Saturday, December 31, 2011

A libertarian's New Years Resolution for 2012

As a high school teacher a few years ago, I took very seriously my obligation to teach. If a student didn't understand a concept, I tried to explain it in a different way, that was my job. I never assumed that my students were unable to understand the subject. I always assumed that their mental block, was my challenge to remove.

I mention this because my venture into politics of late is a bit like teaching, but without the captive audience. However, my efforts at persuading people to my political views have not quite reached the level of my ability to successfully teach biology. On the contrary, I may have done the opposite, turned people off my politics. Like my previous teaching example the fault or obligation is mine. How do I know how well I've done? Judging from the reactions of my own friends and family, I doubt I've persuaded any of them, though I'm still trying. Of course I don't know for certain about any other people I've encountered, I can't ask them, but I can look at three sets of previous election results, and they are not encouraging.

As a teacher I adapted (different ways of teaching) to my accommodate students, but my political persuasion techniques leave much to be desired. I have used just one technique so far, the debate. Debates rarely persuade, rather, the opponents "butt heads" intellectually, and the goal is to win, not to discover the truth. When I don't win, I just debate harder, I become more aggressive and argumentative. Who does that persuade? Not many.

Voters, the people I'm trying to persuade these days are very conservative, and I mean that in the original sense of the word, not the current meaningless political usage. Dramatic change, the kind libertarians advocate, is just not on. Successful persuasion requires getting people to come along with you voluntarily, steering their thinking, sort of like teaching. That means getting in tune with people, not shocking them with libertarian bravado. I'm as guilty as any one of doing that. So, where to get help?

Over the years, libertarians have created a variety of different organizations each with its own niche (many you will find on this page). Some organizations specialize in economics, others in politics, still others in education. With the advent of the internet, access, popularity, and usage of these organizations has multiplied. One them, The Advocates for Self Government is concerned with the best practices for communicating the ideas of liberty. Many of you may be aware of the Nolan Chart which is at the centre of the World's Smallest Political Quiz, that is one of their tools. The Advocates have taken on the niche of persuasion by selling books, tapes and CDs, plus providing training. Over recent weeks I've been listening (mostly while driving) to a CD set titled The Essence of Political Persuasion and I've learned a great deal about using language to sell liberty, I recommend it. In it, there are several techniques, easily learned with practice, that can help anyone vary their own particular attempts at persuasion.

Its very difficult to sell the idea of liberty to people who are constantly told and who already believe that they have freedom. Governments routinely use their powers to usurp more and more of our personal responsibility, that's how they continue to grow. They have grown so large, and we are so inured to their presence now, that some freedoms are even considered to be destructive to our best interests. For example, as John Stossel suggested in a recent article that applies just as much to Canadians as Americans:
"Lots of Americans oppose free trade and free markets. It takes some knowledge to realize that the seeming chaos masks underlying order. The benefits of freedom are not intuitive, and when you go against people's intuition, they get upset.
The benefits of freedom are largely "unseen," as the 19th century French liberal Frederic Bastiat put it. He meant that rising living standards and labor-saving inventions don't appear to flow from freedom. But they do.
It's one of the ironies of life that people need not understand freedom for it to work, and because of this, there is the perennial danger that they will give it up without realizing the disastrous consequences that follow."

So this year I am determined to learn some new tricks of persuasion, and use them so that I can become as good a politician as I think I once was a teacher.

To all reading this, I wish you a Happy, Healthy, Prosperous 2012.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Holiday detoxing and purging.....don't do it.

Anticipating New Year's Eve? Ready for some heavy partying? One thing you don't need to worry about is cleansing your body of the "toxic substances" you may be consuming.

Those late night "infomercials" that claim your body accumulates toxic material that needs to be removed every so often....well, that's just bunkum. The bodies of most reasonably healthy people do a fine job of protecting them from toxicity, no need to waste your money on stuff like this. Companies like that prey on the ignorance of the general population who have never learned or totally forgotten their high school biology. Spend a few minutes and read this timely article that debunks the detox myth and lend support to reason and evidence. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Jetsons vs the leviathan state

By the time the Jetsons cartoon series came to television in September 1962, I already had great anticipation for the future. Manned space flight was a reality after Yuri Gagarin's one orbit in April of 1961, then came Alan Shepard's flight weeks later.
The Jetsons' cartoon world showed freedoms and possibilities that were only heard of in the pages of Popular Science at the time. Mundane household tasks were carried out by robots, and as Jeffery Tucker writes:
"— people work only a few hours a day, travel at 500 miles per hour in flying cars that go as fast as 2,500 miles per hour, and the main job is "pushing buttons."
The galaxy is their home. Healthcare is a complete free market with extreme customer care. Technology was the best (but of course it still malfunctions, same as today). Business is rivalrous, prosperity is everywhere, and the state largely irrelevant except for the friendly policeman who shows up only every once in a while to check things out."

I yearned for that world, and had every confidence that the way things were going, I would live to see it. I saw every episode of The Jetsons, and so, apparently, did Jeffrey Tucker.
Mr. Tucker is a prolific writer for mises.org, and has written It's a Jetsons World, as you can see in the short video clip below. Over the past few days, in the quite times of this holiday period, I had the pleasure of listening to the free audio book version online. This represents a portion of the full text. The reader is Stefan Molyneux, who needs no introductions, and he does a wonderfully theatrical job of reading. Mr. Tucker's audio book is funny, entertaining, and enlightening. Listening here is a treat. Enjoy.   


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Psssst......wanna buy some potato chips?

What does the leviathan state do best? That list would be very short. Certainly one of the most proficient if dubious examples of efficacy, is the ability of the state to create criminals, inadvertently, of course.
In Ontario, Premier 'Dad' Dalton McGuinty, uses his government's legislative powers to socially engineer the lives of it's citizens. McGuinty means well, he is a gentle paternalistic bully, but a bully nonetheless. What's he done? Since taking power almost nine years ago, Ontario now has laws that dictate what breed of dog is allowed as a pet, how homeowners must care for their lawns, what must NOT be done while driving, what methods of electricity production are acceptable and encouraged, how to dress while riding a bike, and lately in the government run public schools, what foods may and may not be served or sold at lunch.
Since the 2011-12 school year began, the Ontario Ministry of Education is "committed to making schools healthier places for students" after instituting Policy Memorandum 150. Parents are no longer fully responsible for what their children may or may not eat, the McGuinty Liberals have prescribed some fairly stringent rules about nutrition. How stringent? Well, in-school fundraisers like a weekly "pizza day" or the ubiquitous chocolate bar sales are now verboten.
The Ministry has divided up foods sold or served in schools into three categories:
1. Foods that can be sold or served at least 80% of the time or more.
2. Foods that can be sold or served 20% of the time or less.
3. Foods that must never be sold or served in school. 

The 80% or more category contains things like salad, vegetables, fruits, bread, pasta, cereal, meat, and fish as long as they all have low salt, low sugar, and  low fat content. So, pizza does not qualify because it has too much salt, and likely too much fat. Here is the multiple page appendix that stipulates the new nutrition standards in Ontario schools.

Of course proper nutrition makes sense. French fries and gravy, common lunchtime fare when I was a student, are not healthy foods to be eaten regularly. But is it the job of the school to teach this or should parents have final say? Why don't schools just concentrate on what they are supposed to be doing (and often not that well) and let parents make personal and societal decisions?

The problem whenever government uses legislation to engineer habits, is that the legislation always limits choices and often creates conflict that would not have occurred without the bad legislation. Government run public schools, where most students in Ontario are educated, already come with numerous limitations on parental freedom. Many wealthy parents vote with their feet to keep their children out of the government school system, but even that is undermined, because the Ministry prescribes the curriculum taught in ALL schools.

My cartoon, suggestive of a black market in illicit junk food, may seem a bit over-the-top, but is it really? In many school districts in the American states and elsewhere, the intrusive regulations we have adopted in Ontario, have already been field tested. A recent posting at LewRockwell.com (below) shows how black markets have sprung up in Public School cafeterias:

Though the Los Angeles Unified School District has received accolades for its new, healthful lunches, the appearance of quinoa and whole wheat bread has created “an underground market for chips, candy, fast-food burgers and other taboo fare.”
At Van Nuys High, a Junior ROTC officer and an art teacher have been caught selling candy, chips, and instant noodles to students. And, as Hank Cardello, the author of Stuffed: An Insider's Look at Who's (Really) Making America Fat, and a former food executive with Coca-Cola, General Mills, and Cadbury-Schweppes, pointed out in the Atlantic, candy dealers have sprouted up wherever fresh food is sold:

  • Last week, Van Nuys High School juniors, Iraides Renteria and Mayra Gutierrez told the LA Times, they considered the new school fare "nasty, rotty stuff," as they pulled three bags of Flamin' Hot Cheetos and soda from their backpacks – which they very well may have purchased from one of the junk food “dealers” on campus.
  • Following the passage of the Texas Public School Nutrition Policy, which banned candy, enterprising students at Austin High began selling bags full of candy at premium prices, with some reportedly making up to $200 per week.
  • Similarly, young entrepreneurs at one Boca Raton (Florida) middle school make runs to the local Costco and buy candy bars, doughnuts, and other high-calorie snacks in bulk. They then offer these goodies for sale in an environment that has supposedly eradicated such goodies.
  • An eighth-grade student body vice president in Connecticut was forced to resign after buying Skittles from an underground "dealer."
  • The U.K. has also seen its share of black market trade in banned foods, snacks, and beverages, with schools in Oxford, Dorset, and Essex reporting healthy underground markets trading in food contraband. The plots ranged from kids selling McDonald's hamburgers in playgrounds to bicycle-riding entrepreneurs hauling bags of soft drinks and milk chocolate for sale.
New on the curriculum at the schools mentioned above and coming to Ontario schools is: "flouting the rules" and getting away with it. The children will learn early that dumb rules create a criminal class of entrepreneurs that operate in the shadows, a black market in junk food. Again the leviathan state does what it does best.
  
"The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws." Tacitus

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Disenchanted, Disengaged, Disenfranchised


In the most recent Ontario general election voter turnout was at an historic low, only 49.2% of eligible voters actually bothered to cast their ballots. This was despite a concerted effort by Elections Ontario to make voting easier and more convenient than ever.
The following was included in a late summer media release:

“It’s now easier than ever to vote in a provincial general election” said Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa today at a media conference held in Toronto. Stating that making voting easy was the core driver for Elections Ontario, Essensa took attendees through a review of the voting options available, highlighting the More Days More Ways approach which gives voters more flexibility than ever before to choose how, when and where to vote. 

On election day, most voting locations:
Will be wheelchair accessible, as indicated on your Notice of Registration Card.
On election day, all voting locations:
Will have magnifiers, Braille ballot templates and other tools to assist voters who are blind or with vision loss.
Will provide pens and pads to help electors who are deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing to communicate.
Will provide the elector the opportunity to book a sign language interpreter paid by Elections Ontario through the Canadian Hearing Society's Ontario Interpreting Services to be with you at your voting location.

During the 15 days preceding election day:
In returning offices and satellite offices, assistive voting tools will be available that feature:
Audio headphones
Tactile buttons
Large keypads marked with Braille
Paddles
A "sip and puff" device
If you have restricted mobility:
You may transfer to a more convenient voting location within your electoral district. Contact your Returning Officer to make arrangements.

Almost $92 million later, it didn't seem to work. In fact, its almost axiomatic (for me) that whenever a big government (like Ontario's) institutes a program to fix a problem, not only is the problem not fixed, but it is often made worse. Such was the case here. Obviously "ease" of voting was not preventing people from voting in this election. It was something more fundamental. Why did 67.8% of the population turn out to vote in 1975, dropping to 49.2% in 2011? Was it more convenient then? Hardly. So the answer must be something else and I suspect the answer is incentive. No, I'm not suggesting that we pay or reward people who vote. Nor would I suggest that people be coerced to vote, as they are in Australia. I'm suggesting that people need a reason to vote, a reason to believe that their ballot may change what is, after all, an entrenched system.
There is some evidence for this. In 2008, Obama's election was a spike in the usual US voter turnout, maybe because people were under the misimpression that an Obama victory would change things. US turnouts seem to be far worse in percentage terms than Canadian federal elections. Ontario turnouts resemble the US.
The upcoming US election will be interesting, or not, depending on who is chosen by the GOP. If a razor blade will be needed to separate and distinguish the policies of Obama and the GOP candidate, then look for a low turnout. That's what I'm predicting.     

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Heavily taxed secularists are not very generous

In human relations, at the corner of religion and politics, there lies personal responsibility. For some of us, that corner does not exist exactly, rather it is metaphysics (worldview) and politics. Either way, at that intersection, personal responsibility and self reliance are among the most highly prized virtues among libertarians. Libertarians invariably prefer that people in trouble deal with their own problems or seek voluntary help rather than accept legislated handouts. Libertarians prefer donation to taxation. Many people mistake this attitude among libertarians as being cold and uncaring, but it is more likely an aversion to coercion. Most libertarians regard voluntary donation as their own personal responsibility, helping those that need help in any way they can. Libertarians also believe, that when people are coerced to give, they end up feeling and acting less generously. There is evidence for this.

The Fraser Institute publishes an annual report called "Generosity in Canada and the United States - The 2011 Generosity Index." The report lists the 64 States, Provinces and Territories that comprise the United States and Canada. These two countries that have a great deal in common, with some subtle (and not so subtle) differences that make this a valid comparison.
The Canadian Provinces do not fare well in this comparison. All the Canadian Provinces and Territories are in among the bottom 27 positions out of total 64.  Quebec has the lowest average charitable donation in local dollars with $606 in 2009, while the average amount given in South Dakota in the same year was $7580, a huge difference. In a measure that Fraser Institute calls the "generosity index," Utah ranks as the most generous, number 1 out of 64, while Quebec is 59, Ontario ranked as 46 of 64. So whats going on here?

One of the not so subtle differences between the two countries is that the US is generally more religious than Canada, and likely the most secular of the Canadian provinces is now Quebec. Utah, on the other hand has a large percentage of Mormons that may still practice tithing. Many religions make charity an obligatory part of being faithful. So religion may account for American generosity, though I think Americans are generous by nature. What I don't get is this recent article by someone that clearly hates Ayn Rand, calling Americans greedy etc. They most certainly are among the world's most generous people, as this article posted on the same day as the previous one indicates.

In the National Post, a recent column by Barbara Kay recognizes the religious differences between the two countries. But she goes one step further: "Big governments assign all responsibility for social justice to the state. Smaller governments assign some responsibility to the state and some to the individual. Statism dampens the impulse to be generous at an individual level." Quebec is both secular and has big government, maybe that's why this relatively rich province is so stingy with its donations?

Ms. Kay ends up with: "Taking personal responsibility for alleviating the sufferings of others is the mark of a mature individual. Statism tends to suffocate the blessing of empathy. Statism promotes civic immaturity. One more in a long litany of reasons for working to bring down the size of government." I could not agree more.  

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens Tribute Debate with Tony Blair

Most of you know by now that Christopher Hitchens died today, too young.
The Munk Debates have made available the video of the debate between Hitchens and Blair for the next 72 hours.
HERE.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

AGW - Running out of time and support.....

oops
Have you ever been so engrossed in your work that you are oblivious of your surroundings? It frequently happens to Wile E. Coyote of Looney Tunes fame. Poor coyote doesn't realize he is not supported by anything until, well....until he realizes it, then it's too late.

So it is with the people that brought you the global warming catastrophe and how to prevent it, the IPCC. Their recent meeting in Durban South Africa is over now, and to hear and read their reports, the planet has been saved for our children and so on. Well, if I were them, I'd say its time to look around for their support if they can find it.

Last year at Cancun, that climate conference "kicked-the-Kyoto-can-down-the-road." This year, the Kyoto Accord is being abandoned, kicked out, as it should be. Canada, an early adopter of Kyoto back in 1997, is one of the first to dump it, saying that it would do so this week. Russia and Japan are also not renewing their Kyoto vows. The US was never part of it, and China and India were excused because they had a "note" that stated they are underdeveloped. Right. Who's left? Europe, and they are in good shape, aren't they?

In fact climate change has become money exchange, and really it has always been just that. The battle to save the world from impending climate doom has really morphed into the something the South African hosts called, "Climate justice." And Climate justice is a euphemism for taking from rich countries (that produce wealth and a byproduct called CO2) and giving to poor countries (that can only produce shit apparently). Giving how much? How about $100-Billion a year to expiate our guilt for working hard, establishing good trade rules, and having a descent standard of living. That's right, the whole Durban thing ended with an agreement to keep the Kyoto idea alive by "promising to fund a Green Climate Fund to the tune of $100-billion per year as a farewell gift ............to appease their own citizens."

I am not appeased, but unfortunately Canada has signed on to this fund. The good news is that few agreements of this sort are ever honoured. This article in the National Post suggests that the $10 Billion fund to help save Haiti, (remember that?) is still owing. The rest of the "deal" signed in Durban pushes everything significant off to 2020. What is saved for now, is the next conference in Qatar. Most of today's politicians will be long gone by 2020, and if nothing significant happens that can be pinned onto climate change or global warming, well, the rest of us will forget about it too. Can't happen soon enough.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Unintended Consequences - Schiff Radio

Why does post-secondary education cost so much? Why is poverty increasing if it is always being so actively fought? Why is there so much unemployment despite so many attempts to reduce it? Why do disabled people have difficulty finding jobs?

There is a common thread here, and Peter Schiff does a pretty good job of explaining the 'whys'. Have a look....


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Jolly Green Gouging

There are few things more annoying than being billed for services or items never ordered or never wanted. The hassle of calling the biller, claiming ignorance of the charge, then asking for it to be removed always feels a bit like claiming innocence in a courtroom.

This past week consumers of electricity and taxpayers in Ontario, were told by the provicial Auditor General, that they are being gouged for services that very few of them would have chosen voluntarily. Unfortunately, there is no biller to call, the corrective 'fix' will not be simple, and the rip-off of Ontario's consumers will continue into the foreseeable future.

"Billions of dollars of new wind and solar power projects were approved without many of the usual planning, regulatory, and oversight processes....While this helped these projects get off the ground quickly, their high cost will add significantly to rate-payers’ electricity bills in the future.” That is from a media release by Auditor General Jim McCarter from his 2011 Annual Report.

In another media release, Jim McCarter points out that:“Because we all use electricity, and because the sector operates in a near monopoly, effective oversight...........has historically been crucial.” No kidding, and of course the Auditor's office is the last resort for oversight. You might wonder why the haste in getting these projects going, why skip over planning, consultation etc.? Never does McCarter suggest a reason for the haste and lack of oversight, because at the heart of his report he really does support and depend the government.

So what drives the decision making of the Ontario government because they will ignore this report? I suggest you spend a few moments listening and watching this short video. In it, David Suzuki hero of environmental concerns, clues us all in to whom he has been talking to about Ontario's new green energy future. What's most interesting is Suzuki's concern for sound economics, and how he uses Europe as the model for our green future; the video is slightly dated. Well, we all can see what's happening to Europe today, and the McGuinty Liberals are doing the same sorts of things right here in Ontario.

McGuinty and his Liberals have swallowed hook-line-and-sinker, the idea that humans are the cause of global warming, and Ontarian's in particular. Under the direction of the Premier, cheap coal fired thermal generation stations have been, and are being closed across the province and replaced with costly and uneconomic wind and solar power. Programs like the FIT and MicroFIT are being used to prop up these alternative sources of energy, all at huge cost, according to the Auditor's report.

In an editorial this week, the National Post pulls no punches in lambasting the McGuinty Liberals for its failed energy and environmental policy. Libertarians are frequently criticized for their ideological bias in politics and economics. This of course is a bit like criticizing a tiger for eating meat. No one in the media dares call the Liberal government ideologically driven, no-siree, but of course it is no less ideological than are Libertarians. Spend a few minutes listening to McGuinty's mentor Suzuki, then tell me there is no ideology there.

Strangely, on the same day as the Auditor's report, our Federal Conservative government has decided that it will not renew its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. Ontario seems to be going one way, while the Feds are going the other. Why is Ontario being burdened with huge costs from a monopoly service determined to cut carbon emissions, while the rest of the country seems to be ignoring the issue? Why are the citizens of Ontario being gouged in their monthly electricity bills? Why has McGuinty not yet resigned for incompetence? It's not too late.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Auditor-General vs. Government / Wolf vs. Sheepdog

The 2011 Ontario Auditor-General's annual report was released yesterday, two months after the Oct. 6th election when it actually might have had an impact on government. The timing of this report also serves government interests, because Christmas is coming, and soon the report details will be overwhelmed by good cheer and tinsel, and then ultimately ignored. Nothing will kill a conversation at a Holiday Party quicker than: "So what did-ja think of the A-G's report, eh?"

The report itself is written by bureaucrats whose job depends entirely on the foibles of big government. Sure the Auditor and staff must have some integrity, because their report is invariably critical of government and its excesses, and there is so much to be critical about. But it's really just a game. The actors in this report reminds me of the Looney Tunes cartoon where the apparent arch rivals, Ralph E. Wolf, and Sam Sheepdog, punch-in every morning at the same time-clock with friendly greetings. While on the job they are brutal adversaries, but outside of work they actually live together. So it is with the Office of the Auditor-General and its partner the Government, both are sucking from the same taxpayer's teat. To push my imperfect metaphor to its limits, someone is getting fleeced, can you guess who?
 
The report itself is 460 pages long, and is replete with the major boondoggles that the Ontario Provincial government considers part of its mandate and purview. Government waste and ineptitude are everywhere, and people like me, have ammunition for months and months. Where to start? Here are a few issues from the report:

-  Ontario's electricity monopoly, prices have risen 65% since 1999 and are expected to rise another 46% over the next five years,
- Billions of dollars of wind and solar power projects were approved without the usual planning, regulatory, and oversight processes
Ontario drivers, particularly those in the GTA, generally pay much higher auto insurance premiums than other Canadian drivers
- Ontarians have been paying a special charge to retire an electricity debt, though the remaining debt is never disclosed
LCBO is one of the biggest purchasers of alcohol in the world is more concerned with restricting the use of alcohol than getting the best price for Ontarians

As critical of the government as these issues seem to be, the Auditor offers pathetically poor suggestions to repair to the problems, always suggesting that somehow government can become more efficient, more responsible, more accountable, and never considering that the size and scope of government itself, is the problem. Why would he? He is part of the game and he will punch-in next year at the same time, happy in his work.

We are left with a report, which I believe is truthful, that should send citizens running into the streets screaming because they are literally being robbed, but that won't happen, not yet anyway. I will have more to say. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

ReasonTV Nanny of the Month - November 2011


Capitalism is required to pay for a communist government

"All governments are communist....... What I mean is that all governments expect to be recompensed, not according to the value of their contributions to society, but according to their needs." That's George Jonas in an op-ed piece in today's National Post called The McGuinty paradox. Mr. Jonas goes on to explain: "Wealth that hasn't been created cannot be redistributed, no matter how much a government needs it."  

Of course like all Western governments, in order to stay in power for as long as possible, they buy your votes, they spend "future wealth," wealth that has yet to be created. They assume, things will go merrily on as before, and their over spending will somehow have no effect on the wealth creators.  

As Mr. Jonas points out, the McGuinty Liberals in Ontario are a quarter-trillion dollars in the hole. How can that continue without consequences? Will they be held to account? Most importantly, how did we let that happen and can we prevent it from happening again?
Mr. Jonas doesn't say it, but the implication is there, its time to change the way we do government. Government should be there to protect citizens, not to protect the jobs of politicians.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Canada's bloated health care monopoly


"When countries with smaller workforces accomplish what those with larger ones struggle to achieve, we need to know the reasons," says Matthew Lister in a National Post article Health care needs to get lean. Mr. Lister was comparing the ratio of healthcare administration employees (federal and provincial) in Canada to that in Germany. It turns out that the Germans are remarkably more efficient. One healthcare administrative employee services about 1,415 Canadians. In Germany, with a similar system organized in states (provinces in Canada), it takes one healthcare administrative employee to service 15,545 Germans, more than ten times the Canadian ratio! Furthermore Mr. Lister compared Berlin's State healthcare employees to Alberta's, both have about the same population. Berlin's State has 104 employees compared to Alberta's Ministry of Health with 708 people. Yes, Alberta is huge in comparison to the German State, but it's the populations that are similar and that use the healthcare - not even close.
The chart above is from a comparison of healthcare outcomes for seven OECD countries. Canada is 6th, and Germany is 4th, but Canada is dead last in quality care, effective care and timeliness of care, while spending more money per capita.
Canadians most frequently compare our healthcare system to that of the US. According to the chart, they are similar, but only in outcomes. Canada is 6th, the US is 7th, but look at the difference in per capita cost. According to that chart, US costs are almost double Canada's per capita cost. Based on that, Canada should properly be compared to the other countries because the systems are more similar and so are the costs.
An article by Tom Blackwell in the PostLook past U.S. for health-care fixes: study, agrees that the US is not a good comparison for us. The other countries have similar systems to Canada's, but with much better outcomes and similar or lower costs. Why?

The answer seems to be related to competition and choice in these other countries, ideas that even last week were squelched by the McGuinty Liberals in Ontario. These countries haved shifted into "a 'consumer-driven' culture that gives patients more choice in medical services." Patients are allowed to pick and choose the services they get through private health insurance companies.
One of the doctors involved in the study said: "What I felt was quite striking across a number of these other countries is the role of consumer choice. As soon as consumers start to select and choose ... then you introduce into those systems some element of competition. Then the providers for those services suddenly need to respond to consumer demand, or lack thereof."
Of course this would be a start, a move in the right direction toward a truly competitive healthcare system. But can it really happen? An article in the Post by Lorne Gunter: We're all addicted to big government, suggests just how difficult this might be.
Mr. Gunter examines a StatsCan report that says:"Fully one-in-five Canadians (20.2%) now work for one level of government or another, for a Crown corporation or for a publicly funded institution such as a school or hospital. That’s more than 3.6 million out of a total of about 18 million working Canadians." Add to that families, and extended families, and people that depend on government largess (from taxpayers), and you start to see how many votes are cast in favour of big government. It's a bit depressing. "We’ve all got our ladles in the pot, which is why it is so difficult to find a constituency for broad cuts to government and significant tax reduction," says Mr. Gunter.





      

Saturday, November 26, 2011

More Penn Jillette - Why Libertarianism?


Laissez-faire capitalism — is the ideal economic system

Are you still operating under the delusion that the Occupy Movement is more than just an attempt by the self-identified, downtrodden 99% to redistribute the wealth of the 1%?
As I have suggested before, something is wrong, but the "fix" is so complicated, so knotted-up and entangled with crony capitalism and government regulation, that one needs to be a professor of economics to provide even a smidgeon of clarity. Reprinted below (with permission) is an attempt at providing clarity written by George Reisman, Ph.D., and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Pepperdine University. The article is long because the topic is complex, but well worth the effort of reading. A lively discussion with several opposing views appears here.

How a Highly Productive and Provident One Percent Provides the Standard of Living of a Largely Ignorant and Ungrateful Ninety-Nine Percent

The protesters in the Occupy Wall Street Movement and its numerous clones elsewhere in the country and around the world chant that one percent of the population owns all the wealth and lives at the expense of the remaining ninety-nine percent. The obvious solution that they imply is for the ninety-nine percent to seize the wealth of the one percent and use it for their benefit rather than allowing it to continue to be used for the benefit of the one percent, who are allegedly undeserving greedy capitalist exploiters. In other words, the implicit program of the protesters is that of socialism and the redistribution of wealth.

Putting aside the hyperbole in the movement’s claim, it is true that a relatively small minority of people does own the far greater part of the wealth of the country. The figures “one percent” and “ninety-nine” percent, however exaggerated, serve to place that fact in the strongest possible light.

What the protesters do not realize is that the wealth of the one percent provides the standard of living of the ninety-nine percent.

The protesters have no awareness of this, because they see the world through an intellectual lens that is inappropriate to life under capitalism and its market economy. They see a world, still present in some places, and present everywhere a few centuries ago, of self-sufficient farm families, each producing for its own consumption and having no essential connection to markets.

In such a world, if one sees a farmer’s field, or his barn, or plow, or draft animals, and asks who do these means of production serve, the answer is the farmer and his family, and no one else. In such a world, apart from the receipt of occasional charity from the owners, those who are not owners of means of production cannot benefit from means of production unless and until they themselves somehow become owners of means of production. They cannot benefit from other people’s means of production except by inheriting them or by seizing them.

In the world of the protesters, means of production have the same essential status as consumers’ goods, which as a rule are of benefit only to their owners. It is because of this that those who share the mentality of the protesters typically depict capitalists as fat men, whose plates are heaped high with food, while the masses of wage earners must live near starvation. According to this mentality, the redistribution of wealth is a matter merely of taking from the overflowing plates of the capitalists and giving to the starving workers.

Contrary to such beliefs, in the modern world in which we actually live, the wealth of the capitalists is simply not in the form of consumers’ goods to any great extent. Not only is it overwhelmingly in the form of means of production but those means of production are employed in the production of goods and services that are sold in the market. Totally unlike the conditions of self-sufficient farm families, the physical beneficiaries of the capitalists’ means of production are all the members of the general consuming public who buy the capitalists’ products.

For example, without owning so much as a single share of stock in General Motors or Exxon Mobil, everyone in a capitalist economy who buys the products of these firms benefits from their means of production: the buyer of a GM automobile benefits from the GM factory that produced that automobile; the buyer of Exxon’s gasoline benefits from its oil wells, pipelines, and tanker trucks. Furthermore, everyone benefits from their means of production who buys the products of the customers of GM or Exxon, insofar as their means of production indirectly contribute to the products of their customers. For example, the patrons of grocery stores whose goods are delivered in trucks made by GM or fueled by diesel oil produced in Exxon’s refineries are beneficiaries of the existence of GM’s truck factories and Exxon’s refineries. Even everyone who buys the products of the competitors of GM and Exxon, or of the customers of those competitors, benefits from the existence of GM’s and Exxon’s means of production. This is because GM’s and Exxon’s means of production result in a more abundant and thus lower-priced supply of the kind of goods the competitors sell.

In other words, all of us, one hundred percent of us, benefit from the wealth of the hated capitalists. We benefit without ourselves being capitalists, or being capitalists to any great extent. The protesters are literally kept alive on the foundation of the wealth of the capitalists they hate. As just indicated, the oil fields and pipelines of the hated Exxon corporation provide the fuel that powers the tractors and trucks that are essential to the production and delivery of the food the protesters eat. The protesters and all other haters of capitalists hate the foundations of their own existence.

The benefit of the capitalists’ means of production to non-owners of means of production extends not only to the buyers of the products of those means of production but also to the sellers of the labor that is employed to work with those means of production. The wealth of the capitalists, in other words, is the source both of the supply of products that non-owners of the means of production buy and of the demand for the labor that non-owners of the means of production sell. It follows that the larger the number and greater the wealth of the capitalists, the greater is both the supply of products and the demand for labor, and thus the lower are prices and the higher are wages, i.e., the higher is the standard of living of everyone. Nothing is more to the self-interest of the average person than to live in a society that is filled with multi-billionaire capitalists and their corporations, all busy using their vast wealth to produce the products he buys and to compete for the labor he sells.

Nevertheless, the world the protesters yearn for is a world from which the billionaire capitalists and their corporations have been banished, replaced by small, poor producers, who would not be significantly richer than they themselves are, which is to say, impoverished. They expect that in a world of such producers, producers who lack the capital required to produce very much of anything, let alone carry on the mass production of the technologically advanced products of modern capitalism, they will somehow be economically better off than they are now. Obviously, the protesters could not be more deluded.

In addition to not realizing that the wealth of the so-called one percent is the foundation of the standard of living of the so-called ninety-nine percent, what the protesters also do not realize is that the “greed” of those who seek to become part of the one percent, or to enlarge their position within it, is what serves progressively to improve the standard of living of the ninety-nine percent.

Of course, this does not apply to wealth which has been acquired by such means as obtaining government subsidies or preventing competition through protective tariffs and other forms of government intervention. These are methods which are made possible to the extent that the government is permitted to depart from a policy of strict laissez-faire and thereby arbitrarily reward or punish firms.

Apart from such aberrations, the way that business fortunes are accumulated is by means of the high profits generated by the introduction of new and improved products and more efficient, lower-cost methods of production, followed by the heavy saving and reinvestment of those high profits.

For example, the $6 billion fortune of the late Steve Jobs was built on a foundation of Mr. Jobs having made it possible for Apple Computer to introduce such new and improved products as the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, and then heavily saving and reinvesting the share of the profits that came to him.

Two closely related points need to be stressed. First, the fortunes that are accumulated in this way generally serve in the larger-scale production of the very sort of products that provided the profits out of which their accumulation took place. Thus, for example, Jobs’ billions serve largely in the production of Apple’s products. Similarly, old Henry Ford’s great personal fortune, earned on the foundation of introducing major improvements in the efficiency of automobile production, which brought down the price of a new automobile from about $10,000 at the beginning of the 20th Century to $300 in the mid 1920s, was used to make possible the production of millions of Ford automobiles.

Second, the high rates of profit earned on new and improved products and methods of production are temporary. As soon as the production of the new product or use of the new method of production becomes the norm in an industry, it no longer provides any exceptional profitability. Indeed, further improvements again and again render earlier improvements downright unprofitable. For example, the first generation of the iPhone, which was highly profitable just a few years ago, is or soon will be unprofitable, because further advances have rendered it obsolete.

As a result, the accumulation of great business fortunes generally requires the introduction of a series of improvements in products or methods of production. This is what is required to maintain a high rate of profit in the face of competition. For example, Intel’s ability to maintain its high rate of profit over the years has depended on its ability to introduce one substantial improvement in its computer chips after another. The net effect has been that computer users have gotten the benefit of improvement after improvement not only at no rise but a drastic decline in the prices of computer chips. Insofar as high profits rest on low costs of production, competition drives prices down to correspond to the lower level of costs, which necessitates the achievement of still further cost reductions to maintain high profits.

The same outcome, of course, applies not only to Intel and microprocessors but also to the rest of the computer industry, where gigabytes of memory and terabytes of hard drive data storage now sell at prices below the prices of megabytes of memory and hard drive data storage just a couple of decades ago. Indeed, if one knows how to look, the principle of ever more and better products for less and less applies throughout the economic system. It is present in the production of food, clothing, and shelter as well as in the high tech industries, and in virtually all industries in between.

It is present in these industries even though the government’s inflation of the money supply has caused the prices of their products to rise sharply over the years. Despite this, when calculated in terms of the amount of labor the average person must expend in order to earn the wages needed to enable him to buy these products, their prices have sharply fallen.

This can be seen in the fact that today, the average worker works 40 hours per week, while a worker of a century or so ago worked 60 hours a week. For the 40 hours he works, the average worker of today receives the goods and services comprising the average standard of living of 2011, which includes such things as an automobile, refrigerator, air conditioner, central heating, more and better living space, more and better food and clothing, modern medicine and dentistry, motion pictures, a computer, cell phone, television set, washer/dryer, microwave oven, and so on. The average worker of 1911 either did not have these things at all or had much less of them and of poorer quality.

If we describe the goods and services received by the average worker of today for his 40 hours of labor as being 10 times as great as those received by the average worker of 1911 for his 60 hours of labor, then it follows that expressed in terms of the amount of labor that needs to be performed today in order to be able to buy goods and services equivalent to the standard of living of 1911, prices have fallen to two-thirds of one-tenth of their level in 1911, i.e., to one-fifteenth of their level in 1911, which is to say, by 93 1/3 percent.

Capitalism—laissez-faire capitalism—is the ideal economic system. It is the embodiment of individual freedom and the pursuit of material self-interest. Its result is the progressive rise in the material well-being of all, manifested in lengthening life spans and ever improving standards of living.

The economic stagnation and decline, the problems of mass unemployment and growing poverty experienced in the United States in recent years, are the result of violations of individual freedom and the pursuit of material self-interest. The government has enmeshed the economic system in a growing web of paralyzing rules and regulations that prohibit the production of goods and services that people want, while compelling the production of goods and services they don’t want, and making the production of virtually everything more and more expensive than it needs to be. For example, prohibitions on the production of atomic power, oil, coal, and natural gas, make the cost of energy higher and in the face of less energy available for use in production, require the performance of more human labor to produce any given quantity of goods. This results in fewer goods being available to remunerate the performance of any given quantity of labor.

Uncontrolled government spending and its accompanying budget deficits and borrowing, along with the income, estate, and capital gains taxes, all levied on funds that otherwise would have been heavily saved and invested, drain capital from the economic system. They thus serve to prevent the increase in both the supply of goods and the demand for labor that more capital in the hands of business would have made possible. They have now gone far enough to have begun actually to reduce the supply of capital in the economic system in comparison with the past.

Capital accumulation is also impaired and can ultimately be turned into capital decumulation, through the effects of additional government regulation in raising the costs of production and thus reducing its efficiency. This applies to practically all of the regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, the Food and Drug Administration, and the various other government agencies. The effect of their regulations is that for any given amount of labor performed in the economic system, there is less product than would otherwise be produced.

Now anything that serves to reduce the ability to produce in general, serves also to reduce the ability to produce capital goods in particular. Because of such government interference, any given amount of labor and capital goods devoted to the production of capital goods results in a smaller output of capital goods, just as any given quantity of labor and capital goods devoted to the production of consumers’ goods results in a smaller output of consumers’ goods. At a minimum, the reduced supply of capital goods produced serves to reduce the rate of economic progress. A reduction in the supply of capital goods produced great enough to prevent the addition of any increment to the previously existing supply of capital goods, and thus to put an end to capital accumulation, brings economic progress to a complete halt. A still greater reduction, one that renders the supply of capital goods produced less than the supply being used up in production, constitutes capital decumulation and thus a decline in the economic system’s ability to produce. As indicated, the United States already appears to be at this point.

The problem of capital decumulation has been greatly compounded as the result of massive credit expansion induced by the Federal Reserve System and its policy of easy money and artificially low interest rates. This policy led first to a great stock market bubble and then a vast housing bubble, as large quantities of newly created money poured into the stock market and later the housing market. Between these two bubbles, trillions of dollars of capital were lost. In both instances, vast overconsumption occurred as people raced to buy such things as new automobiles, major appliances, vacations, and all kinds of luxury goods that they would not have believed they could afford in the absence of the effects of credit expansion, often incurring substantial debt in the process.

In the one case, it was the artificial rise in stock prices that misled people into believing that they could afford these things. In the other, it was the artificial rise in home prices that produced this result. The seeming wealth vanished with the fall in stock prices and then again, later, with the fall in housing prices. In the housing bubble, moreover, millions of homes were constructed for people who could not afford to pay for them. All of this represented a huge loss of capital and thus of the ability of business to produce and to employ labor. It is this loss of capital that is responsible for our present problem of mass unemployment.

Despite this loss of capital, unemployment could be eliminated. But given the loss of capital, what would be required to accomplish this is a fall in wage rates. This fall, however, is made virtually illegal as the result of the existence of minimum-wage laws and pro-union legislation. These laws prevent employers from offering the lower wage rates at which the unemployed would be reemployed.

Thus, however ironic it may be, it turns out that virtually all of the problems the Occupy Wall Street protesters complain about are the result of the enactment of policies that they support and in which they fervently believe. It is their mentality, the Marxism that permeates it, and the government policies that are the result, that are responsible for what they complain about. The protesters are, in effect, in the position of being unwitting flagellants. They are beating themselves left and right and as balm for their wounds they demand more whips and chains. They do not see this, because they have not learned to make the connection that in violating the freedom of businessmen and capitalists and seizing and consuming their wealth, i.e., using weapons of pain and suffering against this small hated group, they are destroying the basis of their own well being.

However much the protesters might deserve to suffer as the result of the injury caused by the enactment of their very own ideas, it would be far better, if they woke up to the modern world and came to understand the actual nature of capitalism, and then directed their ire at the targets that deserve it. In that case, they might make some real contribution to economic well being, including their own.

Copyright © 2011 by George Reisman. Permission is hereby given to reproduce this article via electronic transmission, including republication on other websites.
George Reisman, Ph.D. is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics, a Senior Fellow at the Goldwater Institute, and the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996). His website is http://www.capitalism.net/ and his blog is georgereismansblog.blogspot.com.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Fiscal Crunch for ON

See the dark clouds gathering?
Earlier this week I critiqued the Throne Speech the Ontario Government cobbled together to make things sound positive for the coming session of the Provincial Legislature. Yesterday the Provincial Minister of Finance had a more sober take on the new Liberal spending season ahead. He said: "As all Ontarians know, continuing to borrow without curbing spending is simply not sustainable." Someone must have whispered in his ear that a German Bond auction (6 Bn Euros) FAILED earlier in the day. Of course the Liberals have been the ones that are spending with borrowed money as if it's going out of style. The Euro, could be going out of style, and its that risk that the Ontario Liberals will no doubt blame for the province's woes when they are compelled to present a budget in the new year. It is fiscal crunch time.
Terence Corcoran (National Post) compares Ontario's looming problems with the Eurozone crisis, in this column today.    

Death Panels and breast cancer

The Canadian Task Force on Preventative Health Care recommends that women aged 40 to 49 NEED NOT bother getting a routine mammogram. For women aged 50 to 74 they recommend routine screening with mammography every 2 to 3 years.
The Task Force study relied on data from mammograms, some of it 30 years old. Things have changed in 30 years. The pictures (left) show mammograms of the same normal breast, taken two different ways using modern digital (left-sde) and 20 to 30 year old film-based (right-side) mammography. You don't need to be an expert to see that the modern digital picture provides a much clearer image where an expert is more likely to find a suspicious area. Much of the Task force data is based older, less accurate, film-based technology. Don't believe me? Listen to Dr. Martin J. Yaffe interviewed on CBC Radio's The Current here. Click the "Listen Pop-up" where Dr. Yaffe can be heard from 2:12 to 12:39. He is fairly adamant that this recommendation by the Task Force is flawed, and he does not shirk from the question that this may be related to cost considerations rather than the best interests of women.
An article (The Department of Health and Human Services' Death Panel) in an American publication, Forbes Magazine, says it best for the United States:
"If the government succeeds in dominating health care, as it’s now on its way to doing, we can expect more of these weird and lethal findings. The focus will be on rationing and saving money. What we need in health care is more free enterprise, not Soviet-style controls."
Of course here in Canada, and Ontario in particular, the government already dominates the health care system, and rationing and triage are the way things are done. So imagine having a discussion with a physician that has read and accepted this Task Force report, which, as Dr. Yaffe suggests is flawed. The physician will reassure her 40 to 49 year old female patients, that there is nothing to be concerned about, and of course the patients may accept that assurance.
There is an element of coercion here on the part of the physician. Implicit to the physician's advice is the incentive to ration care and save costs which may be a motivation of the Task Force. Rather, the incentive should to offer patients the best choices available so they may act in their own best interests. Choice is imperative.
The simple question I have, is why is it illegal in Ontario to have a supplementary private health care system that patients may use, or not, to allay their particular health concerns? Why not give people the choice?
         

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Speech from the Throne 11/22/11

Doesn't that sound highfalutin? Well, in a Westminster style Democracy, like Canada's, it's not. It is what routinely happens at the start of every new sitting of Parliament, Federally or Provincially. Today it was Ontario's turn, the 40th Session of Parliament, and the speech was delivered by the Queen's Representative (hence Throne) here in Ontario, the Lieutenant Governor.
The speech itself is written by the governing party, in this instance the McGuinty Liberals. They probably consider themselves middle-of-the-road politically. Of course in every Western Democracy, that means statist, that is, the state is the beginning, the end, and the middle of all problems and solutions. That unfortunately is the way they think and so do many of our citizens.
I take my new role as Leader of the Ontario Libertarians, seriously enough to respond to any major Ontario Government announcements, and a Throne speech sets the tone and the goals of the new Parliament, so, it is important.
Below is a heavily edited version (under 5 minutes) of the speech, written highlights can be seen here. But give a listen, then read my response underneath.





In the Throne speech delivered today, while the McGuinty Liberals are acknowledging the global financial crisis, their actions are woefully inadequate as a means of averting the same fate. As if totally disconnected from the market turmoil in all of the Western democracies, the McGuinty government’s plan pretends that Ontario is immune to such problems. In Europe and in America, governments have grown to the point where they are outspending the productive abilities of their own citizenry. The excessive deficits and accumulating debts are now jeopardizing the credit ratings of these countries while impacting the wealth and well being of their citizens.

Unfortunately for Ontario, it is following in the same path. Since McGuinty has taken power in 2003, Ontario's government has grown much faster than its economy. Government spending has doubled and so has the provincial debt, resulting in Ontario becoming a “have not” province. Those facts are intimately linked - cause and effect.

In a recent speech, Dalton McGuinty suggested that Ontario would weather the economic storm with a strong stable plan; this was repeated in the speech from the Throne today. It’s as if the government now realizes that the provincial payroll has ballooned out of their control, so they now intend to reduce the Ontario public service by five per cent by March 2012, and a further two per cent by 2014. Add to that another $200-million in workforce reductions at the 630 government agencies, and they claim this will be sufficient to attack the massive $250-billion debt. That is pathetic, and does not even begin to address the problem.

Despite the newfound appreciation for budget restraint, the government is forging ahead with the expensive and unnecessary introduction of full day kindergarten and a reduction of college and university tuition by 30 per cent for families earning less than $160,000 per year. This amounts to a subsidy and job security for the teacher’s unions. Supporting the education sector is moreover highly questionable, given the teacher’s union’s active support during this past election campaign.

In the Speech from the Throne, the government insists that it will find improved efficiencies to encourage greater productivity without ever explaining how this can be done. In fact, the government undermines any possibility of this happening by treating the government monopolies of Healthcare and Education as sacrosanct, and never to be touched by the evil practices of competition, so widely and profitably used in every other sector of our economy.

No, the McGuinty Liberals have co-opted the wealth of hard working families and transferred it to government because think they know better how to spend the money of those families. Certainly, those families may prefer to make their own decisions about how best to spend their wealth if they had a choice.


-30-

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Atlas Shrugged Part One: a review....

"The film is magnificent," according to Stefan Molyneux as seen in his latest blog post here. I can't think of a better endorsement, so I bought it. I bought in good faith with the hope that this production group finishes the three parts.
The DVD is available at Amazon.ca or here.
Here is Stefan's review:


Friday, November 18, 2011

Getting to the real source of the problem...

Civic officials are attempting to close down "Occupy" movement sites in cities all over North America. In Canada and northern US cities, winter is closing in. The occupiers will be faced with serious challenges from nature AND civic officials very soon.
For me, the problem with the OWS movement is its ambiguity. I can't wholeheartedly support a movement that really has not defined itself. If OWS "leaders" (are there any?) actually came out and said they want the link between crony capitalists and big government broken, well I might listen. If they actually pointed to big government, union-government monopolies, government-business monopolies, and unsustainable entitlement programs as problems, then I might listen. But they don't. Their message is muddled and could be capsulized as "We don't know what we want, and we won't leave until we get it." That was a suggestion on a talk radio show I was listening to, unfortunately it works for this protest.

If the OWS movement is unable to pinpoint the problem or articulate a solution, that does not mean it hasn't been done. In fact it has been done several times over the years, but without much fanfare and none of the drama that roving bands of protestors offer to the media.
The video below is an example, and shows Russell D. Roberts, Professor of Economics at George Mason University and a Senior Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. In October of 2009, in the midst of the TARP and financial crisis, Roberts gave testimony to a US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The testimony was articulate, pointed and for me and others, hit the nail squarely on the head. The testimony was also promptly ignored.
Professor Roberts has blogs here and here. His testimony is what OWS should be using as its mantra and its reason for being. Instead, OWS organizers brainwash their followers by having them repeat inanities in a way reminiscent of cult behaviour. Superimposing the "Hive mind" over the individual thinker. That sort of collective action makes me suspicious, always.
If you have not heard Prof. Robert's testimony you are in for a treat, if you have, its a treat to hear it again. Its needs to be shared widely.


Monday, November 14, 2011

COP 17 or cop out.

Last August there was news that an old theory had been resurrected to explain global warming. You will remember the story out of CERN, that cosmic rays may have an effect on warming, greater than the dreaded CO2, such was the evidence presented.
That posting, plus others, frequently prompt comments from other bloggers, and readers informing me of my heretical position in view of the scientific consensus. No one is more righteous, or more fervent in their belief, than a religious zealot. So I feel comfortable in comparing AGW belief and religion, and that does not even include the question of evidence in either case.
Of course not all who believe that global warming has occurred, and is occurring, are religious zealots. I agree that warming has and is occurring (I'm not a zealot, just a skeptic), I also agree that CO2 is a greenhouse gas (so are H2O and methane). I just don't believe its an issue we can or should try to control, nor do I think it will ever be a problem, at least not in the Al Gore doom and gloom scenario. As I have stated before, the scientists are gung-ho for AGW research and grants, because they need the money, plain and simple, and governments want the power and control.
In the last few months their have been some interesting developments on the AGW front. The Koch Brothers, rich American libertarians (of all people), funded a study called BEST (Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature), which discovered that the earth has been warming, shocking I know, and the continental glaciers around my house have retreated, too! The warmists are thrilled, because this BEST project, could mean the end of climate change skepticism or as they prefer, denial. I don't think so. In fact there are many questions that remain unanswered and the whole thing has been questioned.
Then there was the case of the delinquent teenager, or rather the new book that compares delinquent teenagers to "climate experts." This book by the Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise, adds gasoline to the firestorm created by "climategate." Imagine having the power to affect multi-billion dollar government programs based on "peer-reviewed" data compiled by activist graduate students. That is part of the claim in Ms. Laframboise' book as explained here.
At the end of November, the IPCC meets again to save the world, this time in Durban South Africa. Will it be another Cancun, I hope?  Will people realize that climate science resembles pseudoscience in its ability to predict doom, or as Matt Ridley eloquently stated: "we may be putting a tourniquet round our necks to stop a nosebleed." Who is Matt Ridley? He is a zoologist who recently delivered a lecture for the Angus Millar Lecture 2011, on Scientific Heresy. The lecture dissects the difference between science and pseudoscience (well worth the read). Ridley provides six lessons which he uses to attack the establishment view on AGW. He concludes: "I’ve spent a lot of time on climate, but it could have been dietary fat, or nature and nurture. My argument is that like religion, science as an institution is and always has been plagued by the temptations of confirmation bias. With alarming ease it morphs into pseudoscience even – perhaps especially – in the hands of elite experts and especially when predicting the future and when there’s lavish funding at stake." I couldn't agree more, as for COP17, we should cop out.

 

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Fatal Conceit

A new website has got me thinking again, about why I do this blog, and why I believe, two apparently very different topics, are so intertwined. The idea that links politics and religion together for me, is called "spontaneous order." One of my fellow bloggers is far more learned than I on the topic, you can find him at Interdisciplinary World down there to the right on my blog list. I've written about this before, and you will see why it comes up again.
Spontaneous order is essentially order that seems to arise out of chaos. Why? Because there are unseen "rules or laws" that create the order. The rules were not made up by anyone, they are just characteristics of the nature of matter and energy, the way the universe works. Humans have discovered a lot of these rules with a tool called science. There are many subdivisions of science now, and we know a lot of the rules.
One of the book covers seen above, is Darwin's Origin of Species. Its in this book that he outlines what he thinks are the rules that govern speciation in nature which he calls natural selection. Natural selection is part of the mechanism of Evolution. Of course Evolution conflicts with a great many religious beliefs which brings me back to the first paragraph, and part of the reason for this blog. Generally I tolerate religious belief because it can be compartmentalized sufficiently so as to not interfere with other people's actions. When it starts to interfere, becoming "pushy" and smothering, I push back. One of the positive results of the new world of "political correctness" that we now inhabit, is that people realize that their particular religion is not necessarily everyone's. So my own children did not sing "yes Jesus loves me" in "public" school, like I once did. Chalk one up for freedom from religion.
Darwin did not know about the genetic reasons for evolution, he did not know about shifting allele frequencies or anything at that level of complexity or below, so he really did not discover the "rules," he inferred the rules. We are still discovering all the rules in biology. The important thing for me, is that the rules are discoverable, not mystical, not under the control of a deity. No deity is required, evolution is spontaneous and orderly.
The other book cover, Hayek's book, is related. If you look up spontaneous order, you will see written that many classical liberals (that's politics folks), like Hayek, believe that markets are governed most efficiently without being governed. The rules that govern markets and human behaviour - the science of economics - work best spontaneously without the tinkering of an intelligent designer.
In evolution, the idea of an intelligent designer is common among religious folk, the undiscoverable, unseen, and unknowable deity, is the designer. In economics, because it is a science peculiar to humans (and no other creatures on Earth), many believe there needs to be a designer, a tinkerer, someone to make it more efficient, because people are smart. Right? Unfortunately this is where the conflict occurs. Economics cannot be compartmentalized, in fact it pervades every aspect of one's life in a civil society. Instead of being left to a deity, economics has become by default the purview of government. My children are not free to interact with others in a spontaneous economic order as they should, they, and all of us are manipulated. We all sing to the tune "the government is here for the common good." The disagreement is whose common good? That is what Hayek's Fatal Conceit is about, people who think they know better.
The video below comes from a new website: Libertarianism. It references spontaneous order, and its delivered by an excellent writer David Boaz. If you need a refresher or a new insight, watch.