October 13, 2010

Look what the UPS truck just dropped off

Filed under: Books, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 14:56

Next book on the reading list:

Lois McMaster Bujold's latest novel, Cryoburn

Update: I’m reminded that you can sample the first few chapters of Cryoburn at the Baen website.

Bernier calls for an end to transfer payments

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Government, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:24

If there’s one member of the federal Conservatives that can be said to both have ideas and be willing to express them publicly, it would have to be Maxime Bernier:

Maxime Bernier is carving out a pronounced niche for himself as the one-man Libertarian wing of the Conservative Party.

He appears also to have made a conscious decision to say what he thinks, and risk the consequences. Having been kicked out of Cabinet and survived, he may have discovered a way to turn lemons into lemonade. The most that can happen to him now is that he gets ejected from caucus as well, but given his stature as a high-profile MP in a prized riding in Quebec, would the Tory high command risk anything so self-defeating?

So what does our one-man Libertarian wing call for now?

Mr. Bernier wants Ottawa to get out of the business of subsidizing provincial programs that aren’t federal responsibility. Rather than send $40 billion a year to the provinces to pay for health and social programs, Ottawa should just chop its taxes and let the provinces take up the slack, paying for their own programs.

Yeah, I somehow don’t see Messrs. Harper, Ignatieff, or Layton coming on board with this notion. Give up taxing power to the provinces who are constitutionally responsible for the services? What do you think we are, some sort of confederation?

Other interesting snippets from his speech to the Albany Club in Toronto:

Wilfrid Laurier was another of our greatest prime ministers. He was a classical liberal, not a liberal in the modern sense. He was a supporter of individual freedom, free trade and free markets. I think if he were alive today, he would probably be a Conservative!

Yes, except he’d be in the same outsider/pariah position as Mr. Bernier finds himself in the Harper version of Conservatism.

In a speech before the Quebec Legislative Assembly in 1871, Laurier said:

“If the federal system is to avoid becoming a hollow concept, if it is to produce the results called for, the legislatures must be independent, not just in the law, but also in fact. The local legislature must especially be completely sheltered from control by the federal legislature.

If in any way the federal legislature exercises the slightest control over the local legislature, then the reality is no longer a federal union, but rather a legislative union in federal form.”

Now, it’s obvious that what Laurier feared has unfortunately come true. Ottawa exercises a lot more than “the slightest control” over local legislatures. The federal government today intervenes massively in provincial jurisdictions, and in particular in health and education, two areas where it has no constitutional legitimacy whatsoever.

As I’ve said before, I don’t know how long Bernier will be tolerated in the tightly controlled and PMO-stage-managed Conservative party, but I do enjoy the spectacle of someone actually pushing these ideas. I hope he continues to do so.

Update: Don Martin also seems to think that “Mad Max” is a breath of fresh air:

They share a party label, but Deficit Jim and Mad Max sit in polar opposite corners of the big blue tent.

The day after Finance Minister Jim Flaherty released an update which would make a left-lurching Liberal blush at the historic high tide in a red fiscal sea, Maxime Bernier delivered a jolt of hard-right policy to remind true blue Conservatives they have at least one voice on the government’s backbenches.

Flaherty is my local MP. He ran for parliament with the Conservatives, but appears to be operating in office as a Liberal.

Maverick Max went rogue again in a Toronto speech on Wednesday by advocating Ottawa get out of transfer payments to provinces while giving legislatures more tax room to finance the health, social welfare and education services they are constitutionally obliged to deliver.

For Jim Flaherty, who rolled out a blueprint on Tuesday showing continued growth in the social transfer envelope well into the next government’s mandate, the notion of surrendering $40 billion worth of fiscal clout over the provinces is a severely alien concept.

Martin has a nice article here, even if he incorrectly refers to Laurier as our first Liberal PM . . . unless he means our first (and only) “classic liberal” PM. Perhaps Bernier will be our second?

Vikings lose CB Cedric Griffin to torn ACL

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:47

Cedric Griffin has had a terrible year: he tore his left ACL in overtime against the Saints in the NFC championship game, and tore his right ACL on Monday against the Jets. He’s out for the remainder of the season:

Griffin suffered the injury while making a tackle in the fourth quarter in Monday’s 29-20 loss to the New York Jets. This is a tough blow for Griffin, who tore the ACL in his left knee while covering a kickoff in the NFC Championship game last January.

Griffin worked extremely hard to return from that injury and made his season debut in the third game against Detroit. Griffin surprised the coaching staff by playing the entire game. Griffin tore the ACL in his right knee while tackling Braylon Edwards on a short pass in the fourth quarter. He left the locker room on crutches and received words of encouragement from several teammates.

Coach Brad Childress acknowledged Griffin is done for the season and said he talked to the player about 3:30 this morning after the Vikings arrived back at Winter Park. “I think he was in a little bit of a fog,” Childress said. “He was in this morning and got in and got out of here very quickly, which we wanted to facilitate. I think he’s probably just taking it all in right now. … It’s probably kind of a, ‘Why me’ thing right now.”

As rookie Chris Cook is recovering from a minor knee injury, the Vikings will probably have to start Asher Allen in place of Griffin.

“I just taught them a new game . . .”

Filed under: Gaming, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:28

H/T to Martina for the link.

QotD: Economic misconceptions

Filed under: Economics, Education, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:04

Students typically come to an economics class with many misconceptions, not just random errors but systematic biases.

Bill Goffe recently (2009) surveyed one of his macro principles classes and found, for example, that the median student believes that 35% of workers earn the minimum wage and a substantial fraction think that a majority of workers earn the minimum wage (Actual rate in 2007: 2.3% of hourly-paid workers and a smaller share of all workers earn the minimum wage, rates are probably somewhat higher today since the min. wage has risen and wages have not).

When asked about profits as a percentage of sales the median student guessed 30% (actual rate, closer to 4%).

When asked about the inflation rate over the last year (survey was in 2009) the median student guessed 11%. Actual rate: much closer to 0%. Note, how important such misconceptions could be to policy.

When asked by how much has income per person in the United States changed since 1950 (after adjusting for inflation) the median student said an increase of 25%. Actual rate an increase of about 248%, thus the median student was off by a factor of 10.

Alex Tabarrok, “Economic Misconceptions”, Marginal Revolution, 2010-10-11

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