Sunday, August 31, 2014

Should ER doctors turn in suspected drunk drivers?

Last weekend the Toronto Sun ran a front page story and two full pages inside, on an ER doctor's experience and opinion.
The story was about a woman that had been taken to the ER and examined by that doctor.
"The patient, a woman in her 40s, had driven her car into the back of another automobile, causing significant damage to her vehicle and injuring the two occupants of the car she struck.
As I examined this woman, it became apparent to me she was likely under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident. Her breath smelled strongly of liquor, her words were slurred, and her balance was unsteady. Speaking to the attending paramedics, I was informed police had not interviewed the woman at the scene and she had not yet been subjected to an alcohol breath test. Assessing the patient for injuries, I proceeded to order x-rays and CT scans, as well as lab tests to screen for alcohol and drugs of abuse."
The doctor's suggestion is that physicians be allowed to report suspected drunk drivers to the police in the interests of public safety, contrary to doctor - patient confidentiality. 

In this case the woman had the presence of mind NOT to permit blood tests, and even if they were done they could not be admitted as evidence because the law imposes a duty of confidentiality on physicians. In the article the doctor points out how this duty of confidentiality already has exceptions. His suggestion would simply add to the slippery slope that currently erodes doctor-patient confidentiality. Is it warranted? 

I would say no. In the case above, the actions of that woman, likely required police investigation because harm was done, people were hurt, property was damaged. So where were the police? That is their job. The issue should have been dealt with right there. 

Maybe there were witnesses (including the two that were injured) that could have testified that the woman was driving carelessly or even dangerously. Their encounter with the woman assuming they were able, would allow them to pursue a civil action against the woman, even if the woman wasn't charged. Careless and dangerous driving can be objectively observed. Both may cause harm, and appropriate penalties do exist. However, alcohol in the blood does not necessarily indicate impairment or result in careless or even dangerous driving. By allowing the doctor to hold or report the woman until police arrive just puts off what should have happened initially. When a traffic collision occurs and an ambulance is called, police should be there too.

I'm not in favour of drinking and driving, I doubt anyone is. Charging someone with a crime simply based chemicals present in their bloodstream is not reasonable in my opinion. That is what the doctor proposes and of course that already happens when police stop drivers and ask them to use a breathalyzer. But the police may have had cause for stopping that particular driver. The actions of that person, the way they are driving, that is what should be judged.

In Ontario police already have extraordinary powers with regard to alcohol consumption. All Ontario drivers are likely aware of The Ride Program, - the annual holiday police road block that assumes guilt by virtue of the time of year, and time of day. The statistics show that fatal collisions that have impaired drivers involved have been steadily decreasing over the years. Is that because of the Ride Program or is that because of all the advertising education that has occurred over the 26 years since Ride was initiated province wide? Its hard to know.

There are many reasons that could impair a person's ability to drive. Eating, drinking (alcohol), talking, texting, shaving, children in the back, putting on makeup, it's a long list. None of those are crimes in the right context. But if any of them causes a person to drive erratically or even dangerously resulting in a collision, that is potentially a crime, and that is what should be judged.     


Friday, August 22, 2014

Marijuana black market thrives

Colorado's marijuana loosening law is almost 8 months old. I say 'loosening,' because the law has many constraints associated with it.

Its always amazing to me that legislators, by and large, are economic ignoramuses. Maybe that's not fair, laws are hammered together compromises. The archetype statist Otto von Bismarck, probably said it best "Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made."

The new freedoms in Colorado did nothing to reduce the size of the black market in marijuana, on the contrary it may have emboldened users, making the market bigger than ever. Why? Here is a more in depth story.

How to think about the Canadian aboriginal issue with a libertarian view?

Libertarianism is a very big tent (hence the tipi picture). It pulls in people from all political directions, left, right, centre and for various reasons too numerous to expound here.

But there are two moral principles that are touchstones to the libertarian idea that separate it from all other political ideas. The first is the concept of "self-ownership," each of us is a sovereign being. The second is the "non-aggression principle" or NAP, where any unsolicited violent force against another person or their property is wrong because it violates the principle of self-ownership. It is these two ideas that keep libertarians together and pointed in the right direction. 

For me those ideas themselves do not comprise a complete philosophy, far from it. My philosophy includes those ideas as well as others which you may find here. Reason and evidence are among the things I try to use daily and believe wholeheartedly. Sadly for me, too many libertarians that I know believe the latter two ideas are irrelevant. But I digress.

My last two posts were about aboriginal issues, and this will be my final post of the series. I see the two touchstones of libertarianism as instructive in how to approach this issue. They can be applied to the aboriginal situation in Canada. By using this reasoning a libertarian resolution to the issue can be achieved at some point in the future.

Let me summarize the present situation in Canada as I see it.

Many natives bands have signed off on the 11 treaties covering a wide swath of the country and gave up their rights to land etc. in return for ongoing payments of goods, various entitlements and money. There are also large parts of the country where lands are disputed by the local native bands. In either case individual natives on reserves have collective, not individual land rights. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs sends tax payers money to the band chiefs on reserves according to the Indian Act, money that is coerced from the rest of us. The Indian Act perpetuates the natives lack of property rights ( (1) No Indian is lawfully in possession of land in a reserve). The money is distributed to band members according to the wishes of the chief and band council. Even if this was a voluntary arrangement between the Crown and the natives at one time, it most certainly is not now. The fact that the Indian Act precludes even fee simple property rights on reserves to natives without special permission is just wrong. Tax payers being coerced to enforce this legislation obviously contravenes the NAP, as most taxes do. No libertarian should support any of this. I don't.

Natives on the receiving end however, would have a very different view, many feeling entitled to their entitlements, which I think amounts to rent-seeking. Some even hold up the canard of "aboriginal sovereignty" to justify their situation. I'm a sovereign individual too, and my home is my castle. Reading the Indian Act puts the lie to sovereignty. Legislation that confers rights actually does the opposite, it is limiting because it gives permissions. It is not sovereignty, it is dependency. No libertarian should support the Indian Act.

From a governance viewpoint, the paternalistic Indian Act stipulates a type of crony wealth redistribution that is open to the possibility of corrupt practices by the Chiefs or band councils. Here is one Chief that made almost $1 million last year representing a band of just 81 members. This news only came to light after new legislation was instituted that requires bands to report their financial status which is absolutely unbelievable in 2014, but so typical of 'government oversight,' an oxymoron if ever there was one. You're welcome to wade through this opaque mass of government information generated by the transparency legislation here.

In my last post I mentioned the rent-like obligation placed on non-natives. This ongoing debt with no end in sight, is contrary to the NAP because no one wants to have an obligation they did not consent to, and no one should continue to acquiesce to this agreement. No libertarian should support this. 

Despite this, native leaders travel the world complaining of the bad treatment aboriginals receive in Canada. I found an exchange between Prof. Walter Block and Lorne Gunter on the issue of 'Human Rights' and natives here. Its well worth the read and contains some interesting data. Prof. Block, by the way, " (my) view. Wholeheartedly, and enthusiastically," I asked him.
Some of the apologists for aboriginal 'rights' in Canada will point out that it's really not that expensive to satisfy the obligations in the treaties and agreements with the natives. That may be true (but still no excuse) in the grand scheme, but there are hidden costs that must be factored in:

Aboriginals have the highest incarceration rate in the country:
"While Aboriginal people make up about 4% of the Canadian population, as of February 2013, 23.2% of the federal inmate population is Aboriginal (First Nation, Métis or Inuit). There are approximately 3,400 Aboriginal offenders in federal penitentiaries, approximately 71% are First Nation, 24% Métis and 5% Inuit.
In 2010-11, Canada’s overall incarceration rate was 140 per 100,000 adults. The incarceration rate for Aboriginal adults in Canada is estimated to be 10 times higher than the incarceration rate of non-Aboriginal adults.
The over-representation of Aboriginal people in Canada’s correctional system continued to grow in the last decade. Since 2000-01, the federal Aboriginal inmate population has increased by 56.2%. Their overall representation rate in the inmate population has increased from 17.0% in 2000-01 to 23.2% today.
Since 2005-06, there has been a 43.5% increase in the federal Aboriginal inmate population, compared to a 9.6% increase in non-Aboriginal inmates.
Aboriginal youth have the highest suicide rates in the country:
"Suicide rates are five to seven times higher for First Nations youth than for non-Aboriginal youth, and rates among Inuit youth are among the highest in the world, at 11 times the national average. Some speculate that the problem is actually worse, as stats don't usually include all Aboriginal groups."
Aboriginals are treated differently by Police in all jurisdictions across Canada even though the Indian Act specifies:

"General provincial laws applicable to Indians
88. Subject to the terms of any treaty and any other Act of Parliament, all laws of general application from time to time in force in any province are applicable to and in respect of Indians in the province, except to the extent that those laws are inconsistent with this Act or the First Nations Fiscal Management Act, or with any order, rule, regulation or law of a band made under those Acts, and except to the extent that those provincial laws make provision for any matter for which provision is made by or under those Acts."
I won't even go into the issue of contraband cigarettes/tobacco. This may not have been an issue when treaties and agreements were established more than 100 years ago, but things have changed.

Is it possible that the impact of the Indian Act, aboriginal dependency on big government and all of the things I've mentioned plus others, are the cause (direct or indirect) of the present situation? I'd say yes.

Milton Friedman said judge policy by results not intentions. It's very clear to me what the results have been between the various aboriginals and Crown/government over the past hundreds of years. The policies have not worked, particularly for the aboriginals.

I tend to agree with Lorne Gunter, this will not be fixed for a generation or two, if ever, and I have no idea where to start. But let me suggest that a good place to begin is to admit the problem and confront it. This is a huge waste of human resources, people that should be contributing to our country are being wasted literally.

I would like to see the Libertarian Party of Canada take up this issue, no other party seems to have the courage.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What's wrong with native rights?

If you read my previous post it ended with the question: "So you might wonder why so many libertarian and conservative thinkers are apposed to the way the First Nation's people were dealt with and are being dealt with in Canada?"

Many people think it's a property rights issue, and of course libertarians, particularly those from political parties, view property rights as fundamental rights, and I agree. 

But, is this a property rights issue?

European settlers made contact with North American aboriginals more than 500 years ago. Their had been wars, periods of peace and finally settlement through a series of agreements and treaties. You can read the history here and onward. The treaties were designed to prevent war while encouraging commerce, interaction and interdependence creating a virtuous circle of sorts. It worked, more or less, but to this day there are no final settlements. At the risk of oversimplifying the situation here is what I mean.
North American aboriginals were not a homogeneous group, some were farmers, some nomads and often there were territorial disputes between them. The Europeans complicated the situation, bringing a totally different culture and worldview to North America. Essentially agreements were reached with different bands that tried to accommodate their uniqueness, but nothing was resolved in finality. The unwillingness of past governments and native leaders to finalize issues, left us with half cooked deals. These are the so-called numbered treaties, mostly written after Confederation, which were modelled after one another across Canada (see map above). For example here is the summary for Treaty Number Nine, the one that encompasses much of Northwestern Ontario.

Many Canadians are under the illusion the somehow much of Canada still "belongs" to the aboriginals and the rest of us are interlopers, renting these properties. But the wording in all the treaties is very similar. Each treaty states that Aboriginal nations forever give up their land rights to the government of Canada for European settlement. That's pretty clear, this is NOT a rental agreement. But the problem with the treaty wording is the idea that land rights are given up in return for this sample from Treaty Nine: 
  • 2.5 square kilometers of reserve land for each family of five or 600 square meters for each person. 
  • $8 per person each year, plus an additional $4 annually for the family head; chiefs get $32 and an extra $8 payment. They also get a flag and a copy of the treaty.
  • The right to hunt and fish on ceded land, except land used for forestry, mining, settlement or other purposes.
  • $1 per family head for ammunition and fishing net twine.
  • Funds to hire teachers, construct school buildings, and buy educational equipment as the government of Canada sees fit.
  • A census to keep track of how many Aboriginals there were in each band, mainly for financial compensation purposes.
This, I think is outrageous. Treaty Nine was signed over 100 years ago and there are ten other treaties that are similar. It amounts to non-natives being in perpetual debt to natives through enforced rent-seeking. It looks, acts, and smells, like a rental agreement. Only a government would have the arrogance to proclaim something as silly as a property transfer agreement that has no end date and no resolution. These are the so-called "native rights" (plus others in each province), and of course they aren't rights at all but contracts based on and enforced according to racial origin. It is special treatment by race, it is racism by definition.

Many libertarians have issues with the so-called "social contract" that burdens citizens to accept certain obligations placed on them by government even though they did not personally consent to them or even make use of resources spent supposedly on their behalf. But this obligation to aboriginals makes it worse for all Canadians.

So I'm not speaking on behalf of my party here or even on behalf of other libertarians. The issue for me is rent seeking, and a debt that apparently will never be repaid.

What's wrong with native rights? The same thing that is wrong with Gay rights or women's rights or any particular group that seeks special rights. There is only one kind of rights: human rights, and they are the right to life, liberty and property. If you have given up your property, than make a final deal and walk away. 
More on this issue next time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Are libertarians racist?

Strangely, the biggest issue in the recent Ontario election for me had nothing to do with our policy or platform. Two days before polling day, our candidate in Thunder Bay Superior-North (TBSN) purchased a full page ad that took issue with some First Nations' privileges in Ontario. She thought aboriginals had unfair advantages.

I'm sure many of you will think: Really, aboriginals have privileges, advantages? Aren't they second class citizens on their own land? Shouldn't we feel sorry for the way the government treats these people? Aren't Canadian governments criticized around the world for underfunding our First Nations? Shame! (here is media release with links that respond to the issue)

Frankly, I have never thought that, even though I do sympathize with the plight of aboriginals at the hands of governments all over the world.

The story goes back to late winter in 2014, the run up to the June election, which I was convinced was inevitable. The presumptive candidate for the PC party in TBSN, made a comment on her Facebook page that got her turfed out of the candidacy.

By the way, the PC's should change their name to "Politically Correct." And as far as I'm concerned the label Progressive Conservative is just oxymoronic, emphasis on moronic, because that's exactly how they appeared in this past election, but that's another story.

Some members of the party and several of the Libertarian executive committee saw this unfairness issue around aboriginals as needing to be addressed. Anyway, the PC TBSN candidate was forced out, so we asked her to join us and she did. We were attempting to fill the slate (107 ridings) and had candidates in all parts of the province for the first time ever. This candidate had already received media attention in her riding and throughout the North. Several of us spoke to her, and we agreed this was an issue created and exasperated by government and bureaucracy. Perfect for us.

Immediately I received emails and social media messages that accused us of harbouring a racist, and implying Libertarians were racist. I was bothered by this at first, and I even tried to defend the decision, but I soon realized these comments stemmed from outright ignorance.  

As a libertarian from the Objectivist school, I think Ayn Rand explained the foundations of "racism" best in the Virtue of Selfishness:

"Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.

"Racism claims that the content of a man’s mind (not his cognitive apparatus, but its content) is inherited; that a man’s convictions, values and character are determined before he is born, by physical factors beyond his control. This is the caveman’s version of the doctrine of innate ideas—or of inherited knowledge—which has been thoroughly refuted by philosophy and science. Racism is a doctrine of, by and for brutes. It is a barnyard or stock-farm version of collectivism, appropriate to a mentality that differentiates between various breeds of animals, but not between animals and men."

I've just commented on racism as a form of collectivism, abhorrent to me, so you will pardon me if I attempt to characterize the group (not a collective) called "libertarians."

My experience is that libertarians are the most accommodating people you would ever want to meet, by and large. All of them are, of course, very opinionated, and tend to abhor all the forms of collectivism present in our society. The only preconceived notions libertarians harbour deal with governments, bureaucracies and crony corporatism. On most other issues, libertarians will have an open mind.

So you might wonder why so many libertarian and conservative thinkers are apposed to the way the First Nation's people were dealt with and are being dealt with in Canada? It's definitely not racism.

More next time.

Friday, August 1, 2014

I'm back

I have not posted to this blog for seven months, not good. But the fact is I have been actively posting to Facebook (on several sites) and twitter (on two accounts).
I'll admit it has been difficult to keep up with things since I became a political leader - almost three years now. These past few months were particularly busy because I was fairly certain we were heading for a general election. That actually happened on June 12, 2014, - my party: Ontario Libertarian, did relatively well, and we achieved most of the goals that we had set.
Over the course of the next little while I will highlight some of the things that have happened over the past seven months and during the election. I have to be careful on certain issues, as party leader I speak for the party - so I will need to distinguish between personal views and "official party positions." I hope to be posting at least once a week to this blog and try to regain the readership that I once had. Stay tuned.