Archive for category Government

Dormez-vous, France?

"Allons enfants de la Patrie, Le jour de gloire est arrivé !"

“Allons enfants de la Patrie, Le jour de gloire est arrivé !”

The most brilliant minds of France are escaping to London, Brussels, and New York rather than stultify at home. Walk down a street in South Kensington – the new Sixth Arrondissement of London – and try not to hear French spoken. The French lycee there has a long waiting list for French children whose families have emigrated.

I grimly listen to my French friends on this topic.

From a senior United Nations official who is now based in Africa: “The best thinkers in France have left the country. What is now left is mediocrity.”

From a chief legal counsel at a major French company: “France is dying a slow death. Socialism is killing it. It’s like a rich old family being unable to give up the servants. Think Downton Abbey.”

From a French publisher: “In the past 10 years, the global village has become a reality. The world economy has become so important that a nation-state can no longer play the role that it did 10 years ago. The French have not woken up to that.”

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Freedom vs. Force

Harry Binswanger:

The question is: in the messy mixture of government controls and remnants of capitalism, which element caused the Great Depression and the recent financial crisis?

By raising that question, we uncover the fundamental: the meaning of capitalism and the meaning of government controls. Capitalism means freedom. Government means force.

Suddenly, the whole issue comes into focus: Obama is saying that freedom leads to poverty and force leads to wealth. He’s saying: “Look, we tried leaving you free to live your own life, and that didn’t work. You have to be forced, you have to have your earnings seized by the state, you have to work under our directions–under penalty of fines or imprisonment. You don’t deserve to be free.”

As a bit of ugly irony, this is precisely what former white slave-owners said after the Civil War: “The black man can’t handle freedom; we have to force him for his own good.” The innovation of the Left is to extend that viewpoint to all races.

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Snow job

With all due respect to the mayor, this should not be his first concern:

Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison wants to look at reducing speeds on the city’s freeway bridges after a car plunged off the Circle Drive North bridge and into the South Saskatchewan River.

A 23-year-old woman lost control of her vehicle while heading east on the bridge and her car jumped over the guard rail that had a window of snow built up around it. [emphasis mine–ed.] She escaped from her vehicle and was rescued off ice in the river, only suffering minor injuries in the process.

The guard rail didn’t build up the snow. City workers built up the snow along the guard rail, which changed a safety device into a ramp of death.

This unnamed woman should sue the city and any government ministry which implemented and enforced environmental regulations giving rise to this hazard.

She is lucky to be alive, no thanks to short-sighted government bureaucrats.

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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.


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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No, No & Yes

One day, one paper, three stories.

Here’s the one about a retired veterinarian advocating for mandatory rabies shots in the city:

Hudson is scheduled to present a report on Thursday calling for the city to change its rules around vaccination. While pet owners are required by a city bylaw to license their pets, no rule requires them to get rabies vaccines along with their licenses. That opens people up to unnecessary risk of contracting the deadly and untreatable disease, Hudson said.

While no one in Saskatoon has been infected by rabies in years[emphasis mine, ed.], the city does have a serious issue with domesticated pets biting people, according to a public health nurse who works at the communicable disease control program.

Maggie Simm said 21 people had to have some kind of rabies vaccine treatment this year after they were bitten by animals.

Threats are not risks. They inform risks, they are not to be discounted, but if the probability of the threat is extremely low, then the risk is commensurate. Especially since rabies, pace Dr. Hudson, is treatable. And most especially when, as the article notes, people are usually treated for rabies even if they aren’t bitten by rabid animals.

The second story here is that the city is considering spending money on high-demand facilities:

Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison has some big ideas about adding indoor rinks to the city’s small number of aging facilities.

On Wednesday, Atchison said he would like to see a multi-sheet facility in the city and wants to start the discussion during next week’s budget talks. He acknowledged that securing the money to build one will either involve the private sector or higher levels of government.

ACT Arena, the newest city-owned and operated facility, added its hockey rink in 1981. The newest private facility, Harold Latrace Arena, added its most recent sheet in 1998. Saskatoon has five public arenas and eight private sheets with varying availability for minor and recreational hockey.

Ice sheets in Saskatoon are in such high demand that teams are heading out to neighbouring small towns to rent the ice for the kids. There is a market to be had, a significant one at that. While I appreciate the mayor’s concern over this, there is no reason why a private group couldn’t raise its own money and build a multi-sheet complex, taking both the risk and making their own profits, to the benefit of the users. I would prefer the city zone out some land in the growing suburbs for sports complexes and see who steps up to the table.

Finally, the great Les MacPherson gets it right:

Federal broadcast authorities in distant Ottawa have commanded and decreed that we have more than enough radio stations in the city as it is.

Proponents of a new station were told to forget it and don’t even ask again for two more years. In other words, piss off.

What is not so clear is why we need anyone in Ottawa to tell us how many radio stations Saskatoon can support. Why not let the market decide, as it does with every enterprise? Ottawa doesn’t tell us how many restaurants we need in Saskatoon, for example. That’s why we have restaurants in such profusion and diversity that we can’t keep track of them all.

If restaurants were federally regulated, however, we would have about five of them, all serving turnips.

That’s how it worked in the old Soviet Union. Authorities there tried to decide for everyone what they needed, in all respects.

It worked so well that barbed wire and guard towers were required to keep people from escaping.

Bang on, Les. There is no reason for the CRTC to limit the number of radio stations in this town. The CRTC should limit its function over the enforcement of bandwidth, if that, and allow spectrum to be sold to the highest bidder.

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Perpetuating Grievances

Did you know that disagreeing on government royalty policy constitutes “racism”?

Now you know:

Current and former First Nations chiefs are imploring the Saskatchewan Party to stop running a “racist” television advertisement which claims revenue-sharing with First Nations will cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

Bellegarde and elder Ted Quewezance, who also addressed the crowd of approximately 400 delegates and guests at the assembly, both called the ad “racist,” saying it perpetuates negative stereotypes.

Do you know what really perpetuates negative stereotypes? Aboriginal leaders accusing anyone who disagrees with them as being “racist.”

Thankfully, the Sask Party isn’t taking the bait:

Patrick Bundrock, executive director of the Saskatchewan Party, said in an email Wednesday that the “ad accurately reflect(s) the NDP position and statements by NDP leader Cam Broten on First Nations revenue sharing and we stand by the ad.”

Truth is no defense to perpetual grievance-mongers.

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Letter to the Editor

Another “balanced” editorial from The StarPhoenix, August 28 (which I re-published in full, in contravention of copyright, just because these editorials tend to disappear into the ether):

Whether a direct connection can ever be made among the flooding in southern Alberta, the burning of California and a hypothetical oil-tanker train stretching between Winnipeg and Houston, one thing that is clear is that both sides who characterized the energy-or-environment debate as a zerosum war have lost.

Scientists have warned for years that unusually devastating environmental events, such as the catastrophic storm that inundated Alberta’s south, including its largest city, and forest fires such as the one consuming one of America’s most beautiful and treasured national parks would become more frequent as the climate warms due to human activities.

According to leaks of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expected next month, scientists are now 95 per cent certain that the increase in greenhouse gases emitted by humans have been the principal reason the planet is warming. As the Washington Post pointed out in an editorial Monday, this level of confidence is generally considered high enough to justify drawing conclusions and amending public policy.

It’s not only scientists who are convinced. According to a study released this week by Canadian pollster Nik Nanos, 78 per cent of Americans consider the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions to be important.

But even more of them have even greater concerns about energy security. That has meant that, while programs to push alternative energy sources have met with some success, the demand for North American oil – including from Alberta’s oilsands – has grown so fast that, without the Keystone pipeline to pump it south, rail companies have had to add enough capacity that, counting only the addition since 2011, if all the extra tanker cars were strung together it “would create a train of petroleum products stretching from Winnipeg in the north to Houston in the south.” Nanos says in his report.

This means every day there are 1,284 more rail cars on the tracks compared to just two years ago. It is partly to meet this demand that TORQ Transloading is building a $100-million hub near Kerrobert.

This additional rail capacity is neither a victory for the environmentalists who hoped to shut down the oilsands by opposing pipelines, nor the oil companies and their government backers.

When it comes to energy and the environment, no side in the debate has been willing to compromise. The Canadian government has characterized environmental groups and opposition politicians as traitors, environmentalists have pulled out all stops to prevent pipeline development, antinukes have opposed new plants, windmills have been considered health hazards and local and regional governments have pitted their own self-interests against their neighbours.

As Mr. Nanos points out, the partisan nature of the discussion has all but stalled any real action. Meanwhile, the market has driven up demand.

What is needed, Mr. Nanos writes, is a co-ordinated North American effort to draft a cohesive energy-carbon strategy that takes into account emissions and reduces them over time.

This is the position Canada should be selling in Washington, rather than Keystone or bust.

Alas, this is the tack since taken by our prime minister.

My response to the editorial:

When calling for a “cohesive” emissions-reduction strategy, the editorial “Co-operation better strategy” (Aug. 28) makes a few assumptions about the climate debate which do not bear under scrutiny.

It is to be expected that the self-selected, self-interested scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will claim a 95% confidence on the impact of anthropogenic greenhouse gases on the climate. However, their claim would carry more weight if average global temperatures weren’t currently below the 5% confidence level of climate models cited by previous IPCC reports.

Global temperatures simply have not been increasing since they peaked in 1998, even though the IPCC confidently predicted otherwise. This ought to convince policy makers to at least hold off on making key decisions based on IPCC recommendations for the time being.

Further, even though the editorial admits that one cannot connect specific events with climate change, spurious connections are nonetheless provided with the recent flooding in Alberta and the Yosemite wildfires.

Yet, in June, the StarPhoenix published a list of no less than 22 major floods in southern Alberta in the past 115 years, many of which occurred prior to recent global warming trends. Similarly, the Yosemite wildfires have raged on despite the fact that the continental United States has just experienced its mildest summer in more than a century. Climate change has far less to do with the impact of these events than, respectively, the urbanization of flood plains and increased fire loads due to fire-fighting practices in national parks.

While I appreciate the call for a more reasonable approach to policy development, it would be wise to stop cherry-picking anecdotes and making uninformed assumptions about climate science to suit one’s own agenda.

My letter was published in the Labour Day weekend paper, August 31, more or less as delivered.

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