Archive for December, 2013

Environmentalism nearly claims another victim

From the StarPhoenix:

Following their investigation, police determined icy roads contributed to the driver’s loss of control and ensuing collision with the centre barrier on the bridge. The grey Acura then skidded across the bridge’s eastbound lanes and on top of the guardrail before crashing off the bridge and into the river. Investigators determined that a build-up of snow and ice along the guardrail contributed to the vehicle going over the bridge.

Well done, environmentalists. Well done.

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Letter to the Editor

Saskatoon’s most sensitive man lectures us on freedom of expression (published Dec. 28, 2013):

In response to my civil rights case about Saskatoon Transit putting Christmas messages on buses, local churches have purchased Christmas advertisements to be placed on transit vehicles.

I support them being able to do that. I think this is a good alternative to the city promoting Christmas and Christianity on its own. Now that churches are buying their own ads to promote their religion, they shouldn’t care if Saskatoon Transit Services doesn’t promote Christmas on programmable bus signs.

There are more than 10,000 religions, 150 of which have one million or more followers not including branches of each religion. The city can’t promote all religions or promote all religions equally, so it should promote none. Also, people’s taxes should not go toward promoting a religion they don’t believe in.

Like churches, if other religious groups or individuals want to buy ads that promote their religion, they should be free to do that. Likewise, the Centre for Inquiry Canada should be free to buy ads that promote atheism. That’s what freedom of expression is all about.

Ashu Solo

Mr. Solo’s support for freedom of expression would have more credibility if he wasn’t also threatening to use the power of the state to silence the voices of duly elected officials such as Randy Donauer.

Also misguided is Mr. Solo’s view on the so-called “separation of church and state”. He seems to believe that this principle ought to ensure the state has nothing to say or do with religion whatsoever.

This is completely wrong. What this principle suggests is that the state should not coerce citizens to practice a particular form of religious belief. If a government wishes to endorse a certain religion over another, it may do so as long as it does not hinder a citizen’s right worship as he or she chooses. If citizens feel the government should not observe religious practices, the remedy can be found in the ballot box.

It is this distinction which Mr. Solo fails to appreciate in his campaign to wipe out any form of religion in public life.

Be that as it may, the city of Saskatoon is hardly “promoting” Christianity with its bus banners as much as it is commemorating a beloved cultural institution which transcends Christianity and is celebrated throughout the community by Christians and non-Christians alike. (Note that this would be different if the banners read “Have a Merry Christmas … or else!”)

If Mr. Solo truly believed in his cause, he would focus his intolerance on actual state-coerced religious observances, such as the mandatory Christmas Day holiday. Good luck to him on that one.

UPDATE: The letter was published on January 3.

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Christmas in Prison

This one’s for my relatives, in more way than one:

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Bing & Bowie Drummer Boy

The awkward, contrived introduction makes the performance that much better.

Enjoy!

(I find it interesting that the Trapp Family’s original version has a much livelier tempo than modern versions. I still prefer the Harry Simeon Chorale version though.)

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Regulation, Government and Instutitions

In which I critique Andrew Sullivan’s critique of Rush Limbaugh’s critique of Pope Francis’s critique of capitalism:

Limbaugh has obviously never read the Gospels. He has never read the parables. His ideology is so extreme it even trashes, because it does not begin to understand, the core principles of capitalism, as laid out by Adam Smith. Market capitalism is and always has been a regulated construction of government, not some kind of state of nature without it. Indeed without proper regulation to maintain a proper and fair and transparent market, it is doomed to terrible corruption, inefficiency, injustice, and abuse.

Sullivan, the supposed conservative, makes the same mistake all Big Government advocates make, namely assuming “regulation” has to come from “government.”

Capitalism is regulated through institutions, which may or may not be the domain of governments. For example, where government has had a role in expanding the capitalistic free market, it has been more to do with preserving the fundamental rights of the individual — property rights, freedoms of expression and commerce, protection from physical harm or theft, etc. — than it has in actually instituting these successfully.

In fact, it was those those institutions which evolved in order to restrain government control which also enabled free markets to flourish and benefit the great mass of its participants. The Magna Carta and similar documents found in other European nations are good examples of this.

Furthermore, corruption in the free market is self-correcting in that those participating soon learn if another is acting without scruples and cannot be trusted. Investors need merely to place their capital into investments which are more trustworthy and better serve the demands of the market.

Corruption in government, which Sullivan claims would prevent “doom” to capitalism, is actually much more harmful as government compels taxes, controls the courts, distorts market signals, and monopolizes via fiat the means of violence. These days, a business is rarely corrupt for very long unless enabled or empowered to be so by the government. It is government which institutionalizes corruption.

As for evidence of inefficiency, injustice, and abuse, go no further than your nearest parliament.

(h/t Mytheos Holt)

 

UPDATE: Sullivan also mocks Limbaugh, a supposed fan of Pope John II, by quoting the past pontiff in Centesimus Annus:

The Marxist solution has failed, but the realities of marginalization and exploitation remain in the world, especially the Third World, as does the reality of human alienation, especially in the more advanced countries. Against these phenomena the Church strongly raises her voice. Vast multitudes are still living in conditions of great material and moral poverty. The collapse of the Communist system in so many countries certainly removes an obstacle to facing these problems in an appropriate and realistic way, but it is not enough to bring about their solution.

Indeed, there is a risk that a radical capitalistic ideology could spread which refuses even to consider these problems, in the a priori belief that any attempt to solve them is doomed to failure and which blindly entrusts their solution to the free development of market forces.

QED?

Nope. More people have left extreme poverty in the past decade than ever before, in large part thanks to “free development of market forces”:

 Never has so much wealth been generated — but, importantly, never has growth been shared more evenly. While the rich world is wallowing a mire of debt, the developing world is making incredible progress. The global inequality gap is narrowing – and thanks not to the edicts of governments, but to the co-operation of millions of people, rich and poor, through international trade. Or, as critics call this system, ‘global capitalism’.

As a result goals that once seemed fantastical are now within reach: from the end of Aids to the end of famine. To understand the speed of this progress consider the  United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals,  drawn up in 2000. The plan then was to halve the number of people living on $1 a day by 2015. This target was reached five years early. This amazing achievement passed with almost no comment, perhaps because it had been achieved by the market rather than foreign aid. People, when free to trade with each other, are succeeding where decades of government schemes failed.

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Conspiracy Fueling

Glenn Reynolds, worth quoting in full:

SO THE TOPIC FOR MY USA TODAY COLUMN THAT I WOUND UP NOT USING was about how the story of the bogus translator at the Mandela funeral illustrates that everyday life is full of the kinds of inconsistencies and improbabilities that fuel conspiracy theories. Imagine if that guy had actually been a terrorist or an assassin, and had killed Obama and other leaders — suddenly his mental-health problems, his hiring by a fly-by-night company that vanished, his non-existent language school, the absence of security screenings at the event, would all look like some part of a coordinated plot, instead of general incompetence.

Just remember that in the future. Unless, of course, that’s what this was all about, which would prove that it really is a conspiracy!!!

Too bad he didn’t finish that column.

More here:

For a different example, I lived near Washington when the D.C. sniper attacks were happening in 2002, and I recall how we were told to be on the lookout for a white van that had been seen near several of the shootings. A friend at work tried an experiment while he was running errands in the area. He imagined hearing a gunshot, and he’d look around for a white van. He always saw one. Often more than one. The actual sniper had a blue sedan. The vans were just a coincidence.

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Pope trope

" ... Will it ever stop? Yo – I don't know. Turn off the lights and I'll glow ..."

” … Will it ever stop? Yo – I don’t know. Turn off the lights and I’ll glow …”

Greg Mankiw on the unfortunate economic musings of Pope Francis:

First, throughout history, free-market capitalism has been a great driver of economic growth, and as my colleague Ben Friedman has written, economic growth has been a great driver of a more moral society.

Second, “trickle-down” is not a theory but a pejorative used by those on the left to describe a viewpoint they oppose. It is equivalent to those on the right referring to the “soak-the-rich” theories of the left. It is sad to see the pope using a pejorative, rather than encouraging an open-minded discussion of opposing perspectives.

Third, as far as I know, the pope did not address the tax-exempt status of the church. I would be eager to hear his views on that issue. Maybe he thinks the tax benefits the church receives do some good when they trickle down.

I’d like to add, fourth, that the Church did such a great job that it only took seventeen-hundred years before it significantly improved the quality of life of all Europeans, which just happened to coincide with the Industrial Revolution and the rise of capitalism.

h/t Instapundit

UPDATE: David Harsanyi elaborates. A must-read. (h/t Kathy Shaidle)

UPDATER: Ludwig von Mises:

Of course, as a rule capitalists and entrepreneurs are not saints excelling in the virtue of self-denial.  But neither are their critics saintly.  And with all the regard due to the sublime self-effacement of saints, we cannot help stating the fact that the world would be in a rather desolate condition if it were peopled exclusively by men not interested in the pursuit of material well-being.

(h/t Cafe Hayek)

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