party leader Elizabeth May echoed American Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in calling for an end to tuition. The NDP have taken the more "moderate" position of interest free student loans.  They are not alone, Brazil, Sri Lanka, France, Malta, Germany and Scotland also offer a university education gratis.  Not surprisingly this scheme is supported heavily by both students and faculty but there are some reasons to be skeptical about it.

The Canadian federal government already owes their creditors six hundred billion dollars; how precisely will this bonanza be financed?  Would May sabotage our economy by raising taxes ? Would she cause inflation by printing the money? There is no such thing as a free lunch.  And why should the cost of an education fall on anyone aside from the student who receives it? What our country needs is an aggressive program of tax and spending cuts not massive new entitlement programs.

There are already too many people going to university. Why shouldn't a prospective student have to rationalize their educational plan with a financial institution while applying for a loan? Or, heaven forbid, actually work their way through college. The cheaper something is the more of it will be purchased. Dropping tuition charges to 0 (or some nominal fee for books) will mean that more people leave the work force and enroll in university.  More students will also mean more faculty members as well as support staff, and all of this will exacerbate the burden on the remaining taxpayers. If this program is extended to foreign students then this problem becomes even greater.

There is a finite pool of loanable funds.  When the state guarantees student loans, and makes them accessible to virtually anyone, this lowers the supply of capital available for other financial activities and thus increases the cost of borrowing. Scarce resources are redirected away from where they would have the greatest benefit to consumers towards unnecessary post secondary education. Scarcity exists. It is crucial to consider both the initial impacts of a policy as well as the other unintended consequences, or as Bastiat put it, the seen and the unseen.


Nor are universities entirely benign; much of what is taught, in particular concerning the social sciences, is simply not true. When professors teach that capitalism is evil or that government intervention in the economy is critical to our long term prosperity they are not only incorrect but they are actively making things much worse.  Ideas both good and bad are extremely powerful.  Our beliefs and philosophies shape the future. If every sociology professor resigned tomorrow and began flipping burgers the world would be a much better place.

In the days of old, the the task of rationalizing the state's rule was delegated to the clergy.  Priests would convince the people that the King was anointed by God and must be obeyed; in exchange they enjoyed their share of the royal plunder.  In Oriental Despotism the King actually was God. Of course today we live in an enlightened society and so secular intellectuals have supplanted this role, and like the church of yesteryear they too justify the rule of the state and they too share in the take. They not only have a pecuniary interest in etatist policies, the continuation of the socialist / interventionist regime is critical to their well being as there is little demand for their "talents" on the free market.

Rather than gifting free tuition to all, it would be much better to stop subsidizing education all together. A lot of post secondary education is vital but there will always be a demand for vocational or professional training absent the massive program of subsidization which exists today. By eliminating the subsidies to universities and colleges which exist today the taxpayer will no longer be soaked to pay for utterly unnecessary programs and courses and can be allowed to keep a little more of their hard earned money.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

legalize tax and regulate?

Much has been made of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's promise to legalize marijuana. The exact specifics of his plan have not been laid out.  Politicians are always reluctant to spell out in great detail what they propose since vague statements can be interpreted by the audience to mean whatever they want to them to mean but exact details can provoke opposition. While advocates of legalization have often brought up the refrain of 'legalize, tax and regulate' there is an alternative approach, which is simply to legalize. After all, why is it our purpose to increase state revenues? These revenues will after all be spent on new counterproductive schemes to control the economy and loot us of our hard earned wealth. And why should we subject the blossoming marijuana industry to regulations which, through the imposition of high fixed costs, will cripple the ability of smaller firms to compete with established business interests? What about the alternative - to eliminate the criminal penalties for production, distribution and cultivation but leave the newly created legal market in pot unregulated and untaxed.  Why not have a free market in ganja?

To be certain, marijuana should be legalized. In fact, the Canadian government should declare unconditional surrender in the war on drugs.  All drugs should be legal.  After all, if an individual owns their body, shouldn't they have the right to put in it whatever they please?  And even though drugs may be harmful, hasn't more harm been caused by this war?  What of the damage to our rights against unlawful search and seizure? What about all of the crimes against person and property which have gone unsolved because scarce police resources were squandered in this vain effort to keep addicts from using and dealers from selling? And what about all of the drug dealers languishing in prison and all the prison guards needlessly employed keeping them there?  If there were no war on drugs then their entrepreneurial talents would be redirected towards some other satisfaction of consumer demand. While it is common to demonize these men and women who have dared to defy state edicts, the reality is that drug dealing is a victimless crime.  These people aren't evil; they are simply out to make a buck.  And why not? If anything they are heroic for risking their lives and freedom to bring consumers want they want.

Even in the event that Trudeau is elected and he keeps his promise and legalizes pot, no doubt what would see in the legal marijuana market is what we see in other markets and in the present legal medical marijuana industry.  Regulations that protect a few established firms from competition.  A highly regulated, highly taxed, uncompetitive market for the benefit of a tiny elite.  Thanks but no thanks; better the money go to some kid who is slanging than the crony of a politician.

So absolutely, let's legalize, but instead of of taxing and regulating, why not try freedom?

the inexorable growth of the state

There are different ways to define the government.  Oppenheimer defined the state as the organization of the political means.  There are two ways to obtain wealth.  The first method is to produce or trade for it; this is the economy means.  The second method is to avoid the work of production and simply to take what another has created.  This is the political means.  Weber defined the state as a territorial monopolist of violence.  But another key distinction of government is it's monopoly on arbitrage and decision making.

The problem with the limited government view is that once an organization has been granted a monopoly on arbitrage there is simply no method of checking the inexorable growth of it's power. People love power and will usually decide to aggrandize their own or that of an organization which they are a part of. Which is not to say, for those who oppose the state and it's perpetual violence, that there is no hope. Ideology can trump self interest and we should never neglect the role that ideas play in shaping history. But it is also important to examine whether the particular means of those who are opposed to an ever expanding state are suitable for their ends of limiting government.

The solution, then, is to allow for free competition in arbitrage and judicial decisions. Instead of promoting a state monopoly in justice allow for a market in legal decisions. One common objection to this idea is that it will make justice be for sale to the highest bidder.  But there is little demand for a judge who can be bought; his decisions will not hold much weight with other parties.  The most widely sought after jurists would be those who are the fairest. And while the present legal system is costly, inefficient and painfully slow, there would be incentives in a legal market to provide cost effective and quick solutions. The cost of participating in the state's legal system can be so expensive that vexatious litigants can use the threat thereof against wealthy organizations as a means to a quick payday. And it is not as if judges today are entirely above bribery anyway.

The question of exactly what a form a market in justice might take is an interesting academic exercise but not necessarily one which can be answered. No doubt what would develop over time would be combination of theory and practice as practices which worked were adopted and those which didn't were discarded, much like the tradition of common law itself. As for verdicts being enforced without the state, certain courts may demand assets might be held in escrow for the participation of parties and David Friedman points out the emphasis of the discipline of repeat dealings. An organization which routinely thumbed their nose at legal rulings would suffer a loss of reputation and would lose their ability to settle disputes legally as other organizations would refuse to go to court with them.

The inefficiencies of areas of the economy monopolized by the state have been observed and decried for centuries now.  Isn't it time we let market competition work in one of the most vital areas of human endeavours?

the cleansing of pro palestinian sentiment in the NDP

There is not much to recommend the New Democratic Party.  On economic policy they are dismal. When it comes to advancing the anti-human, anti-prosperity environmentalist agenda, they are second to none.  Their agenda of tax hikes and spending increases demonstrates a level of stupidity which Canada's other major political parties has never quite managed to meet. Even on foreign policy they are far too protectionist and to needlessly eager to involve Canadian soldiers in peace keeping missions.  But at least, AT LEAST!, on the issue of Palestine they had some sense. Alas, under the leadership of Mulcair, this last vestige of opposition to the war party's agenda in the middle east has been swept away.

From Clyde River, to Halifax, from Edmonton to Calgary, the party leadership is cleansing it's slate of any who dared to speak against the Israeli conquest and occupation of Palestine.  This slap in the face to party loyalists is a clear signal that Mulcair as Prime Minister would pose no threat to the military industrial complex or the policy of western imperialism. It's not surprising that the opportunist Mulcair, leading in the polls would and no doubt salivating at the prospect of becoming the next Canadian head of state, would join Trudeau and Harper in kowtowing to Israel; politicians will do or say anything if they think it will help them gain power.

Libertarians in Canada have long since recognized that the differences between establishment political parties are very superficial.  Perhaps it's appropriate that the NDP join the ranks of Canadian Israeli apologists.  There is a broad social democratic consensus on the part of all "right thinking indivduals" on the importance of social spending, dirigism, environmentalism and the silencing of free speech in the name of human rights. Why not extend this hegemonic viewpoint to imperialism and support for Israel? For that matter, why even bother having different political parties at all, if they are all going to advocate for the same policies and ideas?  Why not just merge the NDP, Liberals, Greens and Conservatives into one grand party of social democracy? At least that would be more honest than vigorously promoting the same ideas under different rhetoric to create the illusion of choice.

Friday, August 28, 2015

borrow to build roads?

The latest media buzz surrounding the federal election is Trudeau's pledge to run deficits to finance infrastructure spending, echoing the Wynne plan in Ontario. Those in favour of "road socialism" (which is to say, everybody) really have no answer to this proposal except to echo it enthusiastically. After all once you accept that only the state can or should build bridges, highways etc. then how can you dispute that we need more of them? But do we? How exactly does one determine how much infrastructure should be created and where?

The etatist answer is to relegate this task to some central planning committee or bureaucrat, who will then diligently assess the situation and come up with some answer on the basis of traffic flows, political needs or whatever.  The answer of the anarcho-capitalist is that you should privatize infrastructure and then the price system will reflect consumer demand and direct scarce resources to their most efficacious ends. All goods are in competition with other goods for the requisite capital, labour and land which is required for their production.  More roads becomes less cars of factories or less whatever other good.

The 20th century witnessed the repudiation of the collectivist central planning ideology. The soviet union was perhaps the ultimate embodiment of this belief system and it collapsed because ultimately socialism does not work. But just as the market economy is more suitable for the production of housing, automobiles and food, so it is the best means of providing roads, medicine and security. Indeed, the more vital the industry the more important it is that it be privatized.  Let the state have a monopoly on the sale of alcohol, for example, but let education and health care be supplied by a market.

Given the present paradigm it could very well be that the federal government should spend more money on infrastructure.  The libertarian position on this issue is to be agnostic.  Without a legitimate price structure it's unanswerable.  The best guess of a bureaucrat is a poor substitute for the catallactic expression of consumer demand which would occur in a market. The libertarian position on infrastructure spending is simply to privatize the roads and highways. The advantages would be legion. Higher prices charged during peak times would work to ease the gridlock which plagues major urban areas and competition between road companies would serve to promote innovation in road safety. Infrastructure firms would have an incentive to monitor their roads and ban drunk or careless drivers since safer roads would be a strong advertising point. If a company were as blasé about potholes as municipal governments are they would quickly find consumers choosing to drive on more manicured pavements.

But on the question of whether or not deficits brought upon by an increase in government spending are good for the long term health of the economy there can be no question they are not. Public sector spending and the taxes it entails hamper economic growth. If the deficit is financed through bond sales to the banking system then it is inflationary as well, and this has it's own pernicious effect on the wealth of the nation. During both boom and bust the best approach for the health of the economy is to reduce spending and cut taxes to allow the private sector room to grow.

Anarcho capitalism is impossible?

Anarcho capitalism is impossible?


The anarcho-capitalist viewpoint it simple.  Aggression is wrong.  Theft is wrong.  Property rights exist and the state should not. While the development of this philosophy was thousands of years in the making and traced a tortured route through early Chinese and Greek philosophers, past the early Christian church, onto the liberal reaction against Absolutism in Europe in the 17th and 18th century and finally culminating in the social views of the Austrian school in North America it's basic axioms are elegant in their simplicity.

The anarcho-syndicalist viewpoint is equally simple but mired in contradictions.  Capitalism is evil.  Property is theft.  The state should not exist. But if there is no state then who is to oversee the common store of goods? Who is to determine if one is shirking or doing one's fair share? Necessarily a workers council must control the commonly owned property; behold the state.  If property is theft, what then about personal possessions?  Can I not own a toothbrush of my own?  Clothing of my own? Behold, private property.

Syndicalism also suffers from a calculation deficit.  Without a price system derived from economic calculation, how is it determined how much iron or buttons or widgets are produced? While the solution of state communism to this problem is woefully inadequate, they at least attempt such a solution. Sowell estimates the Soviet Union had 34 million different prices to be set. How can a syndicalist society determine what should be produced without these prices? The price system effortlessly coordinates the activities of people across the globe to produce that which is most urgently desired by consumers. Without it, how are you to prevent or correct a glut in good A or a shortage in good B?

The question of national defense in a society without a state is an important one.  How precisely would the threat of foreign invasion be handled? Perhaps an army would be organized in peacetime on the basis of a charity, with broad reservist ranks and voluntary donations for funding. Perhaps nuclear weaponry would be obtained and used to threaten bellicose neighbours (although given that A's aggression against B does not justify B's aggression against C it is difficult to reconcile a libertarian ideology with the use of a nuke).  Perhaps diplomacy and luck (friendly neighbours) would do the trick, as in the case of say a North American or European anarcho-capitalist nation. Ultimately we can offer only conjecture as to how the demand for national security would work. But an anarcho-capitalist nation would have certain advantages when it came to national defense. A policy of open borders would attract immigrants and a larger population base will allow for a larger army. Laissez-faire has proven historically to lead to rapid capital accumulation and a strong industrial base can be converted into the production of armaments. Free market capitalism contributes to the rapid development of new technology and so, certeris paribus, a libertarian society would be a more advanced society, and this will translate into a more advanced military. One thing can be certain, the rapidly disintegrating economic structure of a anarcho-socialist state would leave such a nation in very poor shape to handle foreign conquerors.

People would still be able to get obscenely rich without a state; the main difference would be that fortunes could only be made by providing consumers with what they most urgently desire. The state is systematic plunder; the market is peaceful social cooperation. While government is justified on the basis of security and protecting private property in reality it is simply a criminal conspiracy on the part of the political class to loot the economic class. Far from protecting private property the state constantly aggresses against it. It would be far easier for the greatest entrepreneurs to accumulate wealth if they did not have to submit constantly to state plunder and jump through bureaucratic hoops. But laissez-faire means prosperity not only for the elite but also for everyone else. Historically societies which have most closely approximated laissez-faire have also seen standards of living rise very quickly for everyone, including the poorest of the poor. Without the state to seize and redistribute a significant portion of the national product there would be a far greater investment in capital.  Without the government's mangling of the money supply it would be far easier for people to save, meaning a greater supply of loanable funds for enterprise to borrow and grow. A sound monetary system would mean an end to the boom-bust business cycle and the constant dislocation brought about by artificial interest rates. Without a bellicose foreign policy there would be more resources for domestic production. Without the regulatory regime free enterprise would more easily flourish. Everything the state does retards innovation, suppresses economic growth and leads to poverty. How can one imagine that the cost of private policing could be anything comparable to the taxes demanded by the modern omnipotent state?

The state, the organization of the political means, is a monster. The state is violence. But abolishing this institution of evil and replacing it with socialism would be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. There have been countless experiments in the 'common store' of goods, all of them ending in abject failure, misery, poverty and tyranny. History is replete with the graves of those who have been victimized by this idea. The state is evil; capitalism is great.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

yo notley : spending cuts the best medicine for ailing albertan economy






The Notley government has decided to delay their budget until the end of October, perhaps to save Mulcair and his merry gang of mensheviks the embarrassment of explaining away her 7 billion dollar shortfall while campaigning on the promise of eliminating the federal deficit. With the energy sector struggling under low oil prices and oil & gas being such an integral part of the economy in Alberta, how should Notley best handle this situation in her inaugural budget?

Spending Cuts

The best thing the government can do when the economy is struggling is cut taxes and cut spending. This gives the private sector, the engine for economic growth, room to recover. Where to cut? Anywhere and everywhere; the deeper and broader the cuts the better. Privatize and downsize. Cut funding to post secondary education, for seniors, cut the salaries and ranks of bureaucrats, cut the oil royalties, auction off parks and stop government advertising.

The deeper the cuts in spending and taxes the more wealth will remain in the private sector.  The market economy is a positive sum game. People only trade when they expect to benefit, and in the vast majority of cases their expectations are realized. While errors can occur on the route between ex ante and ex post, these are rare, the exception not rule. There is an immediate feedback mechanism. If you make a lousy trade you recognize this and don't do it again.  The state, by contrast, is win / lose. One individual or group benefits only to the extent that another suffers. Government is a negative sum game, as state expenditures are not directed towards the highest ranking ends of the people the money is spent on. Instead government spending is the consumptive decisions of bureaucrats.

An additional benefit to deep spending cuts is that the government employees who become unemployed by this course of action would have no recourse but to find more gainful employment in the private sector, switching from burden to benefactor. Coupling the spending cuts with meaningful tax relief would draw in foreign investment, always eager to find a jurisdiction free of confiscator tax rates and would enable consumers to more easily save and invest. Savings are critical for long term economic growth since firms borrow this money to purchase capital.

Unfortunately it is very unlikely that those who are ideologically committed to their dirigiste view of the state are going to find religion sometime during the next two months and Albertans will have to suffer under a status quo budget of profligate government spending and tax hikes.  C'est la vie.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

a bad tax credit

One of the axioms of the libertarian credo is that there is no such thing as a bad tax credit.  While some right wing politicians may talk about 'simplifying the tax code' those of us in the freedom movement understand that this is a euphemism for raising taxes.  The myriad exceptions written in to the code represent successful efforts by some to alleviate their tax burden and we should celebrate this achievement whenever it occurs.  There is no such thing as a bad tax credit; so leave it to Justin Trudeau and his merry gang of interventionists at Trudeau for PM headquarters to devise one.

His latest election promise is a tax credit for teachers worth up to $150 a year.  The problem with this credit is that teachers are net tax recipients.  They can't really be said to pay taxes; this is an accounting fiction. In reality the 'taxes' they pay are simply a reduction in their salary. So a reduction in this reduction is in reality a raise.  But teachers are already paid far too much (if you're using Chrome and can't read this link open it in incognito mode).  Even before counting their extremely generous benefits elementary and secondary school teachers make around $70 an hour. And what do we get for these high salaries? Not very much. Terrible teachers are protected vigorously by their union and bureaucracy and waste in public schools is endemic. The principled libertarian solution is both simple and powerful; smash the public school monopoly and the teachers union. Shut down public education, auction off the schools, use the revenue obtained in this manner to pass broad tax reform and let the free market handle education. Then a school which coddled bad teachers would find itself losing out to those which didn't.  Wasteful bureaucracy would also be weeded out because schools which found ways to eliminate waste and bureaucracy would be able to charge lower prices to consumers beating out their less efficient competitors. And parents who decided to home school would no longer have to subsidize the now non existent pubic school system with their taxes; an important development considering the supremacy of one on one education.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

[x] socialized medicine

A staple of the political discourse in Canada is the constant affirmation of both the quality of our health care system and the importance of preserving it's single payer nature.  The allegedly pro free market conservatives have nearly doubled spending on health care, education and social services in just under a decade and federal health care spending in particular has increased a a rate of 6% per year. Patrick Brown, leader of the Conservative Party of Ontario, has attacked Liberal health care "cuts" and representatives from both the Liberal and New Democratic Parties federally and provincially bray constantly about the necessity of spending more money on health care. Among Canadian politicians there is a virtual unanimity of opinion in favour of socialized medicine. The public is equally enamoured with free health care and expresses their support overwhelming in opinion polls on the subject.

How does the system work?  Individuals who need medical attention go to a doctors office or hospital and the government is billed for the cost of these visits in accordance with an annual price structure determined by the Ministry of Health.  Some physicians are salaried employees of hospitals.

Private health insurance is illegal in Alberta, B.C., Manitoba, Ontario and PEI but was recently legalized in Quebec through a recent court decision. Price controls in Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Ontario are in place forbidding private sector physicians from charging more than the OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) price schedule. Since health insurance is a vital to handling the expense of catastrophic care and a freely fluctuating price system is critical for the health of any market these regulations have served to cripple any affordable private alternative to the public system, which was kind of the point.

Economically the Canadian public system is one of 'market socialism'. The theory of market socialism developed as a response to Mises' problem of economic calculation which argues that rational allocation of scarce resources in capital goods industries is impossible without a price structure derived from legitimate market activities. Why socialists want to play market when you could just have a market is still something of a mystery.

The libertarian alternative would be simply to have a market in health care, likely taking the form of direct payment for routine visits and insurance for catastrophic care. Eliminating compulsory licensure and legalizing health insurance would also be important. The advantage to an actual health care market would be an end to health care rationing and the long waiting lists which plague our system and a substantial reduction in bureaucracy. Competition between firms would help keep prices under control and reduce waste while freely floating prices would help direct scarce resources towards their most efficacious ends. Insurance can also help individuals identify risk, as lifestyle choices such as smoking or obesity lead to higher premiums, and provide a financial incentive to make healthier decisions. End users being charged for doctors visits would also help eliminate patients making a frivolous use of a doctors time and the elimination of compulsory licensure would make it much easier for foreign trained doctors or other non certified individuals (such as a nurse who has been practicing for 20 years) to provide medical care.

Advocates of the current single payer system argue that a market in health care will make things more expensive because of the dread profit motive, that everyone deserves access to care or that everyone deserves equal access to care, that private insurance companies have higher overheads than government insurance and that some people won't be able to afford health insurance.  But the argument against the profit motive is not unique to the health care industry and taken to it's logical conclusion it advocates for complete communism, which historically has not worked out that well, and it's difficult to imagine the private sector ever having as much waste and bureaucracy as a government program.  As for those who cannot afford to pay a doctor or purchase health insurance, presumably they will still be treated at hospitals in the event of an emergency and charitable free clinics can be established for more routine care.

Eliminating the state monopoly on health insurance and developing a free market in medical care is absolutely critical to the well being of our nation.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The righteous struggle for $15 daycare

The black family, which had survived centuries of slavery and discrimination, began rapidly disintegrating in the liberal welfare state that subsidized unwed pregnancy and changed welfare from an emergency rescue to a way of life.
Thomas Sowell


At every step of the way the struggle for so called progressive achievements has been described by it's proponents as a battle between wretched reactionaries and enlightened angels.  This is not simply a question of varying policy proposals or differing means for obtaining a particular end but a struggle of good vs evil. Objections to the ever expanding arsenal of etatist programs are seldom rebutted in a serious manner but simply swept aside, unworthy of serious consideration. Advanced instead are what Sowell calls 'argument without arguments'; repetition becomes reality.

The latest in progressive policy is the right to $15 a day childcare, a la Quebec, advocated by NDP leader and potential Prime Minister Tom Mulcair.  Never mind the fact that our economy is already struggling under the weight of heavy taxes and an oppressive regulatory regime or the trillions of dollars of debt which have been accrued in the name of the long suffering taxpayer. For progressives, any excuse to expand the size and scope of the state will suffice.

One key feature of the social democratic viewpoint is moral relativism.  All cultures, attitudes and philosophies are equal.  They claim there are no absolute truths just varying interpretations of a subjective reality. But this whole point of view is mistaken. Different lifestyles have different results.  Some cultures are barbaric; certain lifestyles should be condemned. And if the truth gets in the way of egalitarianism?  Then so much for the truth. There are reasons why cultural traditions survive through the ages; even if need for these institutions is not articulated or even understood.  These things work. Marriage works. Traditional lifestyles work.  They generate better results, in terms of health or socio-economic success, when contrasted with deviant decisions.

The family unit is the foundation on which society is built. The child's relationship with their parents shapes their worldview and foreshadows future interactions with others. But the welfare state has been an unrepentant attack on the traditional family structure. The economic havoc wrought by confiscatory tax rates, profligate government spending and constant inflation have made the one income family mostly the dream of a bygone era. The essential role of the parent of intellectual and moral instructor has been increasingly replaced by the compulsory public school system and television sets. And by subsidizing daycare one more tenuous link to the traditional family structure and the traditional parent-child relationship will be cut.

By contrast, the Conservative income splitting proposal would at least make it somewhat easier for single income families to exist and help alleviate, to some small degree, the tax burden of a few people. But to progressives, who view all of our income as fundamentally belonging to the state, such an idea was a non starter.  C'est la vie.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

a tale of two candidates

The meteoric rise of Donald Trump is par for the course as far as GOP nominations for presidential candidates are concerned. While there is much to condemn in his platform (a mix of nativism, dirigism, and a celebration of all things Trump) and his evident plan to elevate the imperial presidency to new heights, it has been quite some time since the GOP stage was ever a forum for intelligent debate. Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012 was simply the exception which proved the rule.

Rand Paul, by contrast, is quiet and self effacing; policy oriented and obviously the product of eclectic intellectual influences.  In his speeches and events Paul is a relentless critic of profligate government spending, the regulatory state and bellicose foreign policy. His is a campaign of ideas, unlike Trump's cult of personality, and harkens back to the grand tradition of the Old Right as exemplified by Howard Buffet or Robert Taft. Paul has also been a vocal advocate of civil liberties and of the right to privacy in this age of the blossoming surveillance state.

The Paul campaign is a reminder that in the long run ideas and ideology can trump narrow economic interests and that politics can be elevated to something more than base rent seeking.  Whether or not Paul succeeds in capturing the GOP nomination or the presidency his unabashed advocacy of limited government will no doubt inspire a new generation of activists to reject the status quo of an ever expanding role of the federal government. Unlike conservatives, who are obsessed with the short run and forever fretting over the latest election, libertarians should recognize that the success or failure of our movement depends entirely on our ability to enunciate the importance of freedom and to recruit others to the cause. We can, nay we must succeed and likely we will but victory will be achieved through broad educational efforts both inside and outside of the political process.

Friday, August 21, 2015

What liberty could realize


A key feature of a recession is a lack of growth across the economy as a whole, or more specifically focused in capital good industries, as malinvestments born of artificially low interest rates are liquidated.  A struggling sector, poisoned by the one two punch of falling prices and higher taxes, does not a general economic downturn make.  Moreover the question of whether or not we are in a recession is an academic one, since the prescription for either boom or bust is to cut taxes and spending. But in a broader sense we have become accustomed to permanent recessions, to growth that is anemic even at the best of times.  To understand why we must examine the role of the state in the economy.

The state functions as a parasite.  Resources are siphoned from the productive private sector, where they are engaged in the positive creation of wealth and the satisfaction of consumer demand to the public sector, where they are consumed by net tax recipients and spent on the various activities of government.  Some of these activities, such as policing or the provision of health care are productive. Others, such as the nefarious regulatory state or the bombing of Iraq and Syria are counter productive to the creation of wealth or actively engaged in spreading destruction and death, respectively. But even where money is spent on health care or education, perhaps the most benign examples of state activities, this money is wasted in large part on bureaucracy and other inefficiencies that attend state monopoly. It is axiomatic that a government monopoly will not perform as effectively as market competition can. Nor is there any basis for rational allocation of scarce resources without a price system derived from the activities of interested entrepreneurs and consumers.  There is no way to accurately ape market processes.

Monetary policy, ostensibly the work of benevolent overlords to save our economy from ruin actively creates the boom-bust business cycle and the permanent dislocations it entails. The lifestyles of bureaucrats, politicians and interest groups are financed directly from the wealth extorted from those engaged in it's creation.  The total effect of this system when viewed from the bird's eye is a permanent economic malaise. Were the host (society) cure of it's parasite (the state), were the entire apparatus of taxation, regulation, and inflation miraculously and gloriously smashed then we would see a radically different economic ecosystem.  Double digit growth rates and steady prosperity would be the norm. What could be accomplished within this new (and old) paradigm is truly incredible to consider.

And imagine for a moment, in a Canada without the state and it's economic bungling, what could happen were the flood gates of immigration to be lifted and the curse of conservation to be lifted.  If the prosperity from laissez-faire were directed towards taming our wilds and developing the mass of what is presently crown land into factories and cities and industrial projects.  If hundreds of millions of immigrants and refugees were allowed to flea the oppressive dictators, brutal conflicts and grinding poverty of their homelands and make a new life settling here, helping us conquer the untamed wilds that occupy so much of our country. If we could save the world, one immigrant or refugee at a time.

Monday, August 17, 2015

But who will deliver the mail?


Above, Mayor of Montreal Denis Coderre seen jackhammering the foundation for a community mailbox in protest of Canada Post's recent decision to stop delivering the mail.




The decision to switch from door delivery to community mail boxes has provoked much outrage and fist shaking from members of the public and politicians. NDP Leader and Prime Minister-in-Waiting, Tom Mulcair has made the restoration of door-to-door service a campaign pledge while Trudeau has dutifully pledged to study the issue. But while the debate rages between members of the opinion molding class on what level of mail service the state should offer, perhaps there is another option? Why not consider privatization?

There are presently 6,500 post offices across the country but electronic communications and parcel delivery companies have all but eliminated the need for mail at all. Were Canada Post to cease operations these buildings could be re-purposed to serve the more urgent needs of consumers and the sale of these assets could fetch a tidy sum to be directed towards tax relief. The 6.5 billion pension shortfall would have to be dealt with; perhaps we could mail out a few 'sorry about your luck' cards before shutting it down. Not only would the land and vehicles be put to more productive use but so would the bureaucrats forced to find more productive employment.

Most likely, with fewer resources directed towards postal delivery, the price for flyers and other forms of direct commercial advertising (junk mail) would increase and we would be subjected to less of it or it would become targeted more accurately towards those who wish to receive it. And of course the subsidy for MP mailings would have to go. Even if prices went up on account of privatization (and they could very well) it would mean that the price of other stuff went down as resources were directed towards more urgent areas of consumer demand. Further, competition between firms would work to eliminate inefficiency and waste and keep prices down so even if prices for mail went up as resources were shifted out of that sector they would also be forced down on account of greater efficiency.

Instead of quibbling over exactly how much mail should be delivered and when, let's just privatize Canada Post and be done with it.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"


The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus 



Immigration and immigrants are popular whipping boys for demagogues on both the left and the right. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders dismissed the notion of open borders as Koch brother plot which would impoverish the American people while Donald Trump took a page from Ann Coulter's book and labelled Mexican immigrants broadly as rapists. Here in Canada the ostensibly pro free market think tank The Fraser Institute published a study in 2013 which argued that foreigners cost native born Canadians some twenty billion dollars a year because of disparities between the taxes they pay and the services they consume. 2014 saw hysteria concerning the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) reach record levels as the CBC's yellow journalism incited a xenophobic backlash against foreign worker. The Harper government reacted by sharply curtailing the program.

While newcomers may make an attractive scapegoat for economic ills, real and imagined, immigration is a tremendous boon for both the newcomers and those of us who are already here. The people who leave get the opportunity to find higher paying work, often several times more than what they would get paid at home (the typical salary in Canada is 4x more than what people make in the Phillipine and 130x more than what people are paid in Sierra Leone) and in the case of refugees they escape war, famine or poverty. Almost always the governments they leave behind are even more despotic and kleptocratic than the one we suffer under. In Canada they get an opportunity to experience peace and prosperity. In return, Canadians benefit from a broadened division of labour society and additional opportunities for trade. Unskilled immigrants, especially those suffering from a language barrier, may have an appetite for demanding work with relatively little pay which most Canadians spurn and the income earned by newcomers in turn becomes demand for additional goods and services, creating more jobs. Even unskilled immigrants may be able to provide a new service, such as language tutoring in an obscure language.

The issue of net tax consumption is an important one but the real tax consumers are not immigrants employed in the private sector but politicians and their cronies who have been living high on the hog for quite some time. It is very typical of the establishment to practice a divide and conquer strategy of finding someone to blame so no one looks too closely at the man behind the curtain. The power elite want us to hate and mistrust each other so that while we are fighting they can continue to loot the wealth of the productive economic class and use the machinery of the state to fight pointless wars in the middle east or wreck our economy with high taxes, unnecessary regulation and constant inflation. It is thus vital for them that permanent and visible underclass exists, both so that this class can grow dependent upon the welfare state for survival (and in return off political support at the ballot box for social democratic politicians) and so that class war rhetoric can obfuscate the symbiotic role of rich and poor as well as the parasitic role of the political class upon the whole of society.

Instead of closing off our borders and huddling in fear of immigrants taking our jobs or terrorists blowing us up, we should welcome anyone who wishes to come here and experience freedom and prosperity.









Thursday, July 30, 2015

UCCB

As far as government spending goes (and it goes way, way too far) the UCCB isn't that horrible. It's not good, of course. The bromide 'the ends doesn't justify the means' is nonsensical in it's literal interpretation, however the essence of the thought, that you cannot do good by doing evil, is true. Good things are done with the money the government obtains through taxation (horrible evils are also manifested with this revenue) but they are overshadowed by the manifest injustice of threatening someone with incarceration in order to get their money. So it's great that parents get a nice check, but what about the people who that money was extorted from? How can we simply ignore them from this analysis?

But as far as government spending goes, this isn't that bad. First of all, the money is for many people a functional tax rebate. These people pay taxes, quite a lot of taxes, and so a grant from the state for being a parent simply makes them slightly less of a net taxpayer. And for the lower income parents who did not pay any tax this year, then this is a not so horrible form of welfare for people who are presumably poor. Plus these people, though low income this year, may very well be net taxpayers throughout some larger time frame, and again it functions for them as a tax rebate.

Then again there is another class of individuals who benefit from this UCCB, namely net tax recipients. Bureaucrats, politicians, police as well as people who spend their life on welfare and anyone who all in all collects more in taxes than they pay. This benefit will function as an increase in their tax consumption. While it is unfortunate that these people are helped by the UCCB they will also be the benefactor of many anti-tax schemes, such as tax credits, so perhaps we must take the bad with the good.

And when it comes to government spending, the bad can be very bad. Not only is dropping bombs on people in Iraq and Syria extremely expensive it also makes them hate us which can have unintended consequences or as the CIA calls it, blowback.  Ironically this politically benefits the hawkish national security elites who dropped the bombs in the first place as the public clamours for the safety of an ever expanding warfare / surveillance state. But even less malicious examples of government spending can be counter productive or deleterious to the economic health of our nation. When money is spent at home on the war on drugs, what is gained? Children from poor families who saw an economic opportunity languish in prisons, our right to protection from unreasonable search and seizure is compromised and billions are wasted with nothing good to show for it. When money is spent on welfare, this provides a disincentive to work and is thus a double injustice, against both the taxpayer forced to subsidize another's idleness, and against the recipient of the dole, who is prevented from being forced by necessity to find work. While those of us acquainted with the dis-utility of labour might scoff at the latter notion, employment is critical to a person's development and helpful in shaping one's worldview and philosophy of life. And as the cliche goes, idle hands are the devils plaything, especially for youth, who's understanding of the world is still being shaped and are prone to fall into crime, drug use or other foolish mistakes. And again, if the money is spent to enforce regulations on the economy, ostensibly in the name of justice, is usually to cause harm. So if the government spends money enforcing a $15 minimum wage, for example, then this causes worse unemployment among low skilled workers (teenagers, for example) and this is terrible for the economy and the affected workers.

So given all the alternatives then certainly it seems attractive to simply give the cash to parents, without wasting it on bureaucracy, or war or counter productive regulation but the best thing to do would have been to not take it from the people who earned it in the first place. The government should not be in the business of wealth redistribution, and it is long past time that Canadians stopped imagining that the state is Santa Claus, because whatever you are given will be taken from you ten fold unless you happen to be an elite member of the political class.

Monday, July 6, 2015

1800-snitch-line

One of the most pathetic things happening right now in this country is the proliferation of snitch lines. These things are everywhere! From natural resource violations for those who have the audacity to build on crown land, to doping allegations of professional athletes it has never been more convenient to rat out your fellow man. There are even snitch websites such as www.nopiracy.ca or the temporary foreign worker abuse snitch tool at Service Canada online. There are phone banks where you can call in about immigration fraud and terrorism.  You can even report CRA employees. Okay that last one might be a good idea.

So what's the problem here? Well ever happened to the right to privacy?  What ever happened to minding your own damn business? Do we really want to turn into a Soviet style state, where citizens are encouraged, nay forced, to rat each other out in order to curry favour with the ruling class? Do we really want to emulate 1984?

There is a role for snitching in our society. If someone is going around hurting people or stealing stuff, then absolutely, rat them out. Turn them into the police.  Lock them up and throw away the key. But the problem is there are so many unnecessary, even outright evil laws that it is virtually impossible not to be a criminal. So someone is here illegally or overstayed their visa. So what? The whole notion of borders is absurd anyway. They're just arbitrary lines in the sand drawn by people who want to control us. Someone is illegally pirating movies? Big deal! Torrent websites are a tremendous improvement over the outdated physical distribution of media. Think of all the resources which no longer need to go into the production of dvds, cds, vhs tapes, etc. We can do all it all through the magic of the internet. Those resources can be put to better use making other material goods.

At some point we have to realize that we're all in this together. Instead of allowing the elites to practice the time tested strategy of divide and conquer maybe we should show a little compassion for each other and be constructive instead of running to the snitch line to rat out your neighbour.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

supply management

The Canadian government intervenes in the market for dairy with a tripartite scheme of price controls, quotas for domestic producers and quotas / tariffs for foreign producers. The net effect of these policies is to screw the Canadian consumer while benefiting domestic producers. There is a very simple alternative to this ridiculous scheme which is to deregulate the dairy (and egg) market and allow for free and unfettered competition.

The price system is beautiful in it's elegance and it's simplicity.  If demand for a particular good increases (and supply stays the same) then the resultant increase in price is a signal to entrepreneurs that scarce resources should be directed towards the production of this product. Likewise, ceteris paribus (all other things being equal) if the demand for a good falls, so will the price, and resources can be directed away from this industry. Through the price system the efforts of billions of individuals globally can be coordinated towards the most efficacious ends. There is simply no other means of rationally allocating scarce resources. When price controls are imposed on a market, however, the price system is prevented from working and either a shortage or a glut will result. Prices must be allowed to rise and fall on the basis of consumer demand.

Quotas serve only to protect established business interests from competition. What possible rationale could there be for insisting that someone not be able to raise cattle for dairy without purchasing a quota for $28,000 a cow? Surely we should be encouraging small competitors to enter any market not using the power of the state to keep them out. The imposition of high fixed costs through regulations is a classic tool by which large firms have smashed smaller competitors but this practice is unfair and should be ended. Anyone who wants to go into the business of farming should be able to, without jumping through unnecessary bureaucratic red tape or paying ridiculous amounts of money to the government. Most people in rural areas do not have a random $250,000 lying around to pay for the privilege of working in addition to the mortgage on a farm, equipment, feed, bills, etc. What we should do is scrap the quota system entirely and look to subsidize farmers by not taxing their income or property. We shouldn't restrict supply, and thus an increase in the price of food. Nor should we make farmers jump through regulatory hoops to operate. What we need is a policy of laissez-faire in our agricultural industry. Live and let live. The 21st is going to be the century of a global renaissance in agricultural and Canada should lead the way by encouraging this industry through tax breaks and deregulation.

Tariffs and import quotas should also be removed. People are struggling as it is to make ends meet, the last thing we need to do is subsidize established business interests by preventing cheaper foreign goods from entering our markets. Competition is healthy.  If a firm cannot compete then it should go out of business. The capital doesn't just disappear; it is purchased by a company which can do a better job and put to more productive use. Canadian consumers need lower prices and eliminating tariffs and quotas is an effective means of accomplishing that goal.

The supply management system needs to go.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

recession?


Four consecutive months of negative GDP growth have caused the usual suspects to begin fretting about a possible recession with the all too predictable calls for stimulus spending and interest rate cuts. Certainly the Notley government's tax hikes in the midst of the falling oil price turmoil has put a damper on the previously energetic oil and gas sector but worries about the Canadian economy are unfounded and the cure suggested by establishment economists would certainly be worse than the disease.

GDP doesn't matter. The problem with GDP is that it measures government spending as if it were productive. If the government were to hire ten bureaucrats to sit in a room and play cards then the GDP would go up. If these same bureaucrats were to be fired then GDP would go down. In fact it can be even worse than this because those bureaucrats may not simply be employed at nothing they could be actively employed in creating barriers to the production of wealth. The impetus regulation of industry was large firms seeking to impose high fixed costs on their industry in order to hobble small competitors. An official who is employed in imposing regulatory hurdles on industry not only fails to add to the wealth of a nation but actually retards it's creation, and yet the GDP statistic counts this person's salary as if wealth were being created.

Statistics are only useful to would be central planners overcome with hubris. The only planning that a market economy needs is accomplished by entrepreneurs with the aid of the price system. Through the effortless adjustment of prices on the basis of supply and demand entrepreneurs are able to best allocate scarce resources towards their most efficacious ends. Individuals who advocate for interest rate cuts to combat a fall in GDP do so because they still subscribe to the long discredited Keynesian explanation of the business cycle. Keeping interest rates artificially low creates a false prosperity by encouraging uneconomic investments in capital goods industries. Ideally interest rates would be set by the market, as a function of the degree of consumer savings, instead of through the machinations of central bankers. Most likely interest rates are far below their optimal level and should be raised but the only way to know for sure is to remove state intervention in the money supply entirely (which, incidentally, would put an end to the boom-bust business cycle which has plagued the western world since the advent of central banking).

Stimulus spending is an equally ineffective tool for combating a recession. The trough is actually the healthy phase of the business cycle, as malinvestments in capital goods industries are liquidated and resources are reallocated along the basis of consumer demand. There is no need for government intervention and efforts to 'fix' the recession will only lead to it's worsening (hence why the great depression was so great but no one has ever heard of the depression of 1920-21). The problem is not a failure of aggregate demand or a glut of over production; indeed Saye's law disproved the very notion of over production quite some time ago as supply of x constitutes demand for y. Government spending is bad for the economy. When the spending decisions in an area of the economy are determined by bureaucrats, as is the case in any of the industries that the state has monopolized, such as infrastructure or education, then you will necessarily have resources allocated not on the basis of consumer demand but instead the spending will be the consumptive decisions of the bureaucrats in charge. There is simply no rationale for allowing an individual or a team of individuals to make the decision for how much of what should go where when the price system can do a much better job. There is no way for a planner to compete with the elegant and simple solution of the price system and there is also the tremendous benefit that the latter plan of attack can be accomplished in an entirely voluntary fashion free from the use of coercion which characterizes taxation. It is wrong to use force in order to get your way, a basic moral principle which we should all be ever conscious of.

There's really no way to tell under the present system how many roads should be built, and where, or how many teachers should be hired, how large classrooms should be, precisely what methods of education should be used, and so on and so forth. What we are left with is simply guesses made by plodding officials, a pale shadow of what could be accomplished through the use of markets.

Friday, July 3, 2015

trafficking in wildlife

The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.

Ayn Rand


It was not so long ago that Canada was nothing but wilderness from coast to coast.  The pioneering experience of our ancestors is one of the reasons why we are still such a free society. The struggle to transform temperate forests into arable land instilled within our forefathers a great respect for property rights. But agriculture isn't the only way to extract a living from the land. Ever since the first settlers walked across the Bering strait men have been feeding themselves and their families by pitting their own ingenuity against that of the savage beast. Unfortunately, like too many other aspects of peaceful behaviour, the ancient tradition of hunting too has been criminalized.

Enter the L’Hirondelles. After being ratted out by an anonymous complainant (isn't there anything more pathetic than the now ubiquitous snitch lines promoted by the state?  hasn't anyone read 1984?) the Province of Alberta decided to waste taxpayer's money on an undercover investigation into black market elk trafficking. While each and every one of Edmonton's 11 homicides this year have gone unsolved, police resources are being directed towards a crack down on unauthorized hunting. There was a time in this country when people actually valued work. Where trafficking in wildlife would have been considered a valuable service to the community, not a crime. Where the L’Hirondelles would enjoy some tasty meals for their efforts instead of the confiscation of their meat and what meager funds they had acquired by fascist authorities and $42,500 in fines. Unfortunately we live in Canada, where the rights of deer trump those of people.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

the southern candidacy

The nature of the liberty movement is that it is iconoclastic. It is impossible to reconcile a belief in liberty with the ideology of social democracy and mob rule; either you are free to do as you please or you must submit to the hegemony. There is and always will be a conflict between those who believe that they can control others and those who wish to be left alone. As libertarians we must not shy away from this conflict but embrace it as a just struggle. Advocating for compromise in this arena is a fools errand. It is both poor strategy and poor tactics. Instead of trying to get along with those who wish us to submit meekly to their rule we should shout them down.

The goal of the libertarian movement must always be to promote liberty. The proper means by which this goal can be achieved are the organizing of like minded people and the conversion of those who have no firm political persuasion (people in college, for example). It is futile to attempt to proselytize to social democrats of any stripe. People do not reexamine their premises; they do not challenge their deeply held beliefs. There is no way to make liberty appeal to those who are committed to state action and state control. Efforts to cater to the social democratic masses are self defeating. These people cannot be drawn into the libertarian fold or rescued from their statism. Selling out our principles in a vain effort to appeal to the social democratic crowd will simply weaken our movement and discredit our arguments.

Libertarianism is a broad tent ideology. Many of the members of this movement are militant atheists and many others are devoutly religious. There are minarchists, anarchists, constitutionalists and many other flavours of libertarian. It should come as no surprise that a movement which trumpets individualism should be attractive to a diverse crowd. Attempting to impose a homogeny of opinion upon libertarians quite obviously runs contrary to the principles of the movement.

The Libertarian Party of Canada is quite simply the political arm of the libertarian movement in Canada. It is incumbent upon this organization and the individuals within it to ensure that their actions are compatible with the philosophy of liberty. With an election in three months the goal is to have as many candidates as possible so it seems like everything possible should be done to encourage more people who wish to run in an election under the party banner to do so instead of forbidding individuals from running. Frankly the Party is not really in a position presently to be rejecting potential candidates with an expected maybe 90 candidates for a total of 308 seats. Nor is it appropriate for a centralized executive to censor the views and opinions of candidates. Certainly if there is an area to demand consensus it is in opposition to the initiation of force or on affirmation of the right to own property.  These are the core ideas of the libertarian philosophy. It is absurd to demand that candidates kowtow to cultural marxism or the social democratic agenda in any form. We are not social democrats. We are libertarians. These ideas have an irreconcilable conflict.

Friday, June 12, 2015

against a royalty increase

One of the campaign promises of the Alberta NDP was a pledge to increase oil royalties. Now when a politician tells you they aren't going to raise taxes you should still expect them to raise taxes.  But when a politician tells you they are going to raise taxes then you can bet your bottom dollar that taxes are going up. And what softer target can one imagine than the universally despised oil companies? Those callous despoilers of oceans and warmers of planets!  But is it really a good idea to increase oil royalties? What will be the impact of this tax grab?

One problem with the imposition (or, as in our case, the increase) of a partial excise tax is that factors of production are shifted out of the given industry and redirected towards less efficacious ends. Given that price is determined by supply and demand the levy cannot simply be directly passed on to consumers. Instead it is imputed back to factors of production in terms of lower wages and returns on capital. This will also work to drive marginal firms, those which are breaking even, out of the industry to seek better opportunities in other fields. The exodus of non specific factors of production will lead to a decreased supply which in turn will eventually mean higher prices for consumers.

There is a moral issue here as well. Despite the claims of the government of Alberta the oil in the tar sands does not belong to "the people of Alberta" but rather to those who expended the capital and labour necessary to bring the product to market. It is wrong that the state should take from those who have worked long and hard (or those who bankrolled the project) in order to give to those who played no part in the creation of this wealth. It is wrong to live parasitically off the efforts of others and especially wrong to do so through the use of force. Wealth belongs to those who create it not.

Instead of increasing oil royalties it would be better for this tax to be lowered or removed entirely.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

nobody wins a trade war

The Canadian government has a beef with an american law requiring stringent country-of-origin labelling on meat products and is now threatening retaliatory tariffs on a whole slew of goods if the law is not repealed. But is it really wise to use Canadian consumers as human shields in an effort to force Americans to eat more Canadian AAA? The sanguine response to any foreign impediment on free trade (especially something as benign as a labelling law) would be to remain apathetic in the face of foreign protectionism. The best approach is one of unilateral free trade. We can only really control what we do, not what other people do, and by far the best strategy for Canadians is to embrace free trade. Instead of imposing quotas, subsidies or tariffs we should remove these wherever they exist without concern for whether or not our actions are reciprocated. Domestic producers should be exposed to foreign competition; they must either improve their process and be able to provide the consumer with a superior product or a lower price or go under and let their capital be acquired by someone who can. The death of a firm in a market economy is a healthy process not should not be grieved. Nor should we complain if a foreign government subsidizes their producers and this results in a cheaper product than we can make here. The impact of this policy is for foreign taxpayers to indirectly subsidize Canadian consumers. Well what's wrong with that?


Friday, May 15, 2015

the tragic avoidable organ shortage

Recently the owner of the Ottawa Senators has appealed to the public for a liver.  It's not enough that the get our tax dollars for their stupid stadiums, apparently, these billionaires need our internal organs as well. In 2010 in Canada 229 peopled died waiting in vain for organs that never arrived. Their deaths, while tragic, were also entirely preventable. The problem is that we don't have a market in organs. In the market economy there are no shortages - the price simply goes up.  So why not allow those on dialysis to literally buy a kidney from any one of the millions of people who have a spare one hanging around and not enough cash? And why not allow offer cash incentives for individuals to add their names to the organ donor list? This would immediately increase the supply of organs available for transport, saving countless lives. Purchasing and selling kidney's is already legal in Iran and this model has resulted in an elimination of renal waiting lists while other nations which prohibit the sale and purchase of kidneys have not enjoyed this success.

It's time to come out of the dark ages and legalize an organ market.

Friday, May 8, 2015

no taxation with menstruation

Even a broken clock is right twice, even a blind squirrel can find a nut, and every once in a very long while the Chavez loving, enviro-nazi sympathizing left wing lunatics at the NDP hit upon a good idea, to wit, the notion that we should remove the GST from tampons and other assorted feminine hygeniene products. More accurately we should simply remove the GST, full stop.  There is no such thing as a 'good tax'. Planners who practically salivate over the fact that excise taxes "reduce consumption" (as if they alone knew what was best for every man, woman and child in this country and how they should save or spend their money, despite radically different time preferences, value scales and desired ends for different individuals) fail to recognize that sales taxes are actually imputed back to factors of production.  They are, in effect, a tax on income, haphazardly and unfairly applied. While savings is a crucial component of future economic growth it is not the role of economists to instruct people on what their ends should be; an economist can only comment on whether a given means is suitable for attaining a particular ends. Every individual is different, and the decision on whether they should save or consume their income is an entirely unique one to each person.

But while we should certainly remove the GST from all goods and services it's important not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If the political will is not there to help all people equally, then certainly we should join in the efforts of some to help some, lackluster and halfhearted though this drive may be. So bravo to Irene Mathysene and the rest of the womyn in the NDP and bravo to the federal government for agreeing to sign on to this crusade. Presumably the movement will continue onward to agitate for the repeal of taxes on birkenstock sandals, pant suits and patchouli oil. Hallelujah.