Thursday, June 25, 2009

Government Monopoly

Turmoil this week in Ontario and especially in Toronto. Yet another garbage strike in the city; piles of rotting garbage in parks midsummer. Children playing amidst the stench and the vermin just when the children are out of school. Not a pretty picture. The disagreement is between the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 416 (CUPE) and the City of Toronto on the issue of bankable sick days; the workers want it, the city can't afford it especially in the midst of the Great Recession.

For me the most interesting development in this story was the rise of private garbage removal entrepreneurs immediately after the strike was announced. These new businesses will remove trash usually based on volume of trash and happily do it for a profit. Removing trash based on volume, encourages homeowners to reduce their trash production to save money - its win-win. The current system encourages homeowners to recycle but removes the real incentive to reduce trash - namely a separate bill for the cost of removal. When faced with real costs people become much more environmentally aware. The private trash collectors would compete with one another lowering price and improving service and the chance of a another city-wide garbage strike is almost zero. The removal of garbage is a service just like lawn mowing and haircutting. What are the chances of a city wide barbers strike or a lawn mowing strike? Just go to a different barber or select a different lawn mowing service or do it yourself. Garbage collection and removal requires no special skill and can be done by oneself exactly as it is in cottage country north of Toronto. I know we're talking about a major city and the cottage analogy doesn't apply, but why is it necessary to have a government monopoly on waste removal? Yes the issue is much greater than that. Where would the trash go, Michigan, like it does now? Trucks full of trash travelling down the 401 from Toronto to Michigan - imagine, only a government would come up with such a creative solution, ridiculous. Its time to think differently about the entire issue.

While I'm looking at government monopoly Ontarians were rattled recently by the possibility of an LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) strike. The threat caused near panic buying across the province. The LCBO is one of the last vestiges of Ontario's puritan past. As a result of federal and provincial laws in Ontario the control of the so-called vices by the religious majority made it impossible to shop on Sunday, sell liquor, beer or wine without special government permission and on and on. The Charter of Rights (1982) began to slowly loosen the grip of Church and government on Canadians. In Ontario however, liquor sales and distribution is still regulated by the Province. The LCBO has a monopoly on the sale of liquor in Ontario that each of us pays extra for. Does anyone seriously think that the LCBO somehow benefits consumers in Ontario? Imagine if there was a monopoly on the sale of soft drinks, would there be price competition as there is now? Would there be more or less brand selection than there is now? Exactly what are the benefits of monopoly to the consumer? There are none. Its way past time to end the LCBO , ASAP!

Friday, June 19, 2009

The seeds of war?

The news out of Iran of late has been very heartening. Iran it seems is not just an Islamofascist regime bent on nuclear proliferation and the eradication of Israel. No sirree! Iran is much more. Iran's close ties to the United States during the reign of the Shah planted seeds of liberty among the population. As a result it is one of the more "westernized" Islamic Republics in the region and apparently ready to question the power of the ayatollahs. The massive demonstrations after the recent presidential elections shows that vague feelings of freedom still exist even after more than 30 years of repression under the ayatollahs. But what will be the result? I suspect the result will be just as surprising as the current protests are. No one predicted that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would lose this election and he did not, according to the supreme leader ayatollah. But people don't seem to trust the results (also not predicted) and that is the most significant thing to happen in Iran since the revolution of the late 1970's.

So here we are in the midst of the greatest economic turmoil since the 1930's (just before the last major world war) with global unemployment levels still growing despite hopes that the great recession is ending. Is the stage being set for global conflict? Well look at the region that neighbours Iran. The failed or failing states of Afghanistan and Pakistan to the east and Pakistan has nuclear weapons in its simmering conflict with nuclear India (farther east). American occupied Iraq and the hated Israel are to the west with Russia to the north. Mix in the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and the strategic oil reserves of the Saudis et al and voila, all you need is the right igniter. Oh, lets not forget the Chinese and their oil interests in Sudan. Global conflict? I wouldn't bet against it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

GM = Government Motors

North American governments announced yesterday that they collectively own about 72% of General Motors. The US owns 60% and the Ontario and Canadian government about 12%. This announcement caused nary a ripple among the opposition benches in Canada. Where is the Official Opposition in the Federal and Ontario governments? Do they have no criticism, nothing to say about the outrageous debt obligations incurred yesterday? Or are the oppositions as devoid of principles as the current governments? On these important issues that will impoverish generations to come, all Canadian governments and their parties seem to conform to one idea, save some jobs and damn the consequences. All that’s left to oppose the governments are a few sensible journalists like Margaret Wente. How can Canadians choose between parties if all our elected representatives follow the same policies? We have achieved here in Canada what we have criticised in totalitarian regimes around the world. Elections in those countries are a foregone conclusion, the "government" will do the same thing no matter who is elected. All the so called political parties have the same goals and solutions, the electorate just has the choice of personalities. Canada has arrived at that nadir of democracy. At least American politicians voiced their opposition. Apparently our politicians are sucking so hard at the nipples of the unions they can't speak.