October 6, 2011

Hugh MacIntyre vainly tries to tell libertarians how to vote

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:05

Herding cats is easy compared to getting libertarians to agree to do anything as a group. He tries, nonetheless:

Deciding how to vote in today’s provincial election in Ontario has been very difficult for me. For the first time, I have been given the opportunity to vote for one of two political parties that both have important things to say and are both offering platforms that will bring true prosperity to the province of Ontario. I have had to take a serious look at both political parties and decide which one truly deserves my vote. I speak of the Freedom Party and the Libertarian Party.

I am fortunate that both political parties are running a candidate in my riding (St. Paul’s) and so I don’t have to pick between vomiting and not voting.

Both parties offer a vision of a more modest state that does not unnecessarily interfere with the lives of individuals and recognizes the free market as the primary driver of prosperity. There are some nuanced policy differences between the parties, but they are so small, that it was not enough to base my decision upon. I’m confident that Ontarians would be better off with either party in power.

I don’t have a libertarian to vote for, but we have a Freedom Party candidate. As I can’t bring myself to vote for either of the evil-twin centre-left parties (Progressive Conservatives or Liberals), or the real left (the NDP), or the enviro-fascists (the Green party), I have the choice of declining my ballot or voting for Douglas Thom (Freedom Party).

What is a nontrepreneur?

Filed under: Economics, Media, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:23

Andrew Orlowski posts some of his comments at a recent (British) Conservative Conference Fringe discussion on digital policy:

You all know what an entrepreneur is. But who has heard of the word nontrepreneur?

There were amused and bemused looks.

Well you’re going to be hearing it a lot.

We’re in an exciting time for the internet. This great wave of utopian rhetoric and getting everyone online, for the last 15 years, has come to an end. Almost everyone who wants to be online is online. Something quite new and interesting has happened in the past three years, people are beginning to pay for stuff.

The internet today lacks markets and it’s half-finished. The platforms and infrastructure that recognise and create value aren’t there.

Now words come to define political eras and philosophies, and the last ten years were defined by words like ‘beaconicity’ and ‘targets’ and all these agencies spending other people’s money. I have a horrible feeling that Cameron’s technology policy, despite being guided by people with strong classical liberal instincts, will be defined by the fluff of Silicon Roundabout.

Silicon Roundabout is, essentially, a prank on the media. Let’s see who’s involved. You’ve got what I call faux capitalists — people who want to be thought of as capitalists but are terrified of risk and don’t back ambitious high-risk ventures. You’ve got entrepreneurs who can’t run a business. And you’ve got programmers who can’t program. All looking for each other. Then there’s a vast army of hangers-on: mentors, facilitators. And they all socialise endlessly, instead of doing any work. The socialising is work.

This does not create wealth.

As soon as we start to “un-fetishise” this myth of two guys in a garage, and start to think more seriously about, say, payment platforms or credit systems that make buying stuff nice and easy, as easy as real life, then we’ll create markets. You won’t get this from Shoreditch.

Britain suffered higher proportional casualties than the US in Afghanistan

Filed under: Asia, Britain, Cancon, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:04

A brief item from Strategy Page on the relative casualties suffered by the major allied combatants over the course of the Afghanistan campaign:

In ten years of combat in Afghanistan, some 2,700 foreign troops have died. Most (67 percent) were American. The next two nations in terms of combat losses were Britain (14.1 percent) and Canada (5.8 percent). Adjusted for population size, Britain suffered five percent more combat deaths than the United States. On the same basis, Canada suffered about 80 percent as many deaths as the United States.

All three of these nations had their troops in the south (Kandahar and Helmand provinces, where most of the heroin came from) or along the southeast border (mainly Pakistan’s North Waziristan area, long a sanctuary for Islamic terror groups). There were a few other NATO nations, plus Australia, that had small contingents in the south, but most NATO nations put their troops in more peaceful north, with orders to stay out of trouble and avoid casualties.

Why the LCBO isn’t like Foodland Ontario

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Cancon, Government, Wine — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:01

Michael Pinkus tries to decide who to vote for in today’s Ontario election on the basis of who’d be the most likely to put Ontario’s wineries on an equal footing with foreign wineries in their own province:

It’s election day, and I don’t want to take up a lot of your time on a day when you should be concentrating on who to vote for. Over the past few months I have given you food for thought from Tim Hudak’s vision of the wine industry in Ontario to Andrea Horwath’s working with the LCBO option, and I heard or received nothing about the reigning Liberal party’s platform on the subject of the wine industry, I guess for them it will remain status quo. So I guess it’s up to you to decided where your loyalties lie and who you chose to believe as to what difference they’ll make, if any.

[. . .]

Part of an email I received about election promises …
“David Peterson campaigned on putting wine in corner stores in 1985 and he won — twice!
Mike Harris campaigned on putting wine in corner stores in 1995 and he won — twice!
Where are those promises in this campaign [I need to know who to vote for].”
– John

[. . .]

The LCBO affects all wineries in Ontario, but truthfully it is not the sole fault of the liquor board, they are just following their mandate to make money for the government. Two days before the election, the Grape Growers of Ontario released this plea:

“Consumer access to the wines made from Ontario grapes is a keystone issue for the future success of the industry, and unless Queen’s Park is willing to make substantive changes to the way it promotes and sells Ontario wines, the industry will continue to tread water … The domestic market share of Ontario wines is stagnant at around 39% while other winemaking regions are flourishing in their own backyard, some with market shares in excess of 90% … By making changes in the way the LCBO presents Ontario VQA wines on its shelves, how many Ontario VQA labels are available and how those wines get onto the LCBO list, accompanied by an increased, year-round promotional effort within the LCBO, the sales of Ontario’s wines will grow.”

They’re not telling you who to vote for, but they are asking you to be mindful of your vote. But I think it’s more to do with what happens after the election that counts, not the foreplay leading up to it. After the euphoria of victory has subsided we have to hold elected officials to what they promise, or pressure them to give us better and help our wineries, who are after all, tax payers themselves, yet work in a very restricted and restrictive environment. As a lover of Ontario wine you have to demand more. As the Grape Growers point out in that same plea: “We want to see provincial politicians who understand that marketing foreign wines in an agency owned by the province is like Foodland Ontario launching a promotion of Georgia peaches. It’s just not right. We can no longer afford to just sit back and watch.” Now that would be a nice change.

Steve Jobs was not a world-leading philanthropist, thank goodness

Filed under: Economics, Government, Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:53

Kevin D. Williams explains why the late Steve Jobs did more good by avoiding big-ticket philanthropy and concentrating on his business:

Mr. Jobs’s contribution to the world is Apple and its products, along with Pixar and his other enterprises, his 338 patented inventions — his work — not some Steve Jobs Memorial Foundation for Giving Stuff to Poor People in Exotic Lands and Making Me Feel Good About Myself. Because he already did that: He gave them better computers, better telephones, better music players, etc. In a lot of cases, he gave them better jobs, too. Did he do it because he was a nice guy, or because he was greedy, or because he was a maniacally single-minded competitor who got up every morning possessed by an unspeakable rage to strangle his rivals? The beauty of capitalism — the beauty of the iPhone world as opposed to the world of politics — is that that question does not matter one little bit. Whatever drove Jobs, it drove him to create superior products, better stuff at better prices. Profits are not deductions from the sum of the public good, but the real measure of the social value a firm creates. Those who talk about the horror of putting profits over people make no sense at all. The phrase is without intellectual content. Perhaps you do not think that Apple, or Goldman Sachs, or a professional sports enterprise, or an internet pornographer actually creates much social value; but markets are very democratic — everybody gets to decide for himself what he values. That is not the final answer to every question, because economic answers can only satisfy economic questions. But the range of questions requiring economic answers is very broad.

I was down at the Occupy Wall Street protest today, and never has the divide between the iPhone world and the politics world been so clear: I saw a bunch of people very well-served by their computers and telephones (very often Apple products) but undeniably shortchanged by our government-run cartel education system. And the tragedy for them — and for us — is that they will spend their energy trying to expand the sphere of the ineffective, hidebound, rent-seeking, unproductive political world, giving the Barney Franks and Tom DeLays an even stronger whip hand over the Steve Jobses and Henry Fords. And they — and we — will be poorer for it.

H/T to Jon, my former virtual landlord, for the link.

Update: An obituary from The Economist seems pretty accurate to me:

NOBODY else in the computer industry, or any other industry for that matter, could put on a show like Steve Jobs. His product launches, at which he would stand alone on a black stage and conjure up a “magical” or “incredible” new electronic gadget in front of an awed crowd, were the performances of a master showman. All computers do is fetch and shuffle numbers, he once explained, but do it fast enough and “the results appear to be magic”. He spent his life packaging that magic into elegantly designed, easy to use products.

[. . .]

His on-stage persona as a Zen-like mystic notwithstanding, Mr Jobs was an autocratic manager with a fierce temper. But his egomania was largely justified. He eschewed market researchers and focus groups, preferring to trust his own instincts when evaluating potential new products. “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them,” he said. His judgment proved uncannily accurate: by the end of his career the hits far outweighed the misses. Mr Jobs was said by an engineer in the early years of Apple to emit a “reality distortion field”, such were his powers of persuasion. But in the end he changed reality, channelling the magic of computing into products that reshaped music, telecoms and media. The man who said in his youth that he wanted to “put a ding in the universe” did just that.

Update, the second: “Death is very likely the single best invention of life.” Steve Jobs, 2005.

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