Author Archive for Allen Small

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.     


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.

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.

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.

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.

Eating healthy in 2014 – gluten free?

Correlation is not cause, but note the rise in obesity with low fats.
This is the time of year we promise to change our bad habits. Canadians think they eat poorly when compared to the official government food guide. No one would ever suspect that the food guide may be erroneous. But what if it were?

I've written about this before, most recently here. Since then more evidence has accumulated and more books have addressed the issue. One of the more outspoken writers, a neurologist, David Perlmutter, suggests that both the Canadian and American food guides are upside-down. Rather than whole grains and carbohydrates being the largest component of a good diet, he suggests they be severely reduced or even eliminated from most people's diets. He points to gluten, a protein in many grains as the culprit. Interestingly, food marketers have already ratcheted up the production, distribution and sale of "gluten-free" products in North America. It's the latest fad. Deservedly or not, gluten has become what fat was from the 1970's to the present day, something to be avoided. Perlmutter and others also suggest that the demonizing of fats, and fat-like substances like cholesterol, has been all wrong.

Articles like this one from a reputable magazine, makes the decades long government sanctioned directive against fats sound like evil propaganda. But there is plenty of evidence to support the benefits of fats. That has not stopped the Ontario Liberals in cahoots with the Ontario Medical Association from regulating school cafeteria lunches and even suggesting food warnings on so-called "junk-food."

This brings up questions that need to be addressed about the fallibility of Ontario government policies. This recent Ontario government document (Memorandum 150), severely limits the sale of fats in school cafeterias while heavily promoting the sale of grain products. If this is wrong, one must ask what other government policies are wrong?       

Climate crapshoot – an Arctic free of ice? Not so fast.

Models diverging with reality but with increasing IPCC certainty
I have written many posts that comment on global warming/climate change. In fact, next to politics, my climate comments are likely the most numerous.

That's no accident, I've always thought that the whole climate issue has become a secular religion, a subset of the environmental movement which also has all the character traits of a religion. I hope I don't need to elaborate on the dangers implicit in religious belief. Any decision or conclusion grounded on faith should not be acted on and certainly no one should be forced to act on faith. Unfortunately in the case of human caused global warming, acting on faith and forcing others has already happened.

This week is the fifth anniversary of one of Al Gore's famous predictions. Five years ago Gore predicted that by 2013, for a few months in the summer, the Arctic oceans will be ice free.

Well, it hasn't happened, not yet anyway. I'm not going to rule out that it won't happen in the future. I believe the data that suggests the volume of Arctic ice has decreased. That seems to me reasonable as an extension of the warming that has been occurring since the end of the last ice age roughly 10,000 years ago. I've always believed that climate changes, and I even believe that humans have been contributing to that change. To believe that humans are the sole or even a major contributor to climate change for me is still a huge stretch. The cliched phrase of "97% consensus of scientists" believe we are the cause, is also a huge stretch.

Science doesn't work by consensus. Galileo was right on the heliocentric model, everyone else was wrong. Darwin was right on natural selection, acts of creation and intelligent design are wrong. Both proposed ideas that were contrarian. Global warming/climate change models don't jive with reality (see chart), and therefore as explanatory theories they seem to be wrong too. The skeptics may prove right. The variables on climate are too numerous and probably not all known, thats why in the chart above the observations diverge from all the models. The error will be magnified with time.

But back to Mr. Gore's prediction. The urgency of his predictions, coincident with hot summers, mild winters, Hurricane Katrina - all that, plus the religious zealotry of environmentalism, gave him undeserved credibility. He still has it. Some governments, Ontario's Liberal government to name one, could not wait to act, so urgent was the belief that something must be done. As a result, Ontario has closed (most, almost all) its coal burning generation facilities and eschewed any fossil fuel alternative (even clean natural gas) for wind and solar power. Burning natural gas of course, still produces the evil CO2. Our electrical grid is in a mess with continually rising prices and a legacy that will take generations to fix, if ever. Meanwhile, real damage caused by humans forcing global warming or climate change may not happen for decades or centuries or ever.  

Remembering the wrong message

Governments wage war on people.
It may be disputed, but I think it was George Orwell who said "history is written by the winners." I mention that because a Facebook friend posted a conversation with his daughter today in which she asserted that Hitler could have taken over the whole world. My friend replied, if that happened we would be taught in school that Hitler was a good guy.

Yesterday and over the past few days, Canadian school children were exposed to a deluge of remembrances of wars past. I think teaching and understanding history are important parts of a good education, but as stated in the first sentence, history is almost entirely subjective.

Many of my social network friends think remembering and paying tribute to the fallen of past wars is a glorification of war. Maybe they believe making hero's of the dead encourages yet more belligerence. I doubt that, the human capacity for violence is as much a part of our nature as is our capacity for love. Just watch children (especially boys) playing for a little while.

For me the act of remembering is entirely valid. I wear the red poppy that is sold by Canadian Veterans to symbolize my general gratitude to soldiers, living and dead, for wars fought to preserve our liberties, though I wish I could be more specific. I don't consider nation building or peace keeping as roles that our military should have been involved with. So, while I think war is inevitable and sometimes essential, I also think it should be avoided if at all possible.

I'm sure all of the so-called hero's of war will tell you that they did not mean to be hero's in the moment of their heroic act, war is terrifying for all concerned, and if you don't believe that count all the soldiers that have returned scarred with PTSD, shell-shock.

My problem with the way our remembrances have evolved over the years is that the act of remembering has become the important lesson. Lest We Forget, Never Again, Put and end to war, don't hate etc. etc.

All of those injunctions are the wrong message. War should always be defensive, and self-defense is a virtue that we should practice. As such, a defensive war is an option, but should be a last resort.

Ending hate, is just ridiculous. Hate is a perfectly valid emotion, but no one is compelled to violent action because of hatred, and it's the worst reason to go to war.

The right message, the lesson of our remembrances, should be that war is horrible, must be avoided, but may be necessary to protect life, preserve liberty, and protect property.               

Negating your rights – Canadian Health Insurance.

Most Canadians understand the need for insurance. People buy insurance to avoid catastrophic expenses, major damage or liability in an auto collision, fire damage in a house, or life insurance. It does not make sense to insure routine maintenance. People don't buy car insurance to pay for oil changes or even major expenses like new tires, or a brake job. These need to be factored in with the cost of car ownership.  Car ownership is a responsibility and it includes paying for all associated costs.

Unfortunately, when the Canadian health care system came into existence in the 1960's, those involved in creating the legislation considered health care as a "right," a positive right.  I agree that access to healthcare is a right, and cost is sometimes a barrier. So when healthcare legislation was conceived by federal and provincial legislators 50 years ago in Canada, they realized that catastrophic health events happen over the course of people's lives and these should be insurable. That makes sense, but having the government do it doesn't. The problem was made much worse when legislation was written to provide ALL health care as a right. Even routine medical visits which are on the level of automobile oil changes were covered by insurance. Everything was covered, and the scarce resource that is healthcare became virtually "free," an obvious contradiction. The government even takes pains NOT to make the cost of healthcare known to Canadian consumers. We have no idea what anything costs and they won't tell us.

Nothing is free, and its almost axiomatic that whenever a government gets involved in mitigating an expense, you can be certain that expense will increase, beyond all good intentions.

"Free" healthcare is the number one budget expense in Ontario, and probably every province. Why? Because in the rest of economy free markets and competitive innovation are the primary forces that reduce prices and keep them as low as possible. When a government monopoly takes over any aspect of the economy, the government sets the price and taxpayers have no option but to pay. Every routine procedure is theoretically covered by our Canadian health insurance, which at the same instant tries to control costs, while increasing wages and benefits to employees, and its all controlled by a small cadre of bureaucrats. Exactly the opposite of an innovative free market.

What the government has determined as a "right," actually negates rights. Access to healthcare is a right, but as governments try to control costs they ration care, and access becomes a problem. Canada is exceptional as one of freest countries in the world with some of the poorest access to timely healthcare.

The original intent was to make healthcare available to everyone, even the poorest in our society. The result is that we are all treated as equally poor and our right to timely care is out of our hands.

The video that follows needs to be shared and widely distributed among all your friends. Dr. David Gratzer of the Montreal Economic Institute explains what is good about modern medicine and bad about Canadian Healthcare.        


Rights versus Duties

People often misuse the term "rights."
Many people, even political parties and governmental or nongovernmental organizations, advocate for individuals to have an assortment of rights other than the commonly held right to life, liberty and property. In philosophical jargon those three are considered negative rights. Yes, you have a right to those three, but no one is required to provide you with anything. That's different from the photo above which implies that the right to an education can be legislated. This means that someone has a duty or obligation to provide it. This is a positive right. In the libertarian tradition, negative rights are the rights that governments should be protecting.
Of course there is nothing wrong with someone volunteering to provide an education to those unable to obtain one. This idea of voluntary charity is a virtue that most libertarians would support. The idea of providing positive rights to individuals usually involves infringing on the rights of those who must provide the rights.
Here is an explanation of that view of Positive vs. Negative Rights:


Horse manure piled 60 feet high……

There is an apocryphal story about futurologists in 1860 New York City, predicting that NYC would not exist in 100 years because the present (1860) growth rate indicated that 6 million people would need 6 million horses, and that NYC could not handle the amount of manure produced.

Indeed the amount of manure produced in NYC was prodigious. In SuperFreakonomics, this section is worth reading because it graphically illustrates the problem. In 1900 there were 200,000 horses, and each horse could produce 24 pounds of manure or 5 million pounds a day, so manure lined city streets like banks of snow, and up to 60 foot piles of it was stored in empty lots. Summer heat must have been fun. And you thought cars were polluting.

I mention all this because the future is tough to predict and sometimes the errors made are spectacularly laughable in hindsight. There is even a webpage that collects and displays erroneous predictions. Here, have a look.

When governments make these errors which are paid for from coerced taxes and which create huge "malinvestments," it's just that much worse. Lately the Ontario government has made some doozies, from subsidized wind turbines to poorly placed gas generators. Money is wasted.

The newest government craze in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is mass transit. An arm of the city government wants to expend $50 Billion to create a mass transit system to relieve traffic congestion in the GTA over the next 25 years. Given the rate of change of technological development, the problem may be alleviated best with much cheaper solutions. This article by Lawrence Solomon points to solutions that were used in Singapore for similar issues. Building more highways and luring people out of their cars to take transit are both partial solutions at best, and the article continues.."As Singapore and others have shown, software can turn our now-clogged roads into smart roads, creating effective new road capacity that eliminates the need for either major new highways or mass transit." Here is a link to Intelligent Transport Systems used in Singapore.

The collision of smart transport systems in congested cities with self driving cars is likely to happen BEFORE the last mass transit line is in place in Toronto in 2038.

Technology and innovation are disruptive when allowed to happen to solve problems. The City government of New York did not need to find storage for more manure, the free market solved the manure problem and saved New York.

Where are the Atlantic Hurricanes of 2013?

Not that I miss large destructive storms but, there has not been one named Hurricane in the 2013 season as yet. We're half way through the six month June 1 to November 30 Atlantic Hurricane season, a season that was predicted to be "extremely active" last spring. There were lots of warnings in media, but so far nada.

Now its too early to start criticizing the computer models that were used to make this prediction, but things look fairly quiet through to the middle of September. In fact 2013 could produce a record for the latest named storm in the short history of hurricane prediction. That is, assuming a storm happens. Wouldn't it be something if NOAA's prediction was wrong? I guess climate science models need some revisions?   

Exploiting the worker

Just to follow up to my Labour Day post. One of the primary reasons for the existence of unions was to prevent workers from being exploited by capitalists. If markets were free, does that make it inevitable that workers are exploited? Not according to the video below:

In fact, the chances of workers being exploited are far greater in the present situation where free markets do not exist. Today in most Western democracies (including the US and Canada) governments do favours for capitalists and capitalists provide donations to political parties on the "understanding" that favours will be done. This crony capitalism is far more exploitive than a free market would be as explained here:

Labour Day & the Zombie Apocalypse?

Labour (Labor US) Day traditionally celebrates the contributions of workers in the US and Canada. Nothing wrong with that. It's become an annual parade event, celebrated mostly by unionized labour, especially in Canada.

Unions are in trouble all over the world. In almost every OECD country there has been a decline in union representation since the mid-1980's. In some countries the decline has been huge over the last 30 to 50 years, in others things have changed little. In the US 30.9% of workers were in unions in 1960, only 11.6% by 2007; in Canada, 29.2% in 1960, 29.4% in 2007. In almost every OECD country recent trends have been downward. Lately Canada has up-ticked because of a growing public sector. Globalized labour markets have shifted jobs to lower wage centres around the world. The unions see the writing on the wall, their position has been made even worse by the financial crisis after 2008, followed by recessions and austerity moves in Europe and elsewhere.

So how are unionists and zombies related? Zombies are difficult to kill, they frequently operate in large groups, seek brains to consume, and most compelling, they seem mindless with respect to their opposition. 

The strength of unions in Canada makes them virtually indestructible without an act of Parliament. Their ability to collect fees, and control labour markets are enshrined in a variety of arguably illegitimate and ill-considered laws that have accumulated over the years. Today most of the reasons for these protective laws have been enshrined in other laws, which makes them unnecessary, redundant. The fact that union membership represents 30% plus (extended family) of the electorate, makes it political suicide for any government Party to contravene union legislation. They are unstoppable.

Lately, noises made by some Canadian governments, and unfriendly legislation by others, have forced unions to amalgamate into much larger groups; strength in numbers.

But underlying much of the thinking amongst union leadership, both public and private sector, and transferred to their masses, is a distorted theory of value. What is the actual worth of the labour provided by their workers public or private?

When I was a young teacher, I spent enormously long hours trying to work out effective lessons for my students. This went on for years. I often thought that if I were paid at the hourly rate of my actual teaching time, I'd make a lot of money. But I knew I was not worth it. My job was protected by my union, and the teaching job market was controlled by the union together with the government. No one could have my job without their say-so, and I would have to screw up pretty badly to get booted out of teaching. This is typical of government monopolies.

Was I even worth what I was being paid? How was that determined? That number was determined by negotiations in what is called euphemistically collective bargaining. If someone was a better, more experienced teacher than I, but lacking certain credentials, applied for my job, they were out of luck even if they tried to underbid for my job.

The compensation for my job had little to do with reality, it was contrived. I understood that as a young teacher, very few of my colleagues did. The entire government public school teaching profession is based on the Labour Theory of Value. The worth of your job is based on the effort you put in to get the credentials (the years of schooling etc.) plus your experience. That sounds fair, but its wrong.

It would mean that each job could be assigned some objective value unrelated to the market place. That's the way union shops and their leadership think. If that were true, my junior years should have been my best in terms of effort expended and salary paid.

Zombies seem mindless and unwilling (unable) to even acknowledge those who appose them.

The truth is my job should have paid, much, much less if it were bid for by parents in a competitive market place. This should be the way to think about value in a job. How much would a competitive marketplace of parents looking for teachers actually pay for the service of teaching their children. It's a purely subjective value, worth something to some, and nothing to many others. This Subjective Theory of Value, makes every union negotiated settlement (by collective bargaining), a distortion of the labour market in that field or market place.

It's early days yet, but the Zombie Apocalypse is coming.      

Church of Atheism?

Here is an example of how unnecessary government interventions create unintended consequences.  According to this newspaper report, atheism is a creed that requires protections much the same as other religions do. So, atheism is equated to religion. In the actual paper copy, on the front page (see photo), the National Post makes light of this. I guess to pander to their social conservative patrons.

I'll skip over whether religions need protection, I don't think they do. I'd like to examine atheism as a creed.

According to "creed" is defined as:

1. any system, doctrine, or formula of religious belief, as of a denomination.
2. any system or codification of belief or of opinion.
3. an authoritative, formulated statement of the chief articles of Christian belief, as the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, or the Athanasian Creed.

As far as I know, to be an atheist one is not required to join a group that has an atheist code or formula. Atheists typically don't meet regularly to fulfil belief obligations. They don't construct massive buildings as places of worship, nor do they get tax breaks from local governments for doing so. Calling atheism a belief system is a huge stretch and distortion. If I don't believe in fairies, is that a belief system? Hardly!

The news story above, reports on a decision by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO), a superfluous arm of government if ever there was (theoretically in Canada, Charter Rights are already protected). It seems a Mr. Choinard of Grimsby Ontario, wanted to match the Gideon's of bible distribution fame as a protest. He wanted to hand out an atheist text “Just Pretend: A Freethought Book for Children,” and of course was, as expected, refused. He made a case to the HRTO alleging that the District School Board of Niagara has “discriminated against them … because of creed.” Making such a protest is simple and costs nothing to the complainant, there is no barrier to frivolity, not that I think this is a frivolous complaint.

As a result, earlier in August, the HRTO ruled on the complaint saying that the school board's policy was biased.
“The policy was discriminatory because its definition of acceptable materials violated substantive equality by excluding the kinds of materials central to many creeds.”
The school board policy blocked atheist books and other “emerging or non-traditional creeds.”

In the end, according to the news article, the HRTO descision was:
“If [the school board] is prepared to distribute permission forms proposing the distribution of Christian texts to committed atheists, it must also be prepared to distribute permission forms proposing the distribution of atheist texts to religious Christians.”
The school board has six months to draw up a new policy “permitting distribution of creed and religious publications in its schools.” So atheism is a creed.

Throughout the process Mr. Choinard maintained his primary goal was to critique the board's policy and point out that government public schools should not be in the business of supporting a religious agenda. I absolutely agree, and that illustrates the real problem. If parents had the (affordable) option to send their children to their school of choice, religious or not, this entire case would not exist.

Ideally schools should be an extension of the home. The values that parents want to instil in their children should be a parental responsibility. Busy parents should be able to obtain a service, at an affordable price, that fulfils this need consistent with their values in addition to educating their children for the modern world. To have government public schools try to be all things to all people is impossible and undesirable; and to require an HRTO to enforce this is ridiculous. Here are two arms of the Ontario government that can easily be reduced or eliminated.