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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ron Paul on the transition to sound money

One year ago, Ron Paul was little more than a running joke for the national media; the kooky old uncle of the Republican Party, shrieking about "fiat money" and perpetually prophesying economic collapse.

Today, he's not so readily dismissed. As the governments of the world embark on massive new spending programs and additional money creation (what Keynesian macroeconomists call monetary and fiscal "stimulus"), many people are losing their trust in paper currencies. Though the US dollar has been strikingly resilient through the financial crisis and US Treasuries were among the best performing assets of 2008, there are strong signs that the era of the dollar as the reserve currency of the world are numbered: the treasury market is showing classic signs of a bubble, leaders and commentators around the world are heralding changes in the international monetary regime, and China won't be able to pay for its $585 billion stimulus package while remaining a net purchaser of US government debt. In his speech at Davos on Wednesday, Russia's Prime Minister Putin remarked:

The entire economic growth system, where one regional centre prints money without respite and consumes material wealth, while another regional centre manufactures inexpensive goods and saves money printed by other governments, has suffered a major setback.

Excessive dependence on a single reserve currency is dangerous for the global economy. Consequently, it would be sensible to encourage the objective process of creating several strong reserve currencies in the future.

This following clip is amazing because of how different the world in which we live is from the one we lived in 12 months ago. Ron Paul appears on Fox Business and the host skips over any questions as to why a commodity-backed currency might be preferable to the existing system to ask detailed questions on how the US could transition to a sound monetary system:

Paul's favoured method of monetary reform draws heavily on the writing of the Nobel Prize laureate and Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek. He would eliminate legal tender laws, reform banking regulation, lift taxes on precious metals like gold and silver, and encourage private institutions to compete with each other and with existing currencies to supply the best money for consumers. Here's a portion of a speech Hayek made after the publication of his 1976 book Denationalisation of Money:

I am more convinced than ever that if we ever again are going to have a decent money, it will not come from government: it will be issued by private enterprise, because providing the public with good money which it can trust and use can not only be an extremely profitable business; it imposes on the issuer a discipline to which the government has never been and cannot be subject. It is a business which competing enterprise can maintain only if it gives the public as good a money as anybody else...

The gold standard is the only method we have yet found to place a discipline on government, and government will behave reasonably only if it is forced to do so.

I am afraid I am convinced that the hope of ever again placing on government this discipline is gone. The public at large have learned to understand, and I am afraid a whole generation of economists have been teaching, that government has the power in the short run by increasing the quantity of money rapidly to relieve all kinds of economic evils, especially to reduce unemployment. Unfortunately this is true so far as the short run is concerned. The fact is, that such expansions of the quantity of money which seems to have a short run beneficial effect, become in the long run the cause of a much greater unemployment. But what politician can possibly care about long run effects if in the short run he buys support?

My conviction is that the hope of returning to the kind of gold standard system which has worked fairly well over a long period is absolutely vain.

Read the rest.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on January 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (6)

The other interesting ex-Premier

In today's Vancouver Sun, religion and faith reporter Douglas Todd profiles Glen Clark, who resigned as the NDP premier of B.C., under a cloud of suspicion that he had wrongly used his office to benefit himself personally. He was hired by very wealthy B.C. businessman Jimmy Pattison, cleared by the courts, and is now, as the feature documents, working quietly out of the spotlight to supervise several of Mr. Pattison's businesses.

It's an interesting read, but Mr. Clark has made a promise to concentrate on his work, so he doesn't talk much about how his political or moral views might have changed, or comment on politics today.

That's too bad. What is also too bad is that another ex-Premier of B.C., who has also been cleared of wrongdoing in office by the courts and is also working quietly in the business field, will possibly not get similar attention by the Sun. That would strike me as a bit odd, because as my old colleague Terry O'Neill noted in a Shotgun post here a few weeks ago, Bill Vander Zalm has published an autobiography. A good "news hook" to most editors, I'd say. (It's not as if the Pacific Press papers don't know of the book. Province editorial cartoonist Bob Kreiger drew a cartoon making fun of the book when it came out.)

As Terry noted, Mr. Vander Zalm lost a lot of support amongst B.C. opponents of the NDP when he tried to reflect social conservative concerns in government policy, such as, for example, arguing for finding ways for abortion to no longer be part of the Canada's public health care system.

I'm sure that Mr. Vander Zalm, at a time when the B.C. and federal governments are increasingly small-l liberal, might have some interesting observations on the intersection of faith and politics that would be right up Mr. Todd's alley. I myself would wonder whether a "so-con" could ever be Premier of B.C. again. If you wanted to ask Mr Vander Zalm a difficult question, you could ask him if he ruined the chance, through his mistakes, for anyone of strong faith who might want his old job in the future.

I'd hope that Mr. Todd would think of interviewing the other interesting ex-Premier of B.C. We'll see if he does. At least, if we judge by his record in office, Mr. Vander Zalm would be less reticent and coy than Mr. Clark now is, which is good news for a quote-hungry reporter writing in any section of a newspaper.

Posted by Rick Hiebert on January 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Western Standard poll: Conservative budget proves Tories are conservative in name only

Shotgun blogger Gerry Nicholls, following the release of the Conservative budget, wrote:

Well now it's official.

The Conservative Party is conservative in name only.

Makes me yearn for the days when we had relatively fiscally conservative leaders, like Jean Chretien.

Is he right?:

BUMPED UP

Posted by westernstandard on January 31, 2009 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (6)

Educational Video: Why printing more money is bad

Peter Jaworski posted a video of Glenn Beck explaining how the currency is being devalued. I'm posting an educational video to explain why this is such a bad policy.


Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, January 30, 2009

PETA Superbowl ad gets rejected as planned

PETA has a history of cleverly producing provocative ads designed to be rejected by mainstream media outlets. When the ads are rejected, it generates millions in free "earned media" for the animal rights group.

Playing right into their hands, here's the controversial PETA Superbowl ad that won't run this Sunday:

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Okay, so the budget's not conservative -- but will it stimulate the economy?

Whether or not we can agree that the disaster that is the 2009 Canadian budget is necessary politically is up for discussion. More to the point is whether or not the budget will be anywhere near successful in achieving its stated goal of cushioning Canadians in the face of recession and coaxing the economy into recovery.

Tasha Kheirridin, with whom I've disagreed often over the past few years, has a great article over at the National Post's Full Comment.

One line in particular, which appears at the top of the article, is important to understanding what a disaster this budget will be for Canada:

The government cannot put money into the economy without taking it out of the economy first. Thus activity does not increase overall - it is simply redirected.

I can never get over the fact that people don't seem to get this. The government does not create wealth. It can take wealth from Canadians and direct it towards goals that Canadians wouldn't have pursued otherwise (though doesn't that seem odd?) or it can borrow against the taxes of future Canadians (thanks, kids!) to do the same thing.

Essentially, what any "bailout"-themed budget or bill is going to do is take money from the parts of the Canadian economy that have been productive and will continue to grow, or at least recover quickly, in the face of this recession and move that money to parts of the Canadian economy that have been failing or will not recover quickly. Further, intelligent, persuasive, and productive people will become lobbyists as the pot of government handouts becomes larger and work at redirecting wealth and economic activity rather than creating it -- deepening the effects of this redistribution.

How will increasing the proportion of the economy that isn't self-sustaining help us recover from a recession quickly? You've got me. But at least some conservatives and libertarian Conservatives are shaken enough by the budget to start bringing these questions to Canadians' attention.

Posted by Janet Neilson on January 30, 2009 in Economic freedom | Permalink | Comments (12)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

CHRC cleared of "hacking" allegation

This just in from the Privacy Commisioner:

An individual complained that the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) improperly collected and then subsequently used her personal information. Specifically, she complained that the CHRC accessed her wireless internet connection to log onto and post messages to a white supremacist website during the course of an investigation.
...
There is no evidence that the CHRC ever collected or improperly used, disclosed or retained the complainant’s personal information.

Technological experts have indicated that, most likely, but without certainty, the association of the complainant’s IP address to the CHRC was simply a mismatch on the part of a third party, which could have occurred in a variety of ways not involving the CHRC.

What is certain is that there is no evidence of the CHRC having ever collected or improperly used, disclosed or retained any personal information about the complainant.

This doesn't mean there isn't reason to oppose the CHRC. It does mean that it would be a very bad idea to continue to propagate the hacking allegation. As far as I'm concerned, the blogger Buckets decisively refuted the evidence against the CHRC sometime ago.

H/T: Dr. Dawg.

Posted by Terrence Watson on January 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (14)

What's NBC afraid of?

NBC has decided not to air an ad from the U.S. advocacy group CatholicVote.com during the Super Bowl. The moving and powerful 30-second pro-life spot was produced and shown on Black Entertainment Television in Chicago at the time of Obama's inauguration, and has since gone on to receive three-quarters of million hits on YouTube.

There's nothing offensive about the ad; there are no questionable images; there are only irrefutable assertions and an uplifting message. Judge for yourself. And then ask: Why is NBC afraid of the truth?

Posted by Terry O'Neill on January 29, 2009 in Media | Permalink | Comments (14)

Excerpt from Loyal to the Core

As you may have heard, I have a book due to come out at the end of February called Loyal to the Core: Harper, me and the NCC.

It's part memoir, part political history and part cautionary tale for Canada's conservative movement.

Anyway, today the Toronto Sun is carrying an excerpt from my book. And if you read it, you will see it's more than a little ironic in light of Tuesday's budget.

You can pre-order Loyal to the Core here.

Posted by Gerry Nicholls on January 29, 2009 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Al & Mike Show - Episode 52 - Canada's First NDP Budget

The post budget show. We discuss the implications of the complete failure of the Conservative government to be well... economically conservative. Moin A. Yahya of the University of Alberta joins us (please excuse the accidental reference to the University of Calgary at the midpoint).

Listen Now

Subscribe to RSS: Click here for podcast RSS feed.

Subscribe in iTunes for your iPod: Click here (Must have iTunes installed)

Posted by Mike Brock on January 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

US House of Representatives passes $819-billion Obama stimulus, Republicans sit out

CBS news reports:

The House of Representatives late Wednesday passed President Barack Obama's $819 billion plan to stimulate the economy and curtail the nation's year-old recession.

The 244-188 vote proceeded along party lines as expected. Only 12 Democrats opposed the measure, and no Republicans supported it.

Senate committees have been working on a separate version of the measure. It is not clear how quickly the Senate version will be completed, passed, and reconciled with the House measure, but Congressional leaders have promised Mr. Obama they would send him a completed bill by mid-February.

The House vote came after days of intense lobbying by the new president, including personal appeals to congressional Republicans. GOP lawmakers spurned Obama, saying the bill contains too much spending and not enough tax cuts.

Republican critics say the bill was little more than the fulfillment of a long-standing Democratic wish list. Those critics pointed to $1 billion for Amtrak, $41 billion for local school districts and $127 billion for health care for the poor and unemployed, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Chip Reid.

[...] The legislation includes an estimated $544 in federal spending and $275 billion in tax cuts for individuals and businesses. It includes money for highway construction and mass transit.

The Obama recovery package would be the largest spending bill ever to move through Congress. The House measure had been estimated to cost $825 billion, but the Congressional Budget Office updated the bill's price tag to $816 billion after accountants recalculated the cost. That total rose by $3 billion when the House approved a Democratic amendment for mass transit.

Gentlemen, start your printing presses!

Posted by Kalim Kassam on January 28, 2009 in U.S. politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Imagine reading the news on your home computer



(h/t Buzzfeed)

Posted by Kalim Kassam on January 28, 2009 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (7)

Al & Mike Show: Budget Edition - Tonight at 8:30pm EST, 5:30pm PST.

Tonight, we will have the budget edition of the Al & Mike Show, where will we go through the new Liberal budget. Moin Yahya of the University of Alberta, and contributor to the Shotgun will be our guest. This is a live taping and we will be taking live calls. Remember to tune in.

Posted by Mike Brock on January 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Liberal leader backs Liberal budget

Following up on Hugh's posting, below, we apparently now know the extent of the conditions that Ignatieff is demanding to support the Liberal, er Tory, budget. He simply wants to be kept in the loop. "We are putting the government on probation," the coalition-slayer said, apparently with a straight face.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on January 28, 2009 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Opposition Parties in translation

The National Post provided a brief summary of the reaction of the three opposition parties to the budget. Some of the quotes need to be translated out of political speech.

Igantieff said, "There are positive aspects of this budget, which I believe are the result of pressure from the opposition."

Translation: I'm going to pass the budget but I'm going to make a big deal about it first.

I have mixed feelings about the way he has been conducting himself as opposition leader. He has been inconsistent about his policy positions. He was supportive of tax breaks until he wasn't and thought that deficits were okay until he didn't. He seems to be opposing for the sake of opposing rather than presenting a clear alternative to government policies. On the other hand he is able to say that he may bring down the government without people laughing at him. Which is an improvement over Dion.

Jack Layton said, 
"The budget will leave a lot of people behind. Won't help the unemployed or stop the bleeding we're seeing now. We're disappointed. It won't get the job done."

Translation: I still want to be Minister of Industry.

Jack Layton has worked hard to destroy what credibility he had. He has been saying for almost two months that the budget won't be good enough. So no one is surprised that he opposes it once it is here. He would have done better to take a similar line as Ignatieff did.

Ducceppe says, "blah blah blah Quebec blah blah Quebec"

Translation: Let it all burn as long as Quebec gets a few extra million.

You have to give the BQ credit for consistancy.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Serial killer Ted Bundy blames pornography for murderous lust

On the 20th anniversary of the execution of serial killer Ted Bundy, LifeSiteNews.com is directing its readers to a January 23, 1989 interview with the killer. Bundy, who was raised in a loving home under normal circumstances, blames his lust for sex and violence, which led to his killing spree, on an unmanaged addiction to pornography.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (12)

John Updike has died

CNN is reporting that best-selling author John Updike has died today at age 75 of lung cancer.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Riding the "O" Wave

I heard about a new Chrysler logo from a friend, but was only able to find one reference on this blog. The image below is taken from the same. The blogger says he saw this billboard somewhere near New Hampshire.

ChryslerBama

Is Chrysler joining Pepsi on the advertising O-train? Curious what ya'll think -- will this kind of marketing help, hurt or not really affect companies? Will Obama fatigue eventually kick in?

Posted by Isaac Morehouse on January 27, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Gwyn Morgan has some ideas worth avoiding in scramble to fix economy

Gwyn Morgan offers five ideas that should be avoided if we hope to get through the financial crisis without creating more serious economic problems.

In “Beware the pain-for-no-gain economic scenario,” Morgan cautions against 1) bailing out doomed companies, 2) ill-conceived spending, 3) printing too much money, 4) deflating real investment values through inflation (see #3), and 5) structural deficits.

Gwyn Morgan is a Director with the Manning Centre for Building Democracy and former CEO of EnCana. You can read his column here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Barack O'Pepsi

I don't drink Pepsi, but the company's new logo bears at least some similarity to the logo of a certain U. S. presidential campaign. Behold:

Pepsi Obama

John J. Miller at the Corner writes: "So I guess the official corporate position of PepsiCo is that the Democratic takeover of Washington is a good thing. Think about that the next time you're walking down the pop aisle at the grocery store."

And just so you know we're not being paranoid, the ads using the logo promoted a certain website, referring to the new president as "the man who is about to refresh America." The site includes more stupid videos from celebrities. Enjoy.

And be refreshed!

UPDATE:

Ah, dang it. It looks like I wasn't the first to come up with the "Barack O'Pepsi" idea. Also, it's looking more like Obama took the logo from Pepsi, rather than the other way around. However, Pepsi is certainly taking advantage of the similarity now, as the recent video, posted below the fold, indicates.

Posted by Terrence Watson on January 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Residential school compensation may have led to more tragedy

Money does not solve social issues. This has been proven once again, in a tragic way. According to the National Post, there have been several suicides and overdoses in the various among residential school survivors. These incidents are being attributed to the residential school reparations by other survivors. Many of the residential school survivors, being deeply affected by their experience, are drug addicts and alcoholics. So the government handed over a relatively large amount of money to drug addicts, who then went out and bought more drugs. That is to say that the government of Canada has enabled tragedy.

It seemed so easy. An apology for a horrific government policy and money meant to both compensate and help the victims build a better life. It is never, however, that easy. Government actions always have unintended consequences and far more often than not, those consequences are horrific.

In a lot of ways government is at its worse when it tries and corrects the mistakes of government. Government corrections often cause more damage, or make things bad in a new and spectacular way. The only way to help these communities would be to stop treating them as wards of the state; to have a retreat of government from their highly regulated lives; to install property rights and allow the individuals to raise capital on their own merits.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

What have you done to the real Stephen Harper?

I am quoted in a Toronto Star article today, where once again I make the point about Prime Minister Harper betraying his principles.

Here's the relevant passage:

"Absolutely he has abandoned his principles... I don't even recognize this person who is the Prime Minister of Canada," said Gerry Nicholls, who worked with Harper at the National Citizens Coalition.

Harper is a one-time head of the coalition, a non-partisan organization for the "defence and promotion of free enterprise, free speech" and accountable government. "He was a principled small-c conservative who believed that... conservative politicians should stick by their principles," Nicholls said. "I think he began to care more about public-opinion polls than his principles."

Of course, I have been singing this song for a while, but what's interesting is now other conservatives are finally losing patience with the Tory government.

Even long-time Harper apologist Tom Flanagan is growing disillusioned, albeit for different reasons than me.

In the same Star article where I am quoted, Flanagan complains that Harper has transformed from a conservative ideologue to a political survivor.

Says Flanagan: "He (Harper) lost the initiative by provoking the other parties into this potential coalition against him... and now he finds himself having to put together a budget which is really a coalition budget... the government's hand is fairly weak right now."

So much for incrementalism.

** Shameless plug alert***

Anyone wanting to learn more about Stephen Harper's time at the National Citizens Coalition should definitely buy my soon-to-be published book, Loyal to the Core: Stephen Harper, me and the NCC. It's due out at the end of February, but you can pre-order right now.

Posted by Gerry Nicholls on January 26, 2009 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (14)

National Post opposes deficit spending

The National Post has to come out and declare their opposition to massive, and as they call it, unnecessary spending increase. I am heartened to see that a prominent paper is still able to make good sense of the economy. I am disheartened by my belief that this good sense will be thoroughly ignored.

National Post editorial board: No need for a big stimulus
Posted: January 26, by Kelly McParland

As we were told last Thursday in a rather extraordinary revelation by Prime Minister's Office staffers, tomorrow's budget will yield a $34-billion deficit this year and another $30-billion shortfall next year. Close to $50-billion of this overspending -- and perhaps a total of $85-billion over the next five budgets -- will be attributable to so-called fiscal stimulus. Supporters of big government will take this as good news. But this newspaper takes the opposite view: The Bank of Canada is already predicting an economic turnaround in the second half of this year and a "robust" recovery in 2010. Sloshing so much tax money into a rebounding economy would be useless at best and could well prove harmful.

To be sure, a case can be made for some stimuli and deficit spending. Banks are still reluctant to lend money, particularly to cash-starved companies, and consumers, understandably, are reluctant to borrow for large-ticket purchases. As much as anything, these factors are stalling our economy.

Some combination, then, of short-term loan guarantees and middle-class tax cuts is justified to prime the pump. But $100-billion in overspending over the next half-decade -- the result of adding the aforementioned $85-billon stimulus to an expected $15-billion revenue drop-off -- is an outrageous bill to hand to future taxpayers.

What's worse, it's unclear how much benefit will be provided to current taxpayers: In past recessions, the Canadian government showed itself to be quite hopeless at picking economic winners and losers -- which is why the corporate welfare policies promoted under nationalist guise in the Trudeau era eventually fell out of favour.

read more

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thanks to President Obama, smart is the new fabulous -- and why that’s a bad thing in politics

Globe and Mail style columnist Karen von Hahn is celebrating the arrival of a new era of intelligence in politics ushered in by President Obama.

In “The brain reigns again,” von Hahn writes:

Okay, okay, the sky is falling. But to all those Chicken Littles afraid to celebrate Barack Obama's arrival in the White House, convinced that he has inherited way too many problems to be able to make a difference, may I suggest he already has. And not just because he was able to convince Americans that they have moved beyond race. Thanks to him and his brave band of arugula-eating, Harvard-educated policy wonks, stupidity is no longer in fashion. So much so that smart is the new fabulous.

Don't believe me? At this week's inaugural love fest, Hollywood's A-list, who in the past might have vogued for the paparazzi, were vying for face time with the brainiacs of the new administration. Geeks and eggheads from Michael Cera to Rainn Wilson to Steve Carell are the sexy new hunks. Davos is no longer just a ski destination for the chic set. And the fascinating new book you're reading is suddenly a hotter topic than the handbag you're carrying it in.

While I’m not convinced President Obama’s team is any smarter than the Bush team, I am, however, convinced that it doesn’t matter. Did Soviet central planning fail because the Politburo was staffed with idiots? Of course not. It failed because central planning and socialism doesn’t work due to what economist Ludwig von Mises called the economic calculation problem.

The economic calculation problem is a criticism of socialist economics, or more precisely economic planning. It was first proposed by Ludwig von Mises in 1920 and later expounded by Friedrich Hayek. The problem referred to is that of how to distribute resources rationally in an economy. The capitalist solution is the price mechanism; Mises and Hayek argued that this is the only possible solution, and without the information provided by market prices socialism lacks a method to rationally allocate resources. (Source: Wikipedia)

The danger of inviting the so-called best and brightest into politics is that they believe they can overcome this economic calculation problem. They think they can succeed in engineering a better world where others have failed – and by a better world they invariably mean a socialist one. They’ll work harder, do more research, bring in the best minds and commit themselves fully to the task. The results of these efforts, of course, are always disastrous, and often bloody. Communism, the most ambitious utopian scheme to date, cost almost 100 million innocent lives.

Obama isn’t a communist, but he is a socialist. (I don't understand why this is a controversial statement.) So how will the President and his team treat the American public? Von Hahn may have provided some insight:

But as President Obama sternly reminded us, quoting scripture in his inaugural speech, "the time has come to set aside childish things." The shift was palpable long before he sat down behind his desk in the Oval Office. David Plouffe, widely regarded as the mastermind behind Obama's victory, recently acknowledged as much. "From the start, we decided that we could change the electorate," said Plouffe when he spoke in Toronto at the invitation of the Economic Club of Canada. "We didn't have to accept the electorate as it is."

There’s a benign way to interpret the statement: "We didn't have to accept the electorate as it is." A complacent, cynical electorate can be energized by a charismatic leader with a message of hope and an ambitious plan for change. A less charitable interpretation is that this statement is indicative of a paternalistic desire to “nudge” people toward some idealized version of a good citizen. Someone who asks not what their country can do for them, but what they can do for their country. Someone ready to sacrifice and serve.

Van Hahn thinks this new appreciation for intellectual politicians will serve Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff well:

In Canada, meanwhile, it looks like Harvard darling and New York Times pundit Michael Ignatieff - previously judged as insufficiently average and overly intellectual - is an increasingly popular choice to become our next leader.

Again, I’m not convinced that Ignatieff could beat Harper in a spelling contest, but what does it matter?

What counts in politics is the wisdom to know that the best thing you can do for people is to leave them alone, and to trust them enough to govern their own affairs.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (15)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Would you like some poison with that stimulus? Preston Manning gets it wrong along with the other well-meaning statists

Preston Manning is a classic technocrat.

He loves grand schemes and new models and paradigm shifts. He shares this love with most intellectuals who are sincerely confounded by the insistence of laissez-faire theorists that we would all be much better off if we were left alone to operate freely within the constraints of a few simple laws protecting people and property from force and fraud.

Manning is different from most Canadian intellectuals only in that he is a conservative, and not a progressive – but he makes the same basic mistake in believing that we can use the power of the state to engineer a better society.

Cradle to grave welfare schemes, public-private partnerships, central planning, crown corporations, wage and price controls, fiat money, monetary expansion, and, of course, stimulus spending are all predicated on the belief that smart people can create models of efficiency using the coercive power of the state that will achieve results not possible in a free market.

Some intellectuals believe so strongly in the science of governing that they advocate total government schemes like communism or fascism.

Manning’s brand of common sense conservatism keeps him from the extremes of communism or fascism -- perhaps it’s that religious conservative scepticism of the perfectibility of man or of the possibility of achieving heaven on earth – but his methodology for thinking about public policy is as flawed for the same reasons.

In his essay "The Intellectuals and Socialism," Nobel Laureate F.A. Hayek explains the allure of statist schemes among intellectuals:

In particular, there can be little doubt that the manner in which during the last hundred years man has learned to organize the forces of nature has contributed a great deal toward the creation of the belief that a similar control of the forces of society would bring comparable improvements in human conditions. That, with the application of engineering techniques, the direction of all forms of human activity according to a single coherent plan should prove to be as successful in society as it has been in innumerable engineering tasks, is too plausible a conclusion not to seduce most of those who are elated by the achievement of the natural sciences.

While the flaws in this thinking are numerous, the “economic calculation problem” is perhaps most fundamental to its failure:

The economic calculation problem is a criticism of socialist economics, or more precisely economic planning. It was first proposed by Ludwig von Mises in 1920 and later expounded by Friedrich Hayek. The problem referred to is that of how to distribute resources rationally in an economy. The capitalist solution is the price mechanism; Mises and Hayek argued that this is the only possible solution, and without the information provided by market prices socialism lacks a method to rationally allocate resources. (Source: Wikipedia)

In short, the market allocation of resources is efficient, while the political allocation of resources is inefficient. Where resources are allocated by the market, wealth is created. Where resources are allocated politically, wealth is destroyed.

In “Time for a new economic model” published in the Calgary Sun today, Manning concludes that the right approach to our ailing economy is based on equal parts statism and free enterprise:

Both governments and markets have enormously important roles to play. In responding to this downturn, shouldn’t the imperative be to find the right relationships and balance between them?

In fact, no. The government has no role to play in the economy except to enforce a few simple rules protecting property and contracts. The imperative is to restore capitalism by removing the countless market-distorting regulations and government intrusions that have caused the economic problems we currently face.

The only stimulus package that will work is reducing the staggering and growing burden of government and taxation on those who create wealth and jobs. Manning’s clever-sounding ideas about rural income subsidies or public-private infrastructure projects are no more helpful to the economy or the goal of prosperity than NDP Leader Jack Layton’s low income housing stimulus spending proposal. Neither Manning nor Layton have solved the economic calculation problem.

In searching for a “new, better paradigm” and a balance between interventionists like John Maynard Keynes and free market advocates like Milton Friedman, Manning has stumbled not on a solution to our ailing economy, but on what Hayek called the "fatal conceit" in his book by the same name:

The book [The Fatal Conceit] attempts to conclusively refute all forms of socialism by demonstrating that socialist theories are not only logically incorrect but that the premises they use to form their arguments are incorrect as well. To Hayek the birth of civilization is due to the start of societal traditions placing importance on private property leading to expansion, trade, and eventually the modern capitalist system. Socialists are wrong because they disregard the fact that modern civilization naturally evolved and was not planned. Additionally, since modern civilization and all of its customs and traditions naturally led to the current order and are needed for its continuance, any fundamental change to the system that tries to control it is doomed to fail since it would be impossible or unsustainable in modern civilization. Price signals are the only means of enabling each economic decision maker to communicate tacit knowledge or dispersed knowledge to each other, in order to solve the economic calculation problem. (Source: Wikipedia)

Rather than despair at the profound lack of understanding on the right of markets – and the absolute contempt on the left of markets – I’ll instead be hopeful that from the ashes of economic ruin will rise a vibrant libertarian movement willing and able to defend economic freedom.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (15)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

US gun sales are up on economic and Obama-related fears

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (19)

Rona Ambrose makes unimportant appointments to self-important government department; Epsilon sisters get jobs in the ongoing stimulus success story

RonaAmbrose-web On Friday, Minister of Labour and #17 on the Liberty 100, Rona Ambrose (pictured on the right) announced the appointment of Glennis Bihun and Diana Miles as Governors representing Saskatchewan and British Columbia respectively on the Council of Governors of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Board (CCOHS).

These are unimportant appointments to a self-important government body.

According to the CCOHS website, the organization is a federal government agency based in Hamilton, Ontario, which “serves to support the vision of eliminating all Canadian work-related illnesses and injuries.” (Less work, less work-related injuries?)

In order to achieve this mission, the organization “equips working Canadians with the information needed to reduce hazards and eliminate risks in the workplace, that all may enjoy a healthy and safe environment!”

Notwithstanding the enthusiastic exclamation mark, CCOHS spends a lot of time and money producing and distributing “information” nobody reads in an area already over-regulated by the provinces and territories. Occupational health and safety is provincial jurisdiction.

As for the two new hires – is someone keeping track of these stimulus success stories? -- they seem like qualified appointees.

Bihun, according to Ambrose, “has a great deal of experience in the field of occupational health and safety. Her combined experience and practical knowledge should prove to be an asset to the Centre.”

Miles, again according to Ambrose, “has a great deal of experience in the field of occupational health and safety. Her combined experience and practical knowledge should prove to be an asset to the Centre.”

Hmm. These ladies must have come from the same Hatchery, identical Epsilon sisters of the Bokanovsky process, predestined for bureaucratic greatness.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Ending the war on drugs should be part of Conservative strategy to avoid deficits: eNDProhibition

Jacob Hunter with eNDProhibition, the anti-prohibition wing of the New Democratic Party, thinks ending the war on drugs could save the federal government billions in program and enforcement spending, and generate another $10 billion in taxes from $40 billion in economic activity from the now-illegal drug trade.

Here are his assumptions:

-- $10 billion in forgone taxes in the drug trade from $30 billion in market activity in BC, Quebec and Ontario, with the rest of Canada offering another $10 billion. (With is corporate tax rate at 38%, this number makes sense.)

-- $3 billion in taxes are spent annually on the drug war by federal, provincial and municipal governments. (The only federal figure I’ve seen for drug war spending is $500 million, but I believe this figure excludes enforcement activity.)

-- $7 billion in opportunity costs. (I don’t know what this figure represents.)

In an email sent today to eNDProhibition members, Hunter wrote:

Last week the Conservative Party announced that they will be posting $34 and $30 billion dollar deficits for the next two years. Jack Layton and the NDP announced that they will oppose the budget but failed to mention that ending prohibition would add more than $10 billion per year to government coffers while adding $30 billion in market activity to the economy.

Instead of listening to the majority of Canadians and legalizing marijuana, our government is instead burdening future generations with $64 billion in additional debt.

Harper is increasing taxes on future generations to the tune of $64 billion, and using that money to cut taxes today. Raising taxes tomorrow in order to save today from the same fate. Lowering taxes while increasing spending is the very same failed ideology that led to this economic crisis in the first place.

There is a lot of wisdom in Hunter’s statement. The war on drugs has been a costly failure, and ending prohibition could eliminate billions of dollars of wasteful spending and create economic activity. Also, cutting taxes while running a deficit is a criminal practice that shifts the burden of taxes from one generation of the next. It’s taxation without representation or compensation.

The problem with NDP thinking is that while they often oppose deficit spending, they also oppose reducing the size of government. What they seem to want is big government and high taxes, a recipe for economic ruin.

Given NDP Leader Jack Layton’s demonstrated willingness in the recent federal election to abandon NDP candidates who advocate drug policy reform, including eNDProhibition founder Dana Larsen, Hunter and the other activists with eNDProhibition would likely do more good working with the Libertarian Party, or even lobbying from within the ranks of the Conservative Party membership, which still harbours grassroots libertarians and anti-prohibition MPs like Scott Reid.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (31)

Be very, very scared . . .

Check out this graph from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
It's a time series of the U.S. money supply from the early 20th century to the present.

What's the frightening bit? The supply curve is currently vertical.

Something tells me that deflation isn't going to be the problem in the next few years.

Posted by Craig Yirush on January 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (9)

CCRA takes aim at black market economy with video contest

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Patrick Brown to celebrate launch of Black History Month with Ontario Black History Society; don’t forget the libertarians, Brown

Patrick Brown Patrick Brown, Member of Parliament for Barrie pictured on the right, will celebrate the launch of Black History Month on behalf of the Harper government at a luncheon hosted by the Ontario Black History Society tomorrow.

Black History Month in February is heralded as an opportunity for the African-Canadian diaspora to remember the people and events that shaped their collective experience in Canada and history across the world. The month is also celebrated in the US and the UK.

According to Wikipedia, “The remembrance was originated in 1926 by US historian Carter G. Woodson as ‘Negro History Week.’ Woodson chose the second week of February because it marked the birthdays of two Americans who greatly influenced the lives and social condition of African Americans: former President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.”

My views on race are shaped largely by philosopher Ayn Rand who wrote:

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.

But rather than be left out of the Black History Month celebrations, I though the Western Standard could offer it’s own tribute to black libertarians.

Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams are both black libertarians and both former Western Standard columnists.

I found a list of African-American libertarians here, but it includes comedians Chris Rock and Jimmy J.J. Walker, dubious choices I would suggest.

From the same source, we’ve got some figures from American history including:

Benjamin Banneker, 1731-1806 (abolitionist; mathematician; astronomer)
Frederick Douglass, 1818-1895 (author; abolitionist; public speaker)
Marcus Garvey, 1887-1940 (civil rights activist)
Zora Neale Hurston, 1891-1960 (author)
Nat Turner, 1800-1831 (slave revolt leader)
Moses "Fleetwood" Walker, 1957-1924 (Negro League baseball player)
Booker T. Washington, 1856-1915 (author; activist; founder, Tuskegee Institute)
Richard Wright, 1908-1960 (author, Black Boy and Native Son)

Zora Neale Hurston is a standout for me. This remarkable woman was a leader of the Harlem Renaissance, a black, individualist literary school that rejected "the sobbing school of Negrohood."

From an article on LewRockwell.com, we learn that Hurston was also a critic of the civil rights movement:

Naturally, she was infuriated when the Federal government decided to ‘solve’ the South’s problems again. After the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954, she wrote a letter to the editor of the Orlando Sentinel condemning it. She was not only upset that about the constitutional implications of the case, but also that it would not even help black America. She asked, "How much satisfaction can I get from a court order for somebody to associate with me who does not wish me near them?"

I’m sure there are many more black libertarians, perhaps even African-Canadian libertarians, whom I’ve missed.

(In fact, after reading the biography of Malcolm X some time ago, I was struck by how anti-statist X was. He spoke of community, church, faith, self-control, and personal responsibility; nowhere in his biography did he talk about a state engineered solution to racial disharmony. Was X a libertarian? How about a conservative?)

If you want to celebrate Black History Month in anti-statist fashion, I would recommend reading the following non-political titles by Hurston:

 

Or buy the movie Boycott, the story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott that sparked the civil rights movement and put Martin Luther King in the national spotlight. Kings politics were mostly statist, but his opposition to oppressive state segregation laws were consistent with libertarian principles – and his effective use of passive resistance offers activists with a model worth emulating.

Happy Black History Month!

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (12)

Anyone know a singer? The mildly interesting tale of Journey's lead vocalists

Am I the only person out there that finds intrigue in the seemingly endless saga that surrounds the classic (mainly) 80s band Journey and their virtually endless parade of nearly identical lead singers? Let's review.

First, at the dawn of Journey, there was little-known Gregg Rolie in the mid-70s, then Robert Fleischman until 1977. While the band existed, it wasn't until their 1977 decision to begin recruiting lead singers named "Steve" that things REALLY took off. 

The man, the myth, the legend, Steve Perry, arrived and his screeching, high-pitched vocals became Journey's trademark sound and helped launch solid hits throughout the late 70s and 80s including "Wheel In The Sky", "Don't Stop Believin'", "Who's Cryin' Now", and cheese-laden power ballads like "Open Arms" and "Faithfully". 

For my money, the greatest Journey efforts were "Separate Ways", which still hits my CD player from time to time and "Send Her My Love". It was the video for the latter that left a lasting impression on me. I recall it was a faux-live feature, with Journey playing lighter-laden arena shows and a sweat-drenched, scrawny, Steve Perry apparently wooing the ladies in the audience as he longed for his lost love. To quote Jim Carey in Dumb and Dumber, 'ol Steve had me saying to my teenage self "so you're saying there's a chance". If Steve Perry could get the chicks, there was hope for young Knox.

Here's where it gets interesting. After modest solo success (who could forget "Oh Sherrie"?), Perry decided to leave the band. Not surprisingly, without their trademark singer, the band split up and did little (ok, a few other projects) and then reunited in 1996, with Perry on-board, to record a mildly successful album that nobody remembers (Trial By Fire). They were back, right? Wrong. 

Perry hurt his hip and couldn't tour without surgery, which he apparently refused to undergo. Seems like an odd career decision after a decade of stasis, but what the heck do I know? The band would surely crater again without him, right? Wrong again. The answer to the band's continued existence? Find another Steve. One who looks and sounds like Steve Perry. Found him. Steve Augeri, a Gap employee at the time, who looked like Perry, sounded like Perry and as an added bonus, had a last name that rhymed with Perry. Sweet.

The band recorded the Arrival album, which surprised the hell out of me and had some decent tracks in "Higher Place", "All The Way" and "Signs of Life". Another album was recorded with Augeri that admittedly slipped past me. Sadly, Augeri was then turfed from the band because of a "chronic throat infection", which sounds to me like playoff hockey's phantom "upper body injury". I digress. Now without a Steve to sing the hits, what was Journey to do? Apparently, another Steve who sounded like Perry, looked like Perry, and had a name that rhymed with Perry could not be located. 

They landed on some chap named Jeff Scott Soto. Catchy. Six months later, Soto was gone.  Maybe after scouring Gap stores, Journey broadened their search to include the Philippines, where they found Filipino Journey cover band singer Arnel Pineda, who while sounding a lot like Perry, lacks the other attributes. 

Let me say this though, while making a stop at Wal-Mart a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon an $11 impulse item at the till -- Journey's double-CD and DVD entitled Revelation, which I've now learned went platinum.  One CD is new material with Pineda at the helm, the other features him singing all of the old Journey hits. To tell you the truth, it ain't half bad and is worth $11, especially for 2 CD's and a live DVD (which I've yet to watch).

Anyway, Journey's journey will carry-on. If Pineda leaves, maybe Perry will return and tour in a wheelchair? Maybe Augeri will overcome his "infection" and re-surface? Maybe Soto will rise like a phoenix out of the ashes of his prior six month tenure and actually turn out to be a guy who looks and sounds like Steve Perry? Only time will tell.

Posted by Knox Harrington on January 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (6)

War we can believe in: Obama bombs Pakistan

Nolan Chart is reporting today:

ZHARKI, PAKISTAN - Barack Obama bloodied his hands for the first time as America's Commander-in-Chief, ordering the destruction of several homes in a small village in Pakistan. At least 18 were killed and two homes destroyed by unmanned Predator drones per the UK Guardian. As I am writing this, this news does not appear to have been reported on by any mainstream American media. (quote from my.barackobama.com)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (6)

The glass is almost half full in anti-deficit fight: 41% say major deficit “waste of money”

A poll released today by Ipsos Reid reveals that while a slim majority of Canadians (53%) support running budget deficits as high as $30 to $40 billion, 41% say deficit spending is a “waste of money” that “will do little to get country out of recession.”

In a statement from Ipsos Reid:

As speculation mounts that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's budget next week will post a deficit of $34 Billion in 2009 and another $30 Billion next year in order to spur a flagging economy, a new Ipsos Reid poll conducted on behalf of Canwest News Service and Global Television reveals that a slim majority (53%) of Canadians believe the government must run a major deficit of at least $30 to $40 Billion in order to “stimulate the economy and get us out of this recession.”

While a minority, it is very encouraging that a large segment of the Canadian population has resisted the deeply flawed Keynesian scheme to increase government spending as a strategy to stimulate the economy.

Reducing the burden of government and taxes on entrepreneurs has always been the only path to prosperity.

Harper and Flaherty should be asked to read "How The West Grew Rich: The Economic Transformation Of The Industrial World" before they do our country irreparable harm.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Breaking news: Cruel and unusual punishment for libertarian activist Jean-Serge Brisson

Jean-Serge Brisson is #10 on the Liberty 100, the Western Standard’s ranking of Canadians who made a contribution to economic or personal liberty in 2008.

Brisson is the former leader of the Libertarian Party who made news in 2008 by winning his personal court case against the mandatory bilingual sign bylaw in Russell, Ontario. He was also sentenced to 90 days in prison for his ongoing refusal to wear a seatbelt while driving. 

The Western Standard learned today that Brisson is being denied reading and writing materials while he serves his 90-day sentence on weekends.

In an email to Tom Van Dusen, a columnist with the Ottawa Sun, Andrew Phillips with the Ontario Libertarian Party wrote:

“...while he is in jail, Jean-Serge Brisson, who is fighting the sign law in Russell, of which you are well aware, is denied pen and paper and books and/or any other reading material....Can you possibly write something in your column and or make inquiries and in doing so get Jean-Serge and the rest of them access to reading and writing materials?

“While it is true he is only held from Friday evening to Sunday evening, it strikes me that this is cruel and unusual punishment for a man in jail for a traffic violation; it virtually equals to solitary confinement. If they, the provincial government and the justice system, think they can do this to a high ranking member of a political party what can they do to ordinary men and women in the same situation?”

Should Brisson be allowed access to reading material while serving his prison sentence for seatbelt violations? I think so. I don’t think he should be in prison either, though.

Here’s a more interesting question, perhaps: what book would you send to Brisson to make his time in prison more productive?

I was thinking “Civil Disobedience and Other Essays” by Henry David Thoreau, but that’s the kind of thinking that landed him in prison. (It landed Thoreau in prison as well.) Perhaps “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World: A Handbook for Personal Liberty” by former US Libertarian Party Leader and the late Harry Browne would be more helpful.

What say Western Standard readers?

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (37)

Friday, January 23, 2009

The return of deficit spending

In last week’s Maclean’s, Andrew Coyne marvelled at the return of deficit spending as an acceptable government policy.

He asked why deficit spending has returned to vogue, “not only by the political class, for whom its appeal is obvious, but by much of the economics profession? How, when so little fresh evidence has been offered of its effectiveness, and so much of the original critique that first discredited it remains intact?”

I myself marvel at this. It was not long ago that an economist calling for deficits would have been considered a dinosaur, and a politician calling for a deficit would have been committing political suicide. Now suddenly all four of our Parliamentary parties are calling for a deficit. What is worse is that there is not even the hint of a discussion of what can be cut. I don’t see a parliament that has the will to fight a deficit and combat the debt.

The argument against deficit spending is best described in this video.

This simple and clear logic has never been successfully dismantled. It has simply been ignored. Why has it been ignored? Because of a lie that we have been telling ourselves for generations; the lie that government is entrusted to insure our prosperity.

Government does not have the ability to create wealth. All that government can do is set the conditions that encourage wealth to be created. Taking capital out of the economy and redistributing that capital is not the way to set those conditions. Instead the government should look at ways to decrease barriers to doing business. Perhaps create an employment tax holiday or reconsider some regulations. That will do far more to help the economy in a meaningful way.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Spending money locally

I always find it amusing when socialist organizations like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives delves into economic issues. For one, because they are always predictable in the sense they almost universally demand higher government spending, higher taxes on the upper-class, and even more ominously, protectionist policies

The rise of protectionism is not limited to left-wing think tanks. Among the populist tendencies of the masses, economic protectionism is often one of the first planks that people reach for.

Protectionism manifests itself in several different ways, with the most obvious being tariffs levied by states for the importing of goods. But it is also manifested in what economists refer to as home bias.

Home bias refers to the tendency of people, businesses and governments believing that by focusing economic activity at a local level, you will improve your local economy. For example: buy Canadian-made or American-made goods. In the case of government bailouts, many would like to see government tie bailouts to local-spending and labour guarantees.

This all sounds good and it would seem to make some sort of sense. Except it doesn't.

The nature of this economic downturn is global. And it must be solved globally. To deny this, is to simply ignore the nature of the division-of-labour between the developed and developing world, resource exporting nations (like Canada), and principally service-oriented nations (like the US).

Much has been made about the declining role of manufacturing jobs in the developed world, as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom in particular have precessed over the migration of low-skill manufacturing jobs to the developing world. But not much is made about the real improvement in quality of life in these nations in the same period.

The export of manufacturing jobs to developing economies, has provided a buffer of lower prices on consumables, helped foster a global financial system which ironically is the primary source of the US government's deficit borrowing, and transitioned the developed world towards a high-value, high-tech, service-oriented economy.

While it is true that some people have been adversely affected by the decline in low-skill, high-paying labour jobs, the real economic figures paint a different picture. That, in particular, quality of life using broad economic measure has been consistently ascendent since the 1970's. More importantly, it has been consistently and rapidly ascendant in the developing world in the same time period.

The gradual removal of barriers to international trade, starting at the end of the Second World War, and extending up until today have been broadly accepted by economists as contributing to a massive decline in global poverty. But this is lost of leftist economists, because they are morally opposed to the divisions of labour that provided the opportunities in the first place, wilfully ignorant of the infrastructure and education that these low-skill exports have brought. Which brings me back to the buy locally argument.

When you buy locally you are almost certainly reducing the productivity of your economy if by, buying locally, you are reducing choice, competition and the quality of the product. In fact, as protectionism has consistently demonstrated when applied, either voluntarily or by force, the economic effects are almost always a net negative.

When you buy a Chinese-made product, contrary to popular belief, you are not concentrating wealth in China, since most Chinese made products are made on behalf of international firms. Many of those international firms employ people in your country, and who's stock price forms part of your RRSP or 401(k). These firms employ the services of contractors, financial services, technology services, payroll services, and so on, that employ you, your family and your friends. The relationships in this global market are complex and interconnected on levels that are almost impossible to contemplate.

When you simply buy the best product for the job, for the price and most importantly: for you, you are helping the local economy through being part of functioning and vibrant global economy. And it's a good thing too. Many people in India and China who knew nothing but abject subsistent poverty 30 years ago, will be happy you do, and both you and them are the richer for it.

Posted by Mike Brock on January 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

New Senator from NY Gun Rights Advocate

Gov. Paterson appointed Kirsten Gillibrand as the new Senator from NY. She may be a democrat but she is NRA backed, which, in my book these days, is a good thing. She also voted against the Wall St. bailout - another plus. Now that she is a Senator representing the whole state and not just a member of the House representing her rural district, will she change her tune?

Posted by Moin A Yahya on January 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Adam Smith the Socialist?

An article I wrote for the Prometheus Institute (*Nerdy economic content warning*) describes why I would rather have a Jean Baptiste Say or Carl Menger necktie than the ever popular Adam Smith version.

From the article:

"I consider Smith a great thinker, and a hero of liberty. That doesn’t mean he was never wrong; particularly when it comes to the question of value. Smith’s thoughts on the derivation of value in his Wealth of Nations laid the groundwork in this area for later thinkers like David Ricardo (another brilliant mind who was right about many other things) and eventually Karl Marx. In the case of the latter we have clearly seen how bad ideas can have horrific real-world consequences. As John Maynard Keynes famously remarked,

“Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”

I might add too the bad ideas of otherwise good economists."


And:

"...looking at an economic phenomenon, such as the price of a good, from an even slightly incorrect angle can result in consequences far greater than imagined when spread over time and by different minds in different cultures. I would never single-handedly blame Adam Smith for the horrors of socialism. But his backwards theory of value contributed, over time and space, to a set of ideas which laid the theoretical groundwork for socialism – a philosophy completely contrary to the views of Smith.

I still admire and respect Adam Smith as one of the world’s great minds and a positive force in the battle for liberty. His conclusions and prescriptions were correct, even though his methodology was sometimes flawed. However, the lessons to be gleaned are to never let admiration for a great mind blind you to areas in which they are in error; and that even correct conclusions, if based on incorrect reasoning, can be dangerous."

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Isaac Morehouse on January 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (13)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

CatholicVote.org: pro-life Obama ad

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Environmentalism and the Death of Science: Tim Bloedow

Freedom Press has published Environmentalism and the Death of Science, a new book by Tim Bloedow:

Are you getting tired of the quazi-scientific dogma of the environmentalists? Author Tim Bloedow is and he is speaking out about it. Environmentalism has become the leading religion in Canada and the Western world. It’s a globalist ideology that is at war with science and at war with Christianity.

This might be the only book published in North America that tackles the key religious components of modern Environmentalism, exposing their errors and demonstrating the incompatibility of orthodox Christianity and Environmentalism.

In an era when Christian leaders, including the leadership of the National Association of Evangelicals, have embraced false notions such as cataclysmic climate change theory, this book is a timely antidote to such deception and ignorance.

You can buy Environmentalism and the Death of Science here.

And you can watch the interview with Bloedow below:

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

UCCLA continues merciless campaign against veterans of Soviet secret police

The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA) is “ramping up” its campaign to get all KGB and other Soviet secret police veterans out of Canada.

The organization’s "No KGB In Canada!" campaign continues to target Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Immigration and Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney and Minister of Public Safety Peter Van Loan with postcards that read:

"Veterans of Soviet secret police formations like the NKVD, SMERSH and KGB should not be allowed to enter Canada nor to remain here. No exceptions. Denaturalize and deport them all, immediately."

UCCLA chairman Dr. Lubomyr Luciuk issued the following statement today about the campaign:

For years we have alerted the Government of Canada, the RCMP and others to the illegal presence in our country of veterans of the Soviet secret police. We don't know how many there are but some openly boasted about their participation in torture and mass murder.

While we have always championed the principle that any person found in Canada alleged to be a war criminal should be tried in a criminal court, politics is the art of the possible. Since the federal government insists upon using denaturalization and deportation for dealing with persons who should not be in Canada, we call upon Ottawa to apply its preferred standard in every case, without exceptions.

There should be no KGB men in Canada, not now, not ever. Indeed Canada should not be a haven for anyone who admits that they were involved in war crimes, regardless of their ethnic, racial or religious heritage, their ideological convictions, or the period or place where they committed or enabled such crimes against humanity. Justice cannot be selective.

One such former KGB agent in Canada is Mikhail Lennikov. The former KGB officer and his family face deportation from Canada within four months unless Minister Van Loan intervenes.

Lennikov has lived in Canada since 1997 and applied for permanent residency in 1998. According to Lennikov, he was recruited out of university to work as a Japanese translator for the KGB. He now fears he could be jailed and tortured if forced to return to Russia.

Was Lennikov himself another victim of Soviet tyranny, or a willing and active agent of the state who should now be treated criminal and an enabler of crimes against humanity?

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (12)

Obama and the Pope discuss abortion and marriage

Newsmax is reporting today that Pope Benedict and President Obama have spoken about gay marriage and abortion.

According to sources, Obama supports the idea of traditional marriage but doesn’t support restrictions on abortion.

When abortion was discussed, Obama is reported to have said: “We agree to disagree.” (I doubt the Pope actually agreed to this philosophical detente.)

On the issue of abortion policy, National Public Radio is reporting that Obama is expected to issue an executive order revoking a Bush policy that bars international family-planning organizations that offer abortion services from receiving US government aid.

Asking US taxpayers to pay for abortion services at home or abroad denies pro-lifers the moral choice to not finance a practice they consider to be murder. This is one Bush initiative that should stay in place.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saskatchewan is still booming while Alberta spends more on homeless

Statistics Canada released national figures today on retail and wholesale trade for November 2008, and both reports show Saskatchewan made gains when compared to figures from last November.

Wholesale trade figures released yesterday show an increase of 23.9 per cent over last November, the highest percentage increase in the nation. This is sharp contract compared against the 3.9 per cent decline on a national basis.

Retail trade numbers indicate sales are up by 2.7 per cent over last November. This was the second highest percentage increase among the provinces with Newfoundland and Labrador increasing slightly more at 3.0 per cent. Nationally, retail sales dropped by 3.2 per cent.

"We recognize that some sectors in Saskatchewan are expecting some job losses and slowdown as we get through this difficult economic period," said Enterprise and Innovation Minister Lyle Stewart. "However, we are still seeing positive economic growth in many areas, which should help us to get out of this downturn well ahead of other provinces."

Several national economic forecasts predict that Saskatchewan will lead the nation in economic growth in 2009, and last week the Conference Board of Canada predicted that Saskatoon and Regina will lead all Canadian cities in economic growth this year.

In Alberta today the provincial government announced $750,000 in additional funding for homeless shelters in Calgary.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Stephen Harper is not socialist enough to fix the economy: Jack Layton

New Democrat Leader Jack Layton will be in Toronto on Friday to speak at a meeting of the Toronto Board of Trade. Layton was invited by the Board of Trade to present his views on the current economic crisis and the upcoming federal budget.

Layton’s speech is titled “Canada’s next move: What Parliament must do to get the economy on track.”

“[Prime Minister] Harper is asking Canadians to trust him in implementing an agenda he has spent his lifetime opposing. That’s why we believe Canada needs a new government,” said Layton. “As we move forward, we need to listen to all voices and work towards the common goal of getting Canada’s economy back on track.”

What Layton is saying is essentially correct: Harper has not historically been a socialist, or a Keynesian or an interventionist, which is what the prevailing wisdom is now demanding as a cure for the ailing global economy.

Of course, the prevailing wisdom is wrong. What is needed now more than ever is to reduce the size and scope of government and unleash the wealth-creating power of capitalism. This is a job to which Harper is well suited, but he appears prepared to embark instead on an insincere strategy designed not to fix the economy but to appease Jack Layton and the other statists in parliament.

Harper may be the most market-oriented leader in the world. He is also a powerful and effective communicator. He should trust his own ability to persuade the public and out-debate his opponents on key economic issues -- and he should trust the effectiveness of free market ideas to fix the current problem.

Western civilization is facing its greatest challenge: a global economic collapse, the lose of economic freedom, a coming global monetary crisis, and a reactionary rise in protectionism. With Harper’s leadership, Canada could overcome these challenges and be an example to the world in an exercise of soft power for which our country is known.

Harper will be trusted by Canadians when he pursues an agenda true to his core beliefs, true to reality and true to economic and personal liberty. This will also save our country and secure his place in history.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (11)

Mises Institute launches Libertarian Papers journal

Stephan Kinsella announced today on LewRockwell.com the launch of a new online journal, Libertarian Papers, published by the Mises Institute.

The first issue will include articles by Jan Narveson, Robert Higgs and previously unpublished work by Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard. There is also a three-part exchange between Nicolás Maloberti and Joshua Katz about libertarianism, positive rights, and "Possibility of the Legitimate State."

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Peter Shurman: Back to work York University

The PC Member of Provincial Parliament Peter Shurman introduced a bill aimed at ending the strike at York University. The bill titled, “Back to work act (York University)” basically demands that the Minister of Labour legislates an end to the strike. The bill passed on division on December 2nd, but its deadline for the Minister to act is December 11th. I have no idea what made Mr. Shurman think that he could pass this bill so quickly, but it means that it is either dead or has to be amended.

Either way it is an interesting attempt by a MPP to resolve the matter. At first glance I would oppose an attempt by the state to force people to sign a contract. On the other hand it is the interference of the state that has made this sort of situation possible.

The CUPE union members went on strike, ceasing many university services. The Graduate Student Union at York University then decided to strike in sympathy with the CUPE workers. It is this that has brought classes to an end and will ultimately do permanent damage to York’s reputation. The University is now crippled by the unions.

This has been made possible by “right to strike” legislation that has been passed over the last half century. There are now so many legal protections for unions that it would hardly be an exaggeration to call them above us in the eyes of the law. Backed by the force of the state, they carry out activities that the rest of us surely would not get away with. (Such as forcing people to pay dues)

So perhaps it is necessary for the state to force a contract. If nothing else it needs to try and fix the circumstances that it helped to create. Yet for a long term solution; to prevent this from happening again, Ontario’s legislature needs to take a long hard look at the fairness of Ontario’s labour laws. 

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (8)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Al & Mike Show - Episode 51 - Rainbows and Unicorns

The day after Obama's inaugeration, we try and sort through the implications. Jay finally joins us on a higher-quality link and we have a serious talk about Mike's libertarianism in the last half..

Listen Now

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Posted by Mike Brock on January 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

I skipped the Second Coming, and just went to work instead

The Rio Theatre is located in east Vancouver, so it is not surprising that yesterday morning the movie theatre opened to broadcast the inauguration of Barack Obama. It's also not surprising that over 300 people in this left-leaning part of town mostly filled the Rio, according to Ethan Baron's column in today's Province newspaper, to watch as Obama was sworn in

I was a little dismayed--but perhaps should not have been surprised, given the sort of coverage the new President has received in the U.S. press--to read this observation from Mr. Baron. I've added some emphasis:

"....Rapt eyes shone as Obama spoke with stunning eloquence of re-building America. When the president delivered perhaps his most impressive rhetorical offering, telling the world's tyrants, "We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist," many in the audience gasped audibly at the sheer power of his language.

I haven't seen a group of people wearing their fervour so completely, and so uniformly, since a guy I used to work with brought me to visit his weird sex cult in California.

But maybe Obama, unlike the cult leader in the purple house, really deserves this worship...."

Maybe not!

Perhaps I am old-fashioned, and yes, this is a column, but is it really appropriate for a newspaper to use this sort of loaded language? I wonder if there was a Province editor who thought to step in and say to Mr. Baron, "Isn't this a bit much?"

Mr. Baron ended his column by adding:

"Obama tells us that America should become a country that acts as a force for good in the world, promoting peace and equality, protecting the environment, helping the downtrodden.

Whether or not he can fully deliver on that agenda is perhaps less important than the fact that so many people agree with it."

Well, not in the minds of American voters, for one. But, perhaps I am old-fashioned there as well.

God help President Obama. With this sort of treatment in the world's media, he'll need all the help he can get.

Posted by Rick Hiebert on January 21, 2009 in Media | Permalink | Comments (4)

Return of the Coalition of the Damned!

No, I'm not thinking of a bad horror movie from the '50's. Rather, here is Michael Ignatieff revisiting the idea that the head of the Liberal party should just take over as Prime Minister without the inconvenience of an election in some comments during a Montreal visit today: 

"We need an election in February like we need a hole in the head," he said during a visit to Montreal. "It's not the best stimulus package we could have."

Ignatieff is being strongly egged on by his fellow opposition leaders, New Democrat Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Quebecois, to go the coalition route. Both have written off the Harper government in advance of the budget, and they were joined by Quebec's largest labour central, the Federation des travailleurs et travailleuses du Quebec, on Wednesday....

....Ignatieff, however, held his position that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a final chance to redeem himself by delivering a budget that meets Liberal expectations. These include measures to help society's most vulnerable and to stimulate job creation while avoiding a long-term budgetary deficit.

"The choice is up to Mr. Harper," Ignatieff said after the meeting. "It's up to him to make the right decision and up to me to decide if he made it. A coalition is still a possibility . . . a coalition of [sic] necessary, but not necessarily, a coalition."

Hopefully, someone will nail Mr. Ignatieff down regarding whether he is teasing voters about a coalition in the next few days. Not literally, with a stake, of course....but one has to wonder what will it take to kill off this pesky idea.

Posted by Rick Hiebert on January 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (8)