Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Two problems that governments never admit...

Ontario's Debt Clock
In preparation for the Oct. 6th election, my local newspaper asked me for the two most pressing issues in my riding in 500 words or less. They might expect me to rail about the horrendous traffic, or long waits for medical care or the growing nanny state. No, those are just symptoms of the deeper more fundamental problems. Problems that won't be fixed by electing the same old parties and replacing them again with the same old parties. So here is my letter - 496 words -, and if you are a Libertarian candidate, or a candidate for any party for that matter, you may use this:

The two major problems facing Markham-Unionville are the same as those facing the entire Province of Ontario; they are:
(1) the increasing DEBT and 
(2) the increasing SIZE of Government.

When Dalton McGuinty was first elected, he promised not to raise taxes or have deficits. He has flagrantly ignored both promises.
The 2011 Ontario Budget, projected the debt for 2012 to be $282.3 Billion, more that twice the debt when the Liberals took office in 2003.
That budget also projects continued deficits and increasing debt until 2018, and that assumes that the economy will improve and interest rates stay low. This unprecedented, reckless, runaway spending is directly related to the second major problem: the size of the Ontario Government.
The Liberals have increased program spending in virtually every ministry as the Ontario government assumes more and more responsibilities from the private sector.
For example: McGuinty’s full-day kindergarten program has severely impacted private sector nursery and daycare businesses. At the same time, the Liberals have created an entire Green Industry of windmills and solar panels subsidized by taxpayer’s dollars through the FIT and microFIT programs.
The debt has been acknowledged by the Progressive Conservatives, and their laughable solution is to cut spending by 2% per year for four years, but increase spending in Healthcare and Education at the same time. That is not a solution at all.
All across the Western world, governments have realized that the profligate spending of the past 50 or 60 years has been greatly overdone. As a result governments have been forced to cut back everywhere, at all levels, to avert a financial crisis worse than the one the world faced in 2008-09.
In Ontario, Libertarians would make real cuts in government spending and decrease the size of government as quickly as possible. At first a budget freeze would be instituted followed by 10% cuts in program spending in each of the first four years across all of the 30 Ministries. This would include elimination or amalgamation of at least half of the ministries within one term.
For example, Markham-Unionville MPP Michael Chan’s Ministry of Tourism and Culture would be closed. There is precedent for this, in the US. The state of Washington closed their Department of Tourism in June 2011 due to budget constraints. Almost immediately, a consortium of private businesses and industry stakeholders formed the Washington Tourism Alliance, shifting costs from the State and public sector to the private sector.
Ontario has over 630 agencies, many like the LCBO, demand huge budgets. Even the Liberals have announced that they plan to cut a paltry 14 agencies if re-elected. A Libertarian government would cut hundreds of agencies, including the LCBO and allow competition in the retail sale of liquor, beer, and wine.
As government ministries and agencies are reduced, and program spending is cut, tax reductions will follow. Ontarians will have more choice about how and where their money is spent, and Ontario will become the dynamo of Canada once again.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Walmart vs. FEMA in hurricane relief

That picture shows Hurricane Irene poised to assault the US Eastern Seaboard. The cleanup is ongoing at the time of this posting. The destruction, while bad enough, is not as bad as it might have been. Warnings came from POTUS Obama himself, from various State Governors, and from a slew of lessor officials. As usual, private commercial television news broadcasters carried the entire event live and round-the-clock, for the benefit of casual viewers, and those directly affected by the storm. The broadcasters disseminated the official warnings and trotted out their own expert commentators providing what amounted to a free service for all concerned.
By and large the cleanup is local, as it should be, but of course Federal and State government agencies will provide some of the assistance because the political "optics" require such help, whether needed or not. The whole thing is reminiscent of a similar hurricane disaster in 2005, Katrina. That storm, which resulted in widespread destruction around New Orleans, showed just how out-of-touch a top-down federal government agency, FEMA, could be with respect to its primary purpose. FEMA has been rightly criticized for its raison d'ĂȘtre today, in the case of Irene, and for it's handling of Katrina. Steven Horwitz has an interesting perspective in this video, on the way a private company Walmart, was in many ways more effective than FEMA:

Saturday, August 27, 2011

"Holy Grail of climate science?"

The news this week from CERN in Europe is that cloud formation seems directly related to cosmic rays. That is rattling the orthodoxy of the Anthropogenic Global Warming crowd, and they are not happy.
All this reminds me of that story from The Onion a few weeks back that blamed the Eastern heat wave on the massive star at the centre of our solar system. Yup, good call!
Is it possible that the changing climate on earth over the millennia is caused by something other than human produced CO2? Oddly, that is my belief.
Certainly humans producing significant amounts of CO2 is a relatively recent occurrence in the planet's history. So why has Earth's climate been so variable, warming and cooling, since the birth of the planet? Well, maybe it has something to do with causes more significant than CO2. Maybe the cause of fluctuating climate is related to the CERN discovery that cosmic rays seed clouds which affect the albedo of the Earth.
In science there is a principle that applies here: parsimony. Sometimes referred to as Occam's Razor, the idea in this instance is, that it might be better to look for a comprehensive theory that explains climate changes over the history of the planet rather than a theory for each instance that the climate is changing. Of course I will not deny that there may have  been several causes over time. Certainly we are in a warming period after the ice age in the Pleistocene epoch. But the AGW orthodoxy vehemently disagrees with anything that contradicts their premise, that humans are a blight on the planet.
The alarmists have lobbied politicians of all stripes all over the world over the years, into taking action against climate change caused by CO2. The scientists who peddle this crap, have their mouths so firmly attached to the teat of government, that they will ignore the data from CERN and dismiss it as bullshit. Right now in many provinces, states and countries there are "green industries" that heavily depend on the AGW hypothesis.
Ontario's current government leaders and the leaders of most Western countries have their collective heads so far up their collective asses they can only see windmills, solar panels and sunshine. If it weren't so serious it would be laughable, a joke. But it's no joke. The misplaced investments, government subsidized jobs and worse, the mass-media acceptance has created a general apathy among the sheeple reminiscent of a religious stupor. Lets all bow to the GREEN GOD. Where I live, this is how it is, period.
In today's Financial Post, Larry Solomon has a column: Science now settled. In it he talks about the CERN discovery and some of the implications. Whether his pronouncement is premature or not, the debate certainly is far from over. He may be right or wrong, can you say the same?

FYI: comments closed on this posting.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Power of One

The power of one individual, to change things, came into sharp focus these last few days. The untimely, though not unexpected death of NDP leader Jack Layton was first. I had a grudging admiration and respect for that man, certainly not for his contributions to Canada, or any of the blather that has been coming from the statist mainstream media this week. No, as someone said: "Death is not a reason to rewrite history." So I won't join that parade of mourners, in much the same way as this writer.
Mr. Layton was to his party, everything. He was the leader, and the centre of the socialist solar system in Canada. I indicated as much last May, after the Federal election, he was the "orange crush" incarnate, and the sole reason that his party rose to official opposition status in that election.
Aside from his Marxist-Socialist political stance, there was much to admire about Jack Layton. He was one of the first to support free choice on abortion when it was a divisive political issue (still is - damned conservatives). He was one of the first to back the Gay Rights movement. He was generally antiwar and anti prohibition on some drugs. All those issues would still raise the ire of conservatives across the country, but not libertarians. Mr. Layton had principles, any libertarian can understand that.
So is the NDP in shambles with Mr. Layton's passing? I hope so, in fact I think a Liberal-NDP merging is now more likely than ever, and I hope it happens, just to eliminate vote splitting.

The other picture up there is of Steve Jobs former CEO of Apple. While Jack Layton changed Canada in some ways, Steve Jobs changed the world. Mr. Jobs retired from his duties yesterday, and one can only assume he is not well, and that is a terrible loss.
I have used Apple products on and off (mostly on) since the days of the Apple II. I have a basement full of old Macs, going back to the Mac Classic. I'm using a newish iMac to write this, and I love my iPad 2. You get the picture. Thanks to Steve Jobs and the people at Apple the world thinks differently now. I hope he's OK, and can still add his two cents to whatever new products Apple unveils. Some say he is a micro-manager, and was in control of all that was Apple. If thats true, it is even more impressive.   

The truth about AGW is becoming CLOUDy

Its funny how quickly science can change.
Here I am in the midst of a disagreement on Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) and a Facebook friend (H/T Redmond) tags me on the very same issue with a story that might shut the AGW alarmists down.
This story is just hot off the press, literally, and appears in Nature today, and I can't say that I fully understand its implications just yet. But what I do understand is that cosmic radiation has an effect on climate change through cloud formation....I think. As someone cleverly retorted on Facebook, he can just hear Al Gore saying "bullshit."
But the most interesting part of the story is that CERN scientists have been told earlier to stay mum on the results, likely because it goes against the current AGW orthodoxy.
Of course that is not preventing other AGW skeptics from weighing in here, and here.
This kind of story could have huge political implications, not the least being in the Ontario election campaign now underway. Imagine all the effort spent on reducing CO2 and then discovering that it has a minor role at best on global warming. Embarrassing? You bet.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Environmentalism, NAZI style

Are those two symbols related? Its hard to believe but they are. Combined they can be thought of as forming the basis for the organization whose green flag is on the right: the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party (LNSGP). I should quickly add that the LNSGP, an American organization, has no affiliation with either the US (or any) Libertarian or Green Party.  The LNSGP has 3 precepts namely: personal freedom, environmental improvement, and collective action, a bit too contradictory for me.
I mention this because of my previous posting which featured Al Gore venting his frustration at the opposition to AGW. A comment to that posting contained the phrase "Dishonesty is the primary tool of the AGW deniers." The writer meant that my post was dishonest because I suggested Gore "lost his cool." No, my issue with Gore is very similar to my issues with fascism, NAZIsm, or any top-down organizational "-ism" that forces their opinions (and worse) on humanity.
Gore complains that there is no longer a "shared reality on climate," an admission that public opinion is increasingly skeptical of the climate alarmists. Then he goes on to proclaim "the very existence of our civilization is threatened." That's what he said in his rant, go have a listen. That kind of rhetoric will give anyone with libertarian leanings a reason to step back and examine the speaker and the meaning of his words with a jaundiced eye.
The truth is, I am not opposed to preserving and protecting the environment, far from it. I just have a completely different approach to how that might be achieved (see video below). Let me add, this does not mean that I agree that something needs to be done on global warming, I don't.
Al Gore and others who espouse the idea of collective action on AGW remind me too much of the Green Wing of the NAZI Party. The smear terms "eco-nazi" and "eco-fascist" have a legitimate historical derivation. Environmental concerns were deeply embedded within European fascist philosophy, and Hitler himself was profoundly concerned about the welfare of animals (PETA would love to hear that). Not that Gore and his associates are NAZI's, but their calls for global government action, reduced freedoms, and huge additional costs to fend off a supposed imminent catastrophe, have a totalitarian twinge about them.
So are AGW deniers liars? No more than AGW alarmists are. Al Gore can get just as hyperbolic as anyone, and lately his rants are back page news.
Hear how a libertarian view of the environment can be so much more reasonable:

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Gore loses cool on global warming

Today in the National Post, Rex Murphy suggests that the global warming debate is "running out of gas." That is not surprising considering the financial crisis that we have had and are still facing. I have mentioned the likelihood that this will happen several times in previous posts. Unfortunately various governments have already committed their populations to a variety of programs designed to reduce carbon emissions at tremendous cost to taxpayers and the local economy. Ontario, of course, is the one most concerning to me and my family with such laws as the Green Energy Act. In this Act the government forces  taxpayers to subsidize uncompetitive "renewable energy" production, while endangering Ontario's future energy requirements in a vain attempt at preventing climate change.  
As a measure of the frustration felt by global warming alarmists with the increasing public scepticism and criticism, Rex Murphy describes Al Gore's recent meltdown in Aspen Colorado. Here is how it sounded:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Making the unthinkable, more popular: A libertarian goal

"Should libertarians become involved in politics?" Not a tough question for me, having run in two elections, and about to start yet another campaign. But that was the question posed in a debate at this year's Liberty Summer Seminar in Orono Ontario.
The debaters were Leon Drolet a former Michigan State legislator, arguing for the affirmative, and Anton Howes (negative) on the board of European Students for Liberty in the UK.
Despite my bias, I found it a fascinating debate and discussion, and a learning experience. Both debaters were excellent, though I, and a majority of the audience thought that Mr. Drolet carried the day. Of course I didn't need convincing, but I was exposed to a new (for me) concept in Mr. Drolet's rebuttal.
Mr. Drolet was careful to acknowledge that his opponent's position was as important as his own, namely the apolitical philosophical advocates (like the Institute for Liberal Studies and other think tanks and thinkers) were as important as the political ones. Both are required to eventually sway public opinion and make policy change in government.

In the rebuttal Mr. Drolet referred to the Overton Window, a model of policy change that describes the range of acceptable options that politicians can support and still win re-election.
In any politically related discussion there are always a range of alternatives as is indicated in the diagram above. New ideas may be so "out there on the fringe" that they are considered by most people as being unthinkable. Others are either already policy, or possible policy. Mr. Drolet suggested that it is up to the philosopher thinker or the think tank to present an idea. It is the politician's job is to sell it, so that it eventually becomes more acceptable and mainstream. In any political enterprise such as an election campaign, the “window” (named the Overton Window) includes the range of policies considered to be politically acceptable in the current climate of public opinion. Any politician may recommend anything within the Overton Window without being considered too “extreme” or outside the mainstream to gain or keep public office. Overton's idea was arranged in a spectrum on a vertical axis of “more free” and “less free” with regard to government intervention. The window moves or expands as ideas become more or less politically acceptable.
So within the context of the American campaign for the 2012 Republican nomination, Ron Paul's ideas, by and large, are considered unthinkable or too radical to make him a viable candidate. That is how the mainstream media are portraying him. But events may change the public perception of Ron Paul, and some or all of his ideas may become more acceptable or sensible to the general public. That's why he is running.
That is true about Canadian libertarians as well. The election campaign in Ontario, now underway, will give us an opportunity to advocate unthinkable or radical ideas to the electorate. The goal is to move the Overton Window toward acceptability and eventually get someone elected. Can this happen? Of course it can.
Unthinkable ideas 50 years ago, are now completely accepted. There is a black President in the US. Marriage between homosexuals is legal in Canada and many American jurisdictions. Marijuana today, seems "less dangerous" and is likely to be decriminalized somewhere in North America in the not-too-distant future. Today there is no law in Canada dealing with abortion. All of those ideas were once unthinkable, but with patience, and persistence, they are within the realm of policy and practice. There is hope.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The British Non-Working class riots

Theodore Dalrymple best expressed what is and has been happening in Great Britain lately.

"The riots are the apotheosis of the welfare state and popular culture in their British form. A population thinks (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class) that it is entitled to a high standard of consumption, irrespective of its personal efforts; and therefore it regards the fact that it does not receive that high standard, by comparison with the rest of society, as a sign of injustice. It believes itself deprived (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class), even though each member of it has received an education costing $80,000, toward which neither he nor—quite likely—any member of his family has made much of a contribution; indeed, he may well have lived his entire life at others’ expense, such that every mouthful of food he has ever eaten, every shirt he has ever worn, every television he has ever watched, has been provided by others. Even if he were to recognize this, he would not be grateful, for dependency does not promote gratitude. On the contrary, he would simply feel that the subventions were not sufficient to allow him to live as he would have liked."

It's difficult to be more incisive than that, so I won't try, and the entire article linked above is worth the read.

After the 2008-2009 financial turmoil, I recall reading financial commentators who predicted that a crisis of the sort that happened, not a typical boom and bust recession, but one where a fundamental de-leveraging was occurring, a bank and debt crisis, was the type of crisis that would lead to violence, and war. Of course a vague prediction of that sort, probably can be made anytime with some accuracy. But when I read it, it felt ominous almost Orwellian. 
Where will the next war begin or will the ones we have already grow, and become more widespread? Is the violence internal and specific to certain countries? What kind of violence? The advisors I read, pointed to violence related to the economy. Again, is there any other kind? Just about any kind of violence that does not have a sociopathic cause, is caused by economics, any war, any criminal violence, just about everything has an economic root.
The British violence has an economic root too, but its economics according to what Dalrymple suggested above, and what Stefan Molyneux has researched below. 


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Liberty Summer Seminar - Huddle in the Hinterland

LSS 2011 under the tent
Last weekend I had the privilege of learning about liberty in the country side of Southern Ontario. Just under 100 people, Canadians, Americans, even a few Europeans, all with a deep appreciation of liberty, gathered in the woods near Orono. It was the Eleventh Annual Liberty Summer Seminar (LSS) sponsored by the Institute for Liberal Studies.
This years edition of the LSS was in jeopardy at one point. Some local politicians were determined to close it down because of arcane bylaw regulations. Thanks to widespread support, legal help from the CCF, and a municipal election that ultimately turfed out most of the offending politicians, the 2011 LSS went ahead.

From a personal point of view it's always reassuring to be in the company of other libertarians, sure there are still arguments, but they seem much more productive and satisfying.
In many ways this seminar is like an annual renewal for those attending. Friendships are renewed, ideas are exchanged, passion and determination are refreshed, and the annual downpour has a cleansing effect. It did pour, but not for long.
My plan is, to post several times over the course of the next week or so, highlighting some of the speakers and stories that were observed during the 2011 LSS, and the first one will be about a debate - "Should libertarians become involved in politics?" 

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Cassandra Syndrome

The Procession of the Trojan Horse in Troy
by Domenico Tiepolo (1773)
A comment by an economist with apparent Austrian School leanings, has prompted this posting.That economist was frustrated because he says he can explain the current economic malaise/crisis in Austrian terms, but no one either believes or listens to what he is saying. He likens his plight to that of Cassandra, of Greek mythology.
Cassandra of course foresaw the destruction of Troy and the death of Agamemnon, commander of the Greek army, but no one believed her. In the current context it's a situation that many of us can sympathize with and it has been named the Cassandra Syndrome. The Urban Dictionary defines Cassandra Syndrome as:
1) The condition of speaking the truth and having no one believe you.
2) The condition of being able to predict the future, be it the outcome of a particular event, or the reactions of others to the same event, and having no one believe your prophecy until it transpires.
3) Being able to see or understand things long before others, often resulting in them coming to the same conclusions long after your own initial analysis.

This morning, CBC Radio News reported on the FOX sponsored Iowa Republican Party nominees debate. In that report, Michelle Bachmann was mentioned, Mitt Romney was mentioned, and so on, not a word about candidate Ron Paul of course. To be fair most of the other candidates were not mentioned, but Ron Paul exemplifies the meaning of Cassandra Syndrome exactly. He is the only candidate that calls for peace, liberty, and limiting the power of government. He needs to be heard, to be listened to, and to be supported. Watch and listen to his answers, a Cassandra if ever there was one.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Freckles on the sun

Astronomy was one of my first loves. The wonder of it is how much we don't know and are still finding out. There are far, far, more planets around distant suns than you or I can

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Your life after death.....digitally.

So what happens to our digital life after we are gone? Adam Ostrow, a journalist, argues that we all have one thing in common, we will all die. Then what? Will our blogs be erased? Will our status updates on Facebook indicate the moment of death? Will we live on as part of the ever growing "cloud?" All good questions, a bit morbid maybe, but interesting.

What should be cut?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about "The curse of the spendthrift legislators." Governments everywhere in the 'first world' have racked up huge debts, primarily because they have ventured into areas they do not belong. Governments at all levels have some legitimate functions in libertarian philosophy. Most of these proper functions can be classified broadly as protecting our rights without impinging on our liberties, including economic freedoms.
So now that the government spending pendulum has swung too far in the wrong direction everywhere, how can it be reversed?  As an example on a smaller scale, the link above mentions that the City of Toronto has a budget shortfall for next year of three quarters of a billion dollars. So city councillors are faced with cutting costs or raising taxes....a lot. What to do? One of the many suggestions in a report produced by KPMG for the city was to cut library services. You might imagine the hue and cry and that was elicited from the statist community for that one.
Realistically there is no way city government (or any government) will revert to the libertarian ideal in the near future. Our only hope is that government makes moves in the direction of more liberty. Two articles by Larry Solomon of the National Post suggest how this may be done. The first here, deals with the KPMG report and its effect on services. The second here, addresses the library questions and the perception that the cuts will somehow encourage widespread ignorance. Both articles offer interesting alternatives.   

Monday, August 8, 2011

Triple-A reality check

Today stock markets around the world resembled that ship over there, and that was after last week, a bad week. Standard and Poor's downgraded US credit on Friday after the markets closed, and all weekend media types were waiting for the other shoe to drop. Well, it's dropping, but maybe not yet completely dropped.
The media are portraying this as a debt crisis, POTUS Obama calls it a crisis in political will. No matter, things won't start improving until and unless everyone agrees that this is actually a spending crisis. It didn't start with Obama, or Bush 2, the problem  is chronic and widespread across the planet at all levels of government. Spending at a greater rate than income creates debt, its very simple, any household is aware of this reality. Why governments have the right to spend more than they have, is a great question, maybe for another time.
Canada lost its Aaa rating in 1992, and it was not reinstated until years later, after the Chretien-Martin Liberals actually downsized the Canadian Federal government. This downsize, that began about 15 years ago, is the reason most commentators say that Canada is doing so much better than the US and the other G7 economies at the moment.
So the reality is that a country functions better when it's spending is under control, and when its government shrinks giving the population more of its own discretionary income. Job creation is better, the monetary system is better and the future is brighter. That is the reality. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hyperinflation by fiat

Fiat currency or money, is money that has value only because of government regulation or law. That means there is no tangible commodity that the money can exchanged for, except its equivalent value in other denominations. So, one American dollar will get you four quarters made of some base metal combination, which at least has some heft to it. That is the law in the U. S., but once an American dollar was worth a pre-determined amount of gold, and then things changed.
The bill pictured is 1 x 10 to the 14th Zimbabwean dollars - one hundred trillion Zim dollars. Today, that bill is worth about $5.00 Canadian/US, as a collectors item. In 2008 that amount would purchase a cart of groceries, while 700 Billion Zim Dollars bought a loaf of bread. That's what happens when a currency collapses and hyperinflation ensues.
As posted here, the average life expectancy of a fiat currency is 27 years and as Stefan Molyneux explains in a recent posting below, the world's current reserve currency, the U. S. dollar, may be nearing the end of its life expectancy.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"Our genes talking"

Humans are successful because we have developed "social learning" and have used language to impart that learning to others.
Language is used to unite us, and divide us, and it has transformed humanity more than anything we possess.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Your government = your mommy

Don't touch those potato chips! Put down that can of soda pop! The government KNOWS whats best for you, trust them.
Seems to me, with all the things government is expected to do, chastising people for bad habits is one less thing it should be doing. Come to think of it, with the huge debts being accumulated by all levels of government on our behalf, there are too many things governments are doing. People should be responsible for themselves as much as possible, don't you think?