Monday, November 17, 2008

McGuinty sucks big time for this one.

Hugh MacIntyre over at The Shotgun just blogged about some horrendous new teen driving laws being proposed by the McGuinty government. They include:

- Zero tolerance for any alcohol while driving. This includes 19 year olds who have attained a G license.
- A complete ban on more than one teen passenger.
- Zero tolerance for speeding. One ticket for a teenager means a revoked license.

Go read and comment and be suitably horrified.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

CPC Convention 2008 Disappointment

By far the most disappointing news to come from the 2008 Conservative Party of Canada convention is the failure of the delegates to pass resolution P-106, which would signal that the party is supportive of encouraging experimentation with private delivery of health care within a universal system.
P-106: To encourage provinces and territories to “further experiment with different means of delivering universal health care utilizing both the public and private health sectors.”
The motion was hardly ideological and I would argue was actually a very modest and pragmatic proposal that would have allowed the Conservatives to work towards ensuring Canadians actually *do* have universal access to health care (as opposed to universal access to waiting lists) without going so far as to controversially call for privatization of the system.

Kady O'Malley blogged at MacLeans on the policy sessions, and made an astute observation on the debate of the proposal on the floor:
[Stephen Fletcher spoke] against the resolution - and, as the former parliamentary secretary for health, I think that is the closest we’re going to get to a signal from PMO as to how the government feels about it.
I think she's right there, and I have a hard time believing that that signal wasn't meant to tell the clapping seals and party hacks which way they were to vote on this motion. ("Grassroots?" Whats that?)

There's been a lot made of Harper coming out on Thursday to urge Conservatives not to let ideology get in the way of... whatever. Power or something. (After all, you can't make sure there's blue on the government websites without power!)

I'm not masochistic enough to kid myself into expecting Harper to call for smaller government or fiscal restraint, so I wasn't surprised at all. I also wasn't surprised to see a story this morning in the Toronto Star reporting that the Conservative government isn't opposed to bailing out the failing automotive companies.

What I am surprised by is the fact that while Conservatives won't let their ideology get in the way of bailing out dying and often mismanaged industries, they also won't let it encourage them to help dying Canadians.

So much for "compassionate conservatism."

This is a copy of my post at The Shotgun Blog.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Economics and Government Seminar in Waterloo on November 22!

The Institute for Liberal Studies will be hosting its newest seminar on November 22 at the University of Waterloo on Economics and Government.

The seminar will be a one-day discussion on an economic analysis of the role of government, but you don't have to be an economist to want to attend.

Do you wonder what's going on with our economy? A lot of people have been blaming the government for not regulating, but that's not the only theory out there. Come hear George Bragues' talk on The Panic of 2007-2008: Not the Free Market's Fault for another perspective.

Ever wonder why people generally think that everyone is out for what's best for them (for better or for worse) but seem to assume that the government, which is run by politicians and bureaucrats - and they're people, too! - is assumed to do what's best for society? Peter Holle from the Frontier Centre for Public Policy will tackle this topic with his talk on Public Choice and Public Policy: Overcoming Self Interest in Government.

And finally, what happens when government far oversteps its natural reach? Come and hear Yuri Maltsev, a former advisor to Gorbachev and defector from the USSR, talk about The Fall of Communism and the Rise of 21st Century Socialism, which should be a real treat.

As is typical for our events, we like to celebrate afterwards, so all attendees and friends who couldn't make it are invited to come and see Lindy, great friend of the ILS and phenomenal musician (seriously - check him out) perform at Maxwell's in Kitchener on the evening of the 22nd.

This is shaping up to be a really great event, and there are only 12 spots left, so register now!

Economics vs. Monopoly

Another blog post from over at The Shotgun:
After writing my post on the deadweight loss of Christmas, I checked the front page of the Undercover Economist blog and found another fun one. I figure since I'm writing posts sucking the fun out of things that should make us happy, why not go after board games, too?

Hartford has written a (semi) tongue-in-cheek piece about how Monopoly might have fostered the values that led to today's financial crisis for the Washington Post.

An excerpt from the Post's article, Econopoly:
The game is one big property boom, funded by an overly generous central banker – a diagnosis many economists would also apply to the sub-prime crisis. Alan Greenspan, the Fed chairman who presided over the boom, was nine when Monopoly was widely published. It is not known whether he played the game as a child, but he seems to have taken inspiration from it somehow.

Read the rest.

Economics vs. Christmas

Here's a post I did for the Shotgun Blog the other day. I've been posting over there most frequently, if you've been wondering where I've gone, but I'll try to cross-post more often.
If you're like me, you can really only enjoy Christmas in the time immediately surrounding the holiday. I'm filled with a sense of dull rage through most of the fall and early winter starting when I see that people have Christmas lights up and on while their Jack o' Lantern still sits at the road. I would rather chew glass than listen to Christmas music for two months starting November 1st, but that's the day it starts.

Yep, for people like me, this time of year can be stressful.

Well, there's a solution. Take some cold, hard logic and suck all of the early joy and magic out of the ever-expanding season with economics! Undercover Economist Tim Hartford wrote a few years ago on the deadweight loss of Christmas.

Here's an exerpt:
But giving isn’t the only example of seasonal waste. While some Christmas cards are sent out of genuine goodwill, many Christmas card exchanges are sub-optimal equilibria. In other words, both parties are only sending cards to reciprocate last year’s card. Both would happily agree to stop, but it is embarrassing to be the first after so many years of mechanical exchange.
Economics: 1, Christmas: 0

Enjoy, and bah, humbug.

h/t, Libby

Monday, September 29, 2008

A letter to the left

I blogged tonight at the Shotgun on a great letter by Dr. Steven Horwitz of St. Lawrence University on why the left should not blame the free market for the current financial crisis in the US and why they should reconsider asking the government to remedy the situation.

Many of us in the free market movement will insist that "greed is good." I think Dr. Horwitz puts us squarely in our place on that one - greed is a fact of life. What is good is institutions that take advantage of greed to make sure that it helps all of us, rather than just a special few. This is precisely what has not been happening thanks to government interventions in the market, which have allowed many corporations to profit at our expense rather than in a manner that is helpful, at least to some extent (even those on the left must acknowledge that consumers get something from a trade, even if they believe they're taken advantage of in order to get it), to society at large.

Check out the blog post, if only to check out Dr. Horwitz's argument in more detail, or even better, in full.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

faculty strike & hypocrisy.

The University of Windsor faculty is currently on strike for a variety of reasons, many* some of which seem to have been debunked by a letter from the University's president to students last night.

I can't help but wonder how many of the professors and students picketing are the same folks who believe that a post-secondary education is a right and constantly use that opinion as an argument for "free" post-secondary education.

I wonder how all those who throw about the rights argument and stand on the picket line supporting professors' work stoppage explain suspending this supposed right in order to get what they want? I also wonder how they justify many cost-increasing demands that will surely be passed on to students in the form of higher tuition if they believe that the cost of post-secondary education infringe on that right?**

Do these folks also agree with suspending other rights when it's deemed necessary by those able to suspend them?

Sounds to me like, to these people, the "education as a right" argument is nothing but an argument of convenience.

A few notes, since I wasn't trying to make too broad a statement towards those on strike and because I've been convinced otherwise on another point:

*Note 1: A few people with way more knowledge of exactly what's going on between the two sides than I have have assured me there's more to the story than the letter, and you can read the union's response, which seems fair enough, here.

**Note 2: A few valid points have convinced me to withdraw this specific criticism:
- first: the University can only increase tuition rates by a set amount every year, so this really doesn't add to the cost of university for students, though higher costs do lead to higher debt for U of W.
- second: if you're the kind of person who believes a university education is a right, you're also the kind of person who believes it should be completely publicly funded, and therefore monetary demands wouldn't increase the costs to students. As such, this specific point wouldn't constitute hypocrisy.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Fannie and Freddie takeover - does it matter?

Over at CEI's Open Market Blog, John Berlau argues that the announcement that control of Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac will be taken over by the US government doesn't matter because the companies have always been controlled by the state even if they were technically privately owned.

But is that the case - that it doesn't matter if it's always, technically, been that way, even if it wasn't official? I don't think so. Making it official is both important and upsetting.

The nominal private ownership of these companies, in spite of their extremely close ties with the government, was important because the US typically doesn't think of the housing market as something that needs to be controlled by government, and hasn't used government owned and controlled companies to control markets. With the nationalization (basically) of these companies, the US government has implicitly sanctioned government control of a very important part of the market.

While I wouldn't go so far as to say that the US is now more communist than China, it's still significant, and it's certainly not good.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

the price of a vote

A friend and I were talking about selling votes the other day, and someone passed along this link to me for my (and now your) amusement.

What's really interesting is to look at the sold votes. Unless I'm reading it wrong, it looks like the highest anyone was willing to pay... er... donate to someone who happens to be supporting their candidate of choice... for a vote was $30.

I say that's overpriced (and therefore would be a great deal if I was selling - assuming I'm not giving up work or something I'd really like to be doing to vote), but assuming you're not opposed to government programs that pay out for you, it might not be too far off the real non-emotional value of a vote.

On the other hand, most people don't like the idea of selling votes, which would push the value down. If this is because selling your vote is illegal, making it legal might be another matter all together... that said, since most people likely wouldn't want to sell their vote, imho, maybe it's not affected as much as it would otherwise be by the closed market.

I guess we'll probably never know. It's interesting, at any rate.

Monday, August 18, 2008

"the government is advancing its agenda"

One of my pet peeves about the current government is the insistence of its supporters that the reason government isn't getting smaller is that there's a minority parliament and therefore Harper can't advance his agenda.


Harper has been able to advance four of his five election goals, and the fifth (reducing wait times) was a foolish promise to make unless he was willing to amend the Canada Health Act, which he didn't attempt to do. He's also been able to get his way repeatedly, more or less, in Afghanistan and other controversial issues despite strong opposition from other parties.

Now the Canadian Press is covering this nonsense excuse (now being used as a call for an election) from Harper. For once, I agree with Pat Martin:
"I don't accept that Parliament is dysfunctional at all," says NDP MP Pat Martin.

"Most committees are functioning well, and the government is advancing its agenda, subject to some of the compromises you'd expect in a minority Parliament."

It seems Harper's real beef is with the problems his government has faced on a set of unique committees chaired by opposition MPs.
While I don't blame Harper for being upset over these little ethical committees popping up all over the place, I don't accept that he doesn't realize that he's in a minority parliament and that's just the way things are - especially when his supporters will pull the "It's a minority parliament! This is how things have to be!" card at the first mention of concerns over Harper's intentions when we see him continually reducing the ability of individual Canadians to make their own choices about how to live their own lives.

This isn't to say that no positive steps have been taken by Harper's government, but when the Tories talk to those who want smaller government, more take-home pay, and to live their lives the way they'd like, they ask us to look the other way from multiple bans that take away our ability to make our own decisions about what to buy, the expansion of the expensive, crime-funding drug war, and significant increases in government spending than their predecessors, all because of a minority parliament.

The fact is, though, that this government's agenda is not one that will allow Canadians to live their lives more freely, but one that increases the roles and power of the government instead. This is an agenda he's had no problems implementing, however incrementally he's had to do it.

It is, after all, a minority parliament.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

In 2081, everyone will finally be equal.

Kurt Vonnegut's short story, Harrison Bergeron, is being made into a film.

Here's a brief explanation of the film and story:
Based on the short story Harrison Bergeron by celebrated author Kurt Vonnegut, 2081 depicts a dystopian future in which, thanks to the 212th Amendment to the Constitution and the unceasing vigilance of the United States Handicapper General, everyone is finally equal... The strong wear weights, the beautiful wear masks and the intelligent wear earpieces that fire off loud noises to keep them from taking unfair advantage of their brains. It is a poetic tale of triumph and tragedy about a broken family, a brutal government, and an act of defiance that changes everything.
You can (and should) watch the trailer here.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Today's moment of zen

Today's moment of zen. Click on the image for the full story. (This isn't a specific attack on Bush, this is an objectively funny photo.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Poor people don't need food anyway.

South Los Angeles resident Curtis English acknowledged that fast food is loaded with calories and cholesterol. But since he's unemployed and does not have a car, it serves as a cheap, convenient staple for him.

On Monday, he ate breakfast and lunch — a sausage burrito and double cheeseburger, respectively — at a McDonald's a few blocks from home for just $2.39.

"I don't think there's too many fast food places," he said. "People like it."
With statements like this, it's no wonder the government of LA had to step in and make this decision. With people like Curtis showing such utter disregard for their health by picking something they can afford rather than something that's good for them, we need those who know better to step in. The poor need the rich to help them make good decisions.

Poor people need to slim down by picking something like organic, free range, locally made granola and home made yogurt with local organic clover honey instead of that fatty Egg McMuffin. After all, I'm sure that once we push all the multinational corporations trying to take advantage of the poor by offering cheap, unhealthy food that they can afford too easily, more healthy restaurants will move into poor neighbourhoods. Once we tell people how to budget their (very limited) funds, I'm sure they'll find a way to make it work.


It's depressing how common it is to see such condescending, callous and thoughtless decisions being made on behalf of people just trying to live their lives by people who have forgotten what it's like to worry about having enough money to put food on the table and have nothing better to do than tell the rest of us how to spend ours.

For more info check out the full story here. For more on why California really sucks lately, read this.

Cross-posted to Bureaucrash.

Monday, July 21, 2008

One-sided science

Climate change is a touchy issue for a lot of people - and justifiably so. We're talking about the future of the planet and the worldwide economy - it's important stuff.

I don't claim to have any kind of solution - I think claiming to understand or control our climate is even more conceited than thinking we can unilaterally run an economy.

I submitted the following while defending a fellow liberty lover against the claim that to grant any admission that there might be some climate change occurring is anti-freedom on a Western Standard Shotgun blog post:
Any claim that we can know
what the climate is doing one way or another is nonsense - there's no way that meteorologists can't reliably tell me whether or not it's going to rain this afternoon but some politico knows exactly what is or is not influencing the long-term climate patterns of the planet.

As such, it's completely consistent to not have an opinion on whether or not climate changes are man-made, man-influenced, or man-independent but to have an opinion on what the best solution to concern over the issue is. Let the market decide if there is a problem, whether or not anything needs to be done to fix it, and what the best way to go about all of it might be.

The controversy doesn't come from the complexity of the science behind global warming; it comes from meddlers on either side of the issue who are "sure" they're right and agonizing over not being able to impose their decision on the rest of us if it's left to the market.Some people might think that this isn't something that can't be left to "the market" - some faceless body ruthlessly making decisions based on profit without taking into account what's really important to people... but the fact is that the market is (or would be, without government interference) just a mechanism through which people indicate, through prices, what's most important to them. Whether it's buying stock in an environmentally friendly company or simply buying "green" products, people make all sorts of decisions indicating how important the environment is to them without turning it into a zero-sum game by involving the government.

As such, one thing I do think warrants attention is the lack of tolerance for debate on the issue by those agonizing over whether or not they'll be the one to prescribe the solution. I don't normally get too upset about stories of private censorship on this issue, but I find it very hard to ignore when statutory bodies such as Ofcom in the UK start censoring the debate.

Government, which is always trying to catch up to technology, is certainly not a force I want picking and choosing winners any field of scientific study*, especially one as potentially important as the study of climate change.

(*Or any field of anything, for that matter.)

Cross-posted to Bureaucrash

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

i have the explanation.

Prentice wants explanation for text message fees.

I have the explanation!


I am in Washington, DC for the summer. My roommate has a cell phone and is able to call Hawaii for the same price that she calls home to Virginia. She has no limits on texting and is confused by the idea that I would pay roaming. She does not have any kind of special plan, and no one seems to think she has an especially good plan.

That is the power of competition.

If only Prentice was in a position to help this happen in Canada!

He can blame the companies all he wants, he can "reluctantly" interfere with the industry - but all he really has to do is allow as many companies as would like to enter the market to enter the market, and let them find the best way to add value for consumers.

On the bright side, I'm with Rogers.

Monday, July 07, 2008

oil profits are good.

There's a common misconception that oil profits are a very, very bad thing.

This is in spite of a general acceptance of the idea that corrupt governments use oil revenues to oppress their people. Nigeria is a great example.

The thing is, if profits from oil went freely to private industry, they would be reinvested in an attempt to maximize wealth further. Sure, some rich people would get richer, but they usually employ an awful lot of people to get there. It's fairly likely that more investment would occur in a great deal of places where development is sorely needed.

When governments control oil and when oil companies need to use their profits to bribe governments to allow them to stay in business or to lobby governments to squash competition, governments can use that money for whatever they want - and all too often what they want is to oppress people. Whether it's through outright war and violence or through laws that restrict the way people and businesses operate in their country, this oppression the stable development that many of these countries need in favour of welfare and aid programs dependent on the whims often unstable regimes - if those living under the government are lucky.

Call me crazy, but I'll take the profits.

(cross-post to Bureaucrash)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

do away with liquor monopolies.

Shannon Kari has an interesting article in the National Post today detailing provincial governments' stubborn dismissal of any attempts to liberalize alcohol sales laws.

"Despite studies that indicate a private retail system would increase government revenue by eliminating the cost of operating retail outlets and does not lead to problems with alcohol consumption, there is very little political will to make changes.
The opposition to change is steadfast even when the beliefs about the dangers of a private system are debunked by a government study. The Ontario government rejected the findings of a $600,000 study it commissioned in 2005, the same day the report was issued.

The Beverage Alcohol System Review panel concluded the province could generate an extra $200-million annually, enough to build a new 300-bed hospital each year, if the government allowed private retailers to sell alcohol. A private system would increase choice and lower prices for consumers."

Granted, "it would generate more government revenue" is my least favourite argument for any changes to government policy - just more money for to fund the "idle hands" projects of governments in almost every case... but I'll go with it if it will get the job done.

Life would be more convenient, prices would be better for consumers, and comparisons to other systems suggest there would be no real effect on liquor consumption - Nova Scotia has the highest alcohol consumption in the country... and the most stringent liquor laws. New York state has 8 times the liquor stores and nearly the same alcohol consumption as Ontario.

And is anyone really naive enough to think that the liqour control board of Ontario (sounds a lot less appealing than "LCBO," doesn't it?) stops underage drinking?

What would seem more Canadian than to celebrate July 1st with a trip to the grocery store to pick up some meat for the BBQ and a six pack or some coolers for the fridge? It's time to end this antiquated and draconian practice across Canada. In the words of a Alabaman activists' group, "free the hops!"

Friday, June 27, 2008

who owns you?

If you haven't read the Reason article, Who Owns Your Body Parts?, then you really, really ought to. If you don't trust me, take the word of the LA Press Club, who gave it an award last weekend.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

ow, my head

On one hand, Liberals propose a carbon tax, which will apply to gas, that would make people "pay the true cost of their effects on the environment."

On the other hand, they think that we definitely need to do something about rising gas prices. We can't let oil companies (and small business owners!) gouge consumers - we need to protect them!!... from... er... the costs of their effect on the environment.

I guess the real problem is that too much of the profit is going to someone who creates wealth, and not enough is being funneled towards government programs and MP/bureaucrat salaries.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

assumed consent

I've had the privilege this week to hear a number of amazing speakers talk on liberty and society. One speaker was Tom Bell, who has a really interesting theory about assumed consent and government services.

The idea is that typically when we talk about "consent," we mean express consent, such as an explicit agreement or contract. Another kind of consent is "implied consent," which we infer from the actions of the individuals involved. There's also "hypothetical consent" - consent that is assumed because it ought to be consensual because of some hypothetical reasoning. (You would agree to it under a veil of ignorance, for example.)

The theory we heard put forward is that a normal market is based on express consent. However, in the market for government services, it may be that there is implied consent based on a "love it or leave it" attitude towards the law - the assumption that if you didn't like living under a set of rules, you would leave.

Government services are provided, obviously, by a monopoly. Because the government doesn't have a pricing mechanism available, though, (since its services are delivered free at the point of use) it could be argued that they use the "implied demand" they could get from, say, census numbers, to determine the number of services to offer.

The problem? If assumed demand is too high (as it likely is - the fact that someone is in the country doesn't mean that they demand a service), the point at which marginal cost is equal to marginal revenue (which determines how much of a service is offered in a monopoly situation) might be at a point where the price for such a service is negative - that is, some people would pay to get rid of government services, rather than paying for the services they're receiving or being subjected to. Note that the price charged to deliver this service would also be quite high, as monopolies price off of their supply curve.

It's an interesting theory that I find persuasive, though I'll have to think it over further.

Since I have a million thoughts running through my mind after these talks, here's more thinking aloud:

Since agricultural subsidies in the developed world do so much to discourage farming in the poorest countries, it stops the development of farms - that is, the cheapest and easiest way for poor people to develop and add value to their land. Additionally, bureaucratic nonsense makes it nearly impossible to develop land legally when building anything unless you have the money or connections to bypass the system.

Since land that is or would be used by poor people remains undeveloped or is developed illegally, there is less of a demand for property rights. (Why bother laying a claim on something that isn't valuable, and how would you try to lay a legal claim on something that's not legally valuable?)

Could it be that governments see this and that in the absence of a pricing mechanism they make an assumption that the demand for property rights is lower than it actually is in the same way that they might over-predict the demand for other services, and that this is a reason for under-providing an effective legal system to protect these rights?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

age limits

I'm at a seminar in Virginia, and a fellow here will be turning 21 tomorrow. He will not be allowed to drink until midnight tonight, since, you know, he's such a different guy now than he will be then.

Someone pointed out to me, though, that that's an issue with all age limits/age of consent rules. And you know what? They're right.

Thinking aloud:

Perhaps a different system would be that once someone wants freedom from rules there could be some sort of test of understanding and rationality that they could pass to distinguish themself as a rational individual. It's difficult to implement but certainly less absurd than choosing an arbitrary age.

That isn't to say that I would use that as a rule to determine when someone should be allowed to drink - I don't think age or rationality should have anything to do with that - this would apply more to, say, contracts.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

food for thought

If regulators and politicians believe that gun bans are an effective way to eliminate gun crimes, why do they make an exception to the ban for law enforcement officials?

Actions speak louder than words - if the state doesn't believe that gun bans will keep guns out of the hands of criminals, why would it take away the choice of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves in kind?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

holy crap.

The Toronto Star is running a story opposing handgun bans.

You read that right. Go read it. Now.

Coyne hits the in & out nail on the head.

imho, the "in-and-out" story should be dead. While I think the Tories broke the spirit of the law, and that if they want to be able to spend more they should be moving to eliminate any and all campaign spending limits (which are bad for free speech anyway, especially when they're imposed on non-party groups), this all could have been pointed out the first time we all had to hear about it.

Andrew Coyne gets even more to the heart of the problem in his opinion column in the latest Maclean's:
"If you want something to get upset about, you should know that a good part of all this spending, national or local, is on your dime: whether through tax credits for political contributions, or the reimbursements of candidate's expenses, or the infamous $1.75-per-vote "allowance" brought in under the Chretien reforms. If you ask me, that's a scandal. But whether a party spends with its left hand or its right? Meh."
I commented on the disparity between donations to charities and to political parties the other day, because I think Coyne is absolutely right.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Musings on Capital, Property and Morals

I recently read Hernando de Soto’s The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, which has been one of the better decisions I’ve made in my quest for intellectual development. I highly recommend the book to anyone with an interest in the legal and economic basis of property rights, their historical development in the West or concrete strategies for helping developing nations.

(The book is also quite good for anyone under the mistaken opinion that the plight of the poor in the developing world is a result of the capitalist system. The perversions of capitalism under which power and property are monopolized by the rich and powerful through extensive government and bureaucratic force certainly have nothing to do with the spirits of freedom, entrepreneurship or capitalism.)

At any rate, as I neared the end of the book it occurred to me that comparing de Soto’s explanation of the failure of attempts to institute new property rights systems that aren’t in sync with the local informal systems to attempts to legislate morality might make the issue much clearer to those who hadn’t thought of it before.

Uncontroversial, effective law embodies the pre-existing values of society – opposition to theft and murder are good examples – and is almost universally followed.

Controversial and therefore oft-broken and ineffective laws usually try to impose a set of values not overwhelmingly held by society. In this category we see any number of attempts to prohibit consensual activities – probably the least controversial of which to address would be the tremendous failure of the prohibition of marijuana to stop or even significantly stem marijuana usage. Any number of public polls reveals why this law is so often broken – people don’t agree with it in the first place.

In The Mystery of Capital, de Soto alleges that the poor are not all without property as we often assume, and that in fact the majority of them have a great deal more property than we would expect - an estimated $9.3 trillion worldwide - including houses and businesses. This property is not legally owned, but held according to the social contracts of the communities in which they exist. These “extralegal” arrangements are not discovered or recorded by governments, let alone legislated, but they exist just the same.

The book argues (convincingly, in my opinion) that the secret to the economic progression and success of the developing world is the successful integration of these extralegal arrangements into cohesive legal property systems enforceable by higher levels of government. The fact that this has been successfully achieved only in the West explains “why capitalism triumphs in the West and fails everywhere else.”

The historical failure of attempts to legally integrate the poor of developing nations into national property rights systems is explained by governments that have attempted to mimic Western property rights systems without recognizing and incorporating the property systems already informally in place.

The West, de Soto alleges, was able to develop a socially accepted and therefore effective legal property system only over time, working through and then with the existing arrangements of extralegal property owners rather than against them. The purpose of government, after all, isn't to create property rights, but to protect them.

It doesn't take much of a stretch to see how the explanation of the failure of legal systems de Soto makes a case for appears to apply also to failed attempts to legislate morality, rather than to simply codify existing values into law.

Margaret Gruter, quoted from Law and the Mind in de Soto’s book, puts it very succinctly:
“Law is... not simply a set of spoken, written or formalized rules that people blindly follow. Rather, law represents the formalization of behavioural rules, about which a high percentage of people agree, that reflect behavioural propensities and that offer potential benefits to those who follow them. (When people do not recognize of believe in these potential benefits, laws are often disregarded or disobeyed.)”
and de Soto correctly observes that "if the legal system does not facilitate the people’s needs and ambitions, they will move out of the system in droves” and simply own homes and operate businesses illegally.

new links

I've been remiss - these should have gone up as soon as I'd sat down to start blogging again.

For those who didn't hear about the wacky shenanigans of the D.C. park police at the impromptu silent dance party for Thomas Jefferson's birthday a few weeks ago, check out Free the Jefferson 1, a site dedicated to helping a dancer who found out the hard way that no, you cannot, in fact, dance if you want to. (Or, if you really want to, you must leave your friends behind.) The site will remain in my links until the situation is resolved. (Help out by donating, even if all you can contribute is $15 or $20... or perhaps $17.76?)

On a related note, my good friend Jason had started a blog in his post-Bureaucrash career over at J.D. Talley. Do check it out - it's closely related to the first link as he is right in the thick of things in the silent Thomas Jefferson dance party scene.

Friday, April 25, 2008

World Malaria Day

Today is World Malaria Day, a day for spreading awareness about this devastating disease.

You might think to yourself, "Well, it's very sad that over one million people a year die of this preventable, curable disease, but there are lots of diseases that people have the misfortune to suffer from simply because they are in third world countries. Why is this different?"

Well, unlike other diseases confined to less developed nations like polio, neglected tropical diseases, leprosy, etc. that are simply a result of being poverty stricken, (a problem for another post) malaria continues to be as prevalent as it has for one major reason: the privileged arrogance of the Western World.

And I don't mean that the way it's usually said. I don't think that our success, or capitalism, or any kind of economic circumstances are somehow causing more people to be bitten by mosquitoes.

The fact is, though, that we did a few very simple, affordable things to eliminate malaria in the first world, and we're not allowing people in nations still affected by malaria to do what we had to free ourselves of this disease.

In North America, we drained swamps to eliminate breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. We basically drove them to extinction. Admittedly, it's led to a shortage of wetlands that isn't something that should be without consideration, but surely the elimination of human suffering that we've achieved is worth it - especially since a wetland shortage is something that we can find important only because these actions and others leading to our prosperity have already been taken.

Because we were foolish enough to spray DDT over whole fields, we deny the poorest, most disadvantaged people in the world the protection it offers - and it is some of the very best protection - in spite of study after study showing that the type of use needed to protect people is extremely safe.

And it's not that we're simply "more enlightened" these days. Take West Nile - a zoonotic disease with a human fatality rate considered negligible before it came to America. When West Nile started affecting us, though, our response was anything but negligible. Targeted pesticides in storm drains, mosquito repellent everywhere and massive public campaigns to eliminate standing water. I have an extremely hard time believing that if malaria were still filling wetlands we've eliminated we wouldn't drain them all over again.

Whatever you think of our obligations to humanitarian projects and aid for other countries, surely we can agree that we have an obligation to do no harm. We are not meeting that obligation, and the continued prevalence of malaria is one of the most devastating consequence.

At the very least the world's poorest people should have the option to protect themselves in the ways we did. They don't, and it's not something any of us should stand for.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

get fixxed

OK, after this I really am going to get back to studying, but in the meantime, check out Get Fixxed - blog of fellow liberty-lover, Xaq.

not at all related to Earth Day

Just a little tidbit for any doubters out there of public choice theory: compare the incentive to donate to a registered charity to the incentive to donate to a registered political party. You sure can see the difference it makes when you're the one who passes the law and the one who benefits from it.

For charitable donations in Canada:
In 2007, the first $200 you donate is eligible for a federal tax credit of 15.25% of the donation amount. After the first $200, the federal tax credit increases to 29% of the amount over $200. Generally, you can claim all or part of this amount up to a limit of 75% of your net income. For gifts of certified cultural property or ecologically sensitive land, you may be able to claim up to 100% of your net income.

For donations to a political party in Canada:
Income tax credits

When Parliament changed the Canada Elections Act, it also changed the Income Tax Act to allow higher income tax credits for political contributions by an individual:

* for contributions up to $400, a credit of 75 percent (for example, a $300 credit for a contribution of $400)

* for contributions from $401 to $750, a credit of $300 plus 50 percent of the amount over $400 (for example, a $475 credit for a contribution of $750)

* for contributions over $750, the lesser of $650 or $475 plus 33⅓ percent of the amount over $750 (for example, a $650 credit for a contribution of $1,275)

EDIT: As someone points out in the comments, your tax credit is hardly the end of it - it's hard to say, really, how much a $100 donation to a political party costs the taxpayer. $75 upon donating, plus if you're near an election, you can add 60% of any the donation spent in that election... plus 60% of any of that refund spent in the next election. It's safe to say, though, that every time you donate to a political party, especially during an election, you're probably going to cost the taxpayers as much as you're willing to pay - and maybe more.

more Earth Day fun.

More great reading for Earth Day - below is a great excerpt from a book talking about the politics of fear from the Post a few days ago. The passage is on Rachel Carson, and while it's lengthy, you really ought to give it a read.

Carson has a special place in my heart, and it's not a good place. You see, Carson and her sloppy attempt at science were largely responsible for the worldwide ban of DDT that has allowed malaria to continue to be such a huge problem for people in third-world nations. Of course I'm happy we've stopped using DDT in such large quantities that it was killing or mutating plants and animals, but the amount needed to deter mosquitoes has no such effect.

Malaria was once prevalent in North America. We used chemicals like DDT and drained swamps to fight it off, eliminate it and become successful. In large part thanks to Rachel Carson, though, we've never given millions of the poorest people in the world the chance to be free from this devastating and easily preventable disease.

For more information on why you, too, should remember Rachel Carson in infamy, visit Rachel Was Wrong, brought to you by the fantastic folks at CEI, where I'm ecstatic to say I'll be interning for Bureaucrash this summer.

Here's the article:

Thanks largely to Rachel Carson, the spectre of cancer has sown an irrational fear of chemicals
We really don’t like chemicals. We don’t even like the word. In surveys of the American public conducted by psychologist Paul Slovic, past president of the Society For Risk Analysis, people were asked to say what comes to mind when they hear the word chemical. The results were “dominated by negative imagery,” he says. “Death.” “Toxic.” “Dangerous.” In Canadian surveys carried out by Daniel Krewski, an epidemiologist at the University of Ottawa, people were asked what thought pops into their minds when they hear the word risk. One common answer was “chemical.”

Water is a chemical, and so is mother’s milk. But that’s not how people use the word today. Chemicals are invented in laboratories and manufactured in giant industrial plants. And they are inherently dangerous, something to be avoided whenever possible. It is this cultural re-definition of “chemical” that has transformed organic produce from a niche market into a booming, multi-billion-dollar industry, and why the word natural has become the preferred adjective of corporate marketers, no matter what they’re selling. “The tobacco in most cigarettes contains additives drawn from a list of 409 chemicals,” reads an ad that appeared in American magazines in 2006. “Natural American Spirit is the only brand that features both cigarettes made with 100% organic tobacco as well as cigarettes made with 100% additive-free natural tobacco.”

This is new. Prior to the 1960s, “chemical” was associated with the bounty of science. It meant progress and prosperity, an image the DuPont corporation sought to capitalize on in 1935 with the help of a new slogan: “Better things for better living … through chemistry.” New products came to market with little or no testing and were used in massive quantities with scarcely a thought for safety. It was an era in which children caught in the mist of a crop duster had their faces washed by mothers who had no idea it would take more than a damp facecloth to make their children clean again.

The end of that era came in 1962, when Rachel Carson, a marine biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, published a book called Silent Spring. “For the first time in the history of the world,” Carson wrote, “every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death.”

Carson’s primary concern in Silent Spring was the damage being inflicted on the natural world by the indiscriminate use of synthetic chemicals, particularly DDT, a pesticide she believed was annihilating bird populations and threatening to usher in a springtime made silent by the absence of birdsong. But the book likely would not have come to much if it had stopped at that. Carson further argued that the chemical stew that was crippling the natural world was also doing terrible harm to Homo sapiens.

In a chapter entitled “One in Every Four,” Carson noted that the proliferation of synthetic chemicals that started in the late 19th century was paralleled by a rise in cancer. In the United States, Carson wrote, cancer “accounted for 15% of the deaths in 1958 compared with only 4% in 1900.” The lifetime risk of getting cancer would soon be a terrifying one in four and “the situation with respect to children is even more deeply disturbing. A quarter century ago, cancer in children was considered a medical rarity. Today, more American school children die of cancer than from any other disease … 12% of all deaths in children between the ages of one and 14 are caused by cancer.”

It would be difficult to exaggerate the impact of Silent Spring. The book influenced a whole generation of policymakers and thoughtful citizens, including U.S. Supreme Court justice William O. Douglas and President John F. Kennedy. The chemical industry launched a campaign of nasty attacks on Carson — that “hysterical woman” — but that only raised the book’s profile and damaged the industry’s image. Commissions were launched to investigate Carson’s claims, and citizens’ groups formed to press for a ban on DDT and other chemicals. It was the beginning of the modern environmental movement.

In 1970, the first Earth Day was celebrated. In 1972, DDT was banned in the United States. In 1982, DuPont dropped the “through chemistry” part of its famous slogan. At the end of the century, Silent Spring routinely appeared on lists of the most influential books of all time, and Time magazine named Carson one of the “100 People of the Century.”

Carson didn’t live to see her words change the world. She died in 1964 — killed by breast cancer.

Cancer is the key to understanding why Silent Spring set off the explosion it did. It wasn’t just any disease Carson warned of. The very word cancer is “unclean,” wrote a survivor in a 1959 memoir. “It is a crab-like scavenger reaching its greedy tentacles into the life of the soul as well as the body. It destroys the will as it gnaws away the flesh.” Cancer has a unique image in modern culture. It is not merely a disease — it’s a creeping killer and we fear it like no other. Paul Slovic’s surveys show cancer is the only major disease whose death toll is actually overestimated by the public. It also has a presence in the media even bigger than its substantial toll.

And yet, despite its enormous presence in our culture, cancer wasn’t always the stuff of nightmares. “In 1896,” writes Joanna Bourke in Fear: A Cultural History, “the American Journal of Psychology reported that when people were asked which diseases they feared, only 5% named cancer, while between a quarter and a third drew attention to the scary nature of each of the following ailments: smallpox, lockjaw, consumption and hydrophobia [rabies]. In the fear-stakes, being crushed in a rail accident or during an earthquake, drowning, being burned alive, hit by lightning, or contracting diphtheria, leprosy or pneumonia all ranked higher than cancer.”

That changed after the Second World War. By 1957, cancer was such a terror that an oncologist quoted by Bourke complained that the disease had been transformed into “a devil” and the fear of cancer — “cancerophobia,” as he called it — had become a plague in its own right. “It is possible that today cancerophobia causes more suffering than cancer itself,” he wrote. With Silent Spring, Carson told people that this new spectre wasn’t just in their nightmares. It was all around them, in the air they breathe, the soil they walk on and the food they eat. It was even in their blood. Small wonder people paid attention.

Carson’s numbers suggested fear of cancer was rising rapidly simply because cancer was rising rapidly. But her numbers were misleading.

Carson’s statement that cancer “accounted for 15% of the deaths in 1958 compared with only 4% in 1900” makes the common mistake of simply assuming that the disease’s larger share of the total is the result of rising rates of the disease. But according to U.S. Census Bureau data, cancer was the number seven killer in the period of 1900-04. Number one was tuberculosis. Number four was diarrhea and enteritis. Number 10 was typhoid fever followed by diphtheria at number 11. Scarlet fever, whooping cough and measles ranked lower but still took a significant toll. By the time Carson was writing in the late-1950s, vaccines, antibiotics and public sanitation had dramatically reduced or even eliminated every one of these causes of death. (In 1958, tuberculosis had fallen from the number one spot to number 15. Enteritis was number 19. Deaths due to diphtheria, scarlet fever and the rest had all but vanished.) With the toll of other causes dropping rapidly, cancer’s share of all deaths would have grown greatly even if the rate of cancer deaths hadn’t changed in the slightest.

The same facts take the sting out of the statement Carson thought was so important she put it in italics in her book: “Today, more American school children die of cancer than from any other disease.” By 1962, traditional child killers such as diphtheria had been wiped out. More children were dying of cancer than any other disease not because huge numbers of children were dying of cancer but because huge numbers of children were not dying of other diseases.

As for the title of Carson’s chapter on cancer — “One in every four” — it comes from a 1955 report by the American Cancer Society (ACS) predicting that the then-current estimate of cancer striking one person in five would rise to one in four. But as age is the primary risk factor for cancer, the fact that far more people were surviving childhood and living to old age would inevitably mean more people would get cancer — mostly when they were old — and so the “lifetime risk” would rise.

However, the ACS noted that wasn’t the whole story. Data on cancer were still sketchy in that era but in the previous two decades there was an apparent 200% rise in the incidence of cancer among women and a 600% rise among men, which was mostly the result of a rise in only one type of cancer. Lung cancer “is the only form of cancer which shows so definite a tendency,” the report noted.

Lung cancer started to soar in the 1920s, 20 years after the habit of smoking cigarettes took off among men in the United States and other Western countries. Women didn’t start smoking in large numbers until the 1920s and 1930s — and 20 years after that, cancer among women took off as well. When smoking rates started to decline in the 1960s and 1970s — again, first among men — so did many cancers 20 years later. This pattern mainly involves lung cancer, but other forms of cancer are also promoted by smoking: cancers of the larynx, pancreas, kidney, cervix, bladder, mouth and esophagus.

But Carson didn’t write a word about smoking in Silent Spring. In fact, the only mention of tobacco is a reference (again, italicized for emphasis) to arsenic-bearing insecticides sprayed on tobacco crops: “The arsenic content of cigarettes made from American-grown tobacco increased more than 300% between the years 1932 and 1952.” Carson was nodding toward a popular theory of the day. It isn’t inhaling tobacco smoke that kills. Tobacco is natural and safe. It’s the chemicals added to tobacco that kill. This theory was fiercely advocated by Wilhelm Hueper of the National Cancer Institute, who was a major influence on Carson’s views and is repeatedly quoted in Silent Spring.

At the time, that hypothesis was not unreasonable. The research linking smoking to cancer was fairly new and very little was known about synthetic chemicals and human health. And while the rise in cancer may not have been as enormous as Carson made it out to be, it was real, and the possibility that all these new wonder chemicals were the source was truly scary. From Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear by Dan Gardner. In stores now. Published by McClelland & Stewart Ltd. Reprinted by permission.

Happy Earth Day!

Here's a letter I sent to the paper today in response to the Premier's announced ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides. I could have gotten into more without the 300-word limit, but there's a lot to be said for brevity, too.

Boy, did I ever get a laugh out of Dalton McGuinty's Earth Day announcement of a ban on pesticide use for cosmetic purposes.

As much as I appreciate the Premier's attempt to pass off enacting a ban that, by his numbers, 90% of people support as political courage for the sake of the environment, I have to point out that the government really doesn't do much more for the environment than pay lip service.

I have no doubt that energy conservation is a good thing, and apparently neither does the government when banning incandescent light bulbs is concerned - but they continue to subsidize the price of electricity to "protect" us from the true cost of using it.

Whenever gas prices rise, we see politicians threatening to legislate a price cap, again to “protect” us. No one wants to pay high gas prices, but think of the incentive for Canadian auto manufacturers to produce more fuel efficient, green vehicles if their customers were dealing with $2.00 or $3.00/L fuel as they do in Europe, or for drivers to walk, bike or take the bus.

In the case of the pesticide ban, golf courses will be exempt. I am skeptical about how scary it is that my neighbour has a green, weed-free lawn, but if it is dangerous, shouldn’t golf courses be the number one target of this legislation? And if pesticides are so dangerous that we need to ban them, why is only cosmetic use being banned?

The government's Earth Day message: We're for the environment, so long as it won't cost us votes. Heartwarming.

I think that Premier McGuinty is right: Ontarians do want to be green. But we don't need bans to do it; we just need the government to get out of our way.

For more on how freedom can save the world, check out some of the talks from the Toronto Liberty Seminar's talks on government interference with environmentalism:

and on free-market environmentalism:

(They are in order, if you're interested in what Pierre's talking about at the beginning of his speech.)

There are two other talks from the TLS that should be appearing soon at the Institute for Liberal Studies site. Stay tuned!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Windsor Liberty Seminar 2008

This Saturday, March 15 is the Windsor Liberty Seminar.

This is the third year of this event which is hosted at the University of Windsor. The one-day seminar is free for students, $10 for all others, includes lunch and a whole day of awesome discussion of Liberty.

This year's confirmed speakers are Jan Narveson, Institute for Liberal Studies President and Professor Emeritus from the University of Waterloo talking about revitalizing liberalism (the classical kind, of course), Fred McMahon of the Fraser Institute on why globalization is so awesome and Bruce Walker of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy on the property rights battle.

After the seminar all attendees or otherwise are encouraged to come out to Phog Lounge in Windsor for the officially unofficial after party, once again featuring Lindy of solo fame and lead singer of Major Maker, and this year also featuring Wax Mannequin of Hamilton.

For more information or to register, you can visit

grab your shotgun...

I've been blogging at the Western Standard's Shotgun Blog so I thought I ought to mention it here.

I wrote a wrap-up post for the Shotgun's focus on International Women's Week today, and a short post on the budget.

I also wrote on John Tory's potential ousting when it was still potential, and will be trying my hand at another article soon. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Liberty in Canada

Liberty in Canada is a new website that warrants checking out if you're a friend of liberty. The following is the introduction posted by Pierre Lemieux:

Canada used to be a free country. And it is often reluctantly that, as state power mounted during the 20th century, Canadian governments followed the statist fashions that originated elsewhere, including in the U.S.

Canadians avoided the alcohol (and,in some states, tobacco) prohibitions that hit the U.S. in the early 20th century. The American central bank was created in 1913, its Canadian counterpart only in 1935. The American Securities and Exchange Commission was founded in 1934, one decade before its weak Ontario version, and two decades before the Qu├ębec securities commission. The income tax was introduced in Canada four years after the U.S. and, until the 1960s, top marginal rates were often lower in our country. The war on drugs is an American enterprise imported into Canada. Excluding the Nazis, the contemporary anti-tobacco jihad is an American invention that Canadian governments plagiarized; much of the same can be said of the environmental religion. Laws and regulations against money laundering and their Surveillance State apparatus were imposed in the U.S. two decades before hitting Canada. Official ID numbers and photo ID papers developed in the U.S. before Canada: in the late 1990s, there were still Quebecers living legally (and easily) without government-issued photo ID. Numerous other examples can be produced.

We must not idealize the past too much. In Canada as elsewhere, the natural tendency of the state was to impose whatever the political market would bear. For example, Canadians were submitted to numerous restrictions on free speech before Diefenbaker’s and Trudeau’s charters. Indeed, “blasphemous libel” is still nominally prohibited by the criminal code. (See Bob Tarantino, Under Arrest: Canadian Laws You Won’t Believe, Dundurn Press, 2007.)

Yet, the liberticidal laws were enforced in the Canadian way, and it is probably true that a normal individual, and even an eccentric one, could spend a whole peaceful life without being caught in the police-judicial system.

Nor should we exaggerate today’s “tyranny of the majority” and “administrative tyranny”, to use Tocqueville’s terms. Tyranny, like its opposite, liberty, is a question of degree. The situation is worse in many other countries – although it depends about which activities and which groups one is talking about.

Consider some of the liberties you have lost over the past decades, sometimes just over the last few years:

* Destroying a beaver dam on your own land
* Selling (or buying) wheat or milk freely
* Purchasing any health insurance you want
* Establishing a hospital
* Hiring or firing whom you want
* Runing a business without monthly or quarterly GST reports
* Buying or selling stocks on the basis of whatever non-stolen information is in your head
* Talking publicly about certain topics, including those that fall under the mandate of “human rights” commissions
* Drive on public roads – which is now defined as a privilege graciously granted by the state
* Driving a motor boat without a permit
* Using your own resources to support political candidates or to promote your own opinions during a referendum or election
* Listening to whatever radio or TV station you want
* Smoking in your own shop, or welcoming smokers there
* Owning and a fortiori carrying guns without permission, even on your own property
* Exercising efficiently your right of self-defence
* Crossing the border without declaring negotiable instruments of $10,000 or more; same for many cash transactions
* Going about your daily business and partaking in domestic travel without official ID papers
* Opening a bank account without the state knowing it
* Owning personal assets in foreign countries without declaring them to the Canadian government.

These are only examples of whole classes of liberticidal measures. We have lost traditional liberties in property rights and freedom of contract, certain areas of free speech, certain lifestyle choices, personal security, privacy and, despite the charters, legal protections (think about the often reversed burden of proof or the arbitrary enforcement of laws by bureaucrats). This assault on our liberties has been financed by making us pay twice in taxes what we paid a hundred years ago (as a proportion of our incomes).

The slope is getting more and more slippery. “I swear,” said a friend and former RCMP officer who was working in the federal government, “we’re getting more like the Soviet Union every year.”

This site is dedicated to documenting the demise of Canadian liberty, but with the intention to reversing the trend.
(February 15, 2008)

Check it out!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

the DEA - not just anti-freedom: also anti-technology.

Something's possessed me to offer to write articles lately. I wrote a piece on the attempt to overthrow John Tory for the Western Standard earlier this month and am working on my next article, and I've offered to do a piece for my campus paper on Marc Emery's extradition.

In order to the the other side, I need to get in touch with the DEA.

Anyone who knows me knows I have an inexplicable aversion to talking on the phone, so I usually prefer to set up something via e-mail before I do a phone interview. Unfortunately, the contact us page for the DEA offers to allow contact by email only if you have a question about the website.

I'd ask when the DEA is going to join us in the 21st century, but then I remembered what their job is.

One more.

I should also mention the Western Standard Shotgun blog, which I've been frequenting lately. Rumours of the Standard's demise were greatly exaggerated - the magazine, although taking on a new online persona, is alive and well and important voice for liberty in Canada.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

new to my blog rotation...

So I haven't been a terribly great blogger, but I've been a pretty good blog reader. Here are some new ones who have piqued my interest:

It's not quite a blog, but a weekly political talk show on Bowling Green State University's station WBGU FM, Political Animals, co-hosted by Peter Jaworski is also hosted by Jay Lafayette of Perilous Estates and Terrence Watson of The Fusionist Libertarian, who are joining my blog rotation. My favorite aspect of the show is their "enlightened discontent." (Tune in online every Monday from 4:00 - 6:00)

Libertastic - another great resource for enlightened discontent.

The EcoLibertarian, found via Wudrick Blog, is a great blog on environmentalism and how government initiatives hurt our attempts at conservation.

Tom Palmer's blog. I'm not sure why I didn't read this before, I really enjoy it.

They should all be added to my links within a few minutes.

i know, i know

I've been a terrible blogger. School and freedom fighting are time consuming.

But this is just too good to not share. It's not often you find a whole neighbourhood of people who would rather look at a giant haystack in their neighbourhood for four years than this:

If ever there was a great reason for getting rid of a bylaw...

h/t: Bureaucrash

Also, what the hell is this?
First the I Heart Harper calendar, then the Harper looking at Harper Christmas card (which I kind of like better now that I've heard Laureen Harper designed it, but still) and a fundraising letter with which I was sent an 8.5"x11" photo of the Harpers, and now the Stephen Harper gallery on parliament hill.

Seriously, people. He's not ugly, but the man is not that good looking.

Bernier's bad bet

Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press Maxime Bernier is taking a gamble. He believes that there is a large, disenfranchised voting bloc in Canada...