Quotulatiousness

November 19, 2017

QotD: The Clintons

Filed under: Humour, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Clintons? Hillary got rich, Bill got laid, republican virtue got screwed. Like the sickly leaders of late-Soviet politburos, both appear older and feebler than their years: once the star performer of the double-act, Bill staggers around like the Blowjob of Dorian Gray; the life has all but literally been sucked out of him. His straight-woman, once the reliably stolid, stone-faced Margaret Dumont of his cigar-waggling routine, now has to be propped up on street bollards and fed lines by her medical staff. When she shuts down and she’s out cold, who’s driving the pantsuit? Huma? Cheryl? Podesta? Bill and Hillary have been consumed by their urges. America would be electing the Walking Dead, insatiable and fatal to the touch, but utterly hollow.

Mark Steyn, “Hollow E’en”, Steyn Online, 2016-11-01.

November 17, 2017

QotD: Karl Marx and relativism

Filed under: Economics, History, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The most notable philosopher in this tradition was, of course, Karl Marx. He argued that the values of any civilisation — prior, at least, to the socialist culmination — are determined by its mode of production. He says:

    In acquiring new productive forces men change their mode of production; and in changing their mode of production, in changing the way of earning their living, they change all their social relations. The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill society with the industrial capitalist. The same men who establish their social relations in conformity with the material productivity, produce also principles, ideas, and categories, in conformity with their social relations. Thus the ideas, these categories, are as little eternal as the relations they express. They are historical and transitory products.

This is a radically subversive claim. It allows any institution, any custom, any set of beliefs — no matter how obviously right or true they might appear — to be dismissed as “ideology” or “false consciousness”. Let this claim be accepted, and our own claims about the naturalness of market behaviour falls to the ground.

With the remaining exception of North Korea and perhaps too of Cuba, the Marxist political experiments of the twentieth century have all long since collapsed, and, bearing in mind their known record of mass-murder and impoverishment, there are few who will admit to regretting their collapse. But Marxism as a critique of the existing order and as a theory of social change, remains alive and well in the universities. In its reformulation by Gramsci, as further developed by Althusser and Foucault among others, it may be called the dominant ideology of our age. Its hold on the English-speaking world has been noted by both conservative and libertarian writers, and is subject to an increasingly lively debate.

Sean Gabb, “Market Behaviour in the Ancient World: An Overview of the Debate”, 2008-05.

November 14, 2017

Paradise, the Fall, and the Second Coming … Marxist style

Filed under: Politics, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the latest Libertarian Enterprise, Sarah Hoyt draws a few parallels between traditional Christian beliefs and modern-day progressive ones:

First, I’m going to say that this is to an extent the result of self-selection that has nothing to do with politics.

The left has a narrative that is a just so story. It is, as was pointed out here, in the comments, a Christian heresy, but one that caters to fake “rationalism.” What I mean is that the narrative of the leftist/communist/socialist story includes all the comforting high points of Christianity but avoids the opprobrium of “superstition” cast by enlightenment onto traditional Christianity.

Leftism, whatever they call it, has its roots in Marxism, and Marxism offers a comforting view of paradise (primitive times, when property was communal and blah blah blah. If the flavor is feminist, it was communal property and ruling matriarchs) fall (we discovered something that changed us. These days it’s fashionable in academic circles to blame agriculture, which apparently was no good, very bad, terrible for us, even though, you know, it allowed us to colonize the Earth and have a vast and varied population. In the seventies it was war. There are as many candidates for the liberal sin that caused human fall, as there is for the Christian sin, and honestly, none of them make a heck of a lot of sense) and redemption (here it’s different from Christian redemption, where each individual redeems himself, but the species can’t be redeemed till the second coming. Um… scratch that. Perhaps not that different. It is assumed that the evils of the human species are because we are not designed to live in “capitalism” which these dodos seem to think is any kind of trade or hierarchy. They actually do call monarchies “capitalist” even absolute monarchies. And because we are distorted and made “evil” by this structure, when the communist state withers away into a perfect classless, communal society, we’ll be redeemed, as surely as by the second coming. Frankly, at least the second coming is more plausible from a scientific point of view. At least it doesn’t require a bloated, totalitarian state to behave in ways that no totalitarian, bloated state ever behaved. And while our species might have no experience of the Son of the Creator returning again in full glory this time to rule over us, we do have endless experience of totalitarian states.)

However, all of this mystical belief is dressed up in “science.” History is taught with the idea that it has an arrow and the arrow leads inevitably to collectivism, and because they only teach select portions of history, the poor kids are convinced of it.

This is partly what I meant by self-selected. The people who tend to gravitate left, PARTICULARLY those older than say 25, are the GOOD kids. This is something that is rarely appreciated, and poor things, they view themselves as daring rebels. It’s sort of pathetic, actually. (Having grown up in a village, I’ve had a great chance to observe human nature, and one of the inevitable funny twists of the human mind is that the most flexible of humans like to think themselves steadfast and inflexible. The kindest flatter themselves they’re cruel. Meek women think they’re termagants. I’m not sure why, really. It just seems to be an invariable part of the human “package.”)

They’re the people who went to school and listened really well, and answered what the teachers wanted to hear. They’re the ones who internalized lessons, and explanations, and the ones who want to have a system in which to integrate everything they learn. Everything has to “fit” in their world view.

I kind of understand that because I too like “grand unified theories.” It’s just that after the age of fourteen, I started discovery too many things that didn’t fit anything they’d taught me.

November 12, 2017

QotD: Why politicians are all the same kind of people

Filed under: Government, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Why is it, then, that the virtues and decencies that we generally expect people to have in their private life are so manifestly absent in the people who succeed best in politics and government? The answer lies in the nature of government itself — at least, government as we currently know it all over the world, a system of imposed, involuntary, monopoly rule whereby the system’s kingpins use military and police power along with ideological enchantment to plunder and bully innocent people — and to get away with doing so year after year. Just as only physically tough, fearless, aggressive persons succeed as prize fighters, so only dishonest, slick, evasive, power-hungry, unscrupulous, and vicious persons have what it takes to succeed in a system whose very foundations — violence, aggression, extortion, and misrepresentation — are completely at odds with private standards of just and virtuous conduct.

If someone like me — elderly, small, weak, timid, and untrained — were put in the ring to fight for the heavyweight boxing championship, you would not expect me to survive more than a few seconds. Likewise, if someone like me — someone who respects other persons’ natural rights to life, liberty, and property and who abhors dishonesty, extortion, aggression, and unnecessary violence — were thrown into the political or governmental arena, I would scarcely last much longer. There’s a reason why today’s leading campaigners are such morally ugly individuals: they have a comparative advantage in taking the kinds of actions one must take in order to reach the pinnacle of government power.

Robert Higgs, “Why the Worst Get on Top: Comparative Advantage”, The Beacon, 2016-03-16.

November 9, 2017

QotD: The reputation of Che Guevara proves “the triumph of marketing over truth and reality”

Filed under: Americas, History, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Irish Post Office has issued a stamp to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Ernesto Guevara. This is, presumably, because he was both very famous and had some distant Irish ancestry. It is, however, a rather sinister philosophy that the worth of a man’s work or ideas, or his influence on the world, is much affected, either for the better or the worse, by his distant ancestry.

Guevara’s reputation is, of course, the triumph of marketing over truth and reality. There is probably no resort of mass tourism in the world where Guevara kitsch is not on sale and, one must presume, bought; and in an odd way this is only appropriate, for mass tourism makes lemmings seem like unreconstructed individualists, and Guevara was nothing if not an ardent promoter of mass conformity and unthinking obedience. Like many an adolescent psychopath, as he remained all his life, he dreamed of making mankind anew — not in his own image, exactly, for he thought of himself as a leader rather than a follower, but according to his own far-from-profound ideas of what mankind should be. The triumph of marketing is to have made this apostle of the most complete servitude into an apostle of the most complete freedom.

The triumph of marketing over truth and reality is nothing new, however. To expect people who are trying to sell you something also to tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is to expect what never did happen and what never will happen. The buyer will always have to beware, no matter what legal protections are put in place for the unwary; the necessity is inscribed, as it were, in human nature itself.

Theodore Dalrymple, “The Way of Che”, Taki’s Magazine, 2017-10-28.

November 7, 2017

“Paying for” tax cuts

Filed under: Government, Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In the latest issue of the Libertarian Enterprise, L. Neil Smith explains why he isn’t a fan of the notion that tax cuts need to be “paid for”:

I am not an economist, nor do I play one on TV, but I know a hand-job when I see one. The mindless mutants who are mangling Donald Trump’s tax plans are dragging this nation and the world into a Da-Daesque vortex we may never get out of. (Only a “progressive” Democrat would stomp a man’s legs, break them in a dozen places, and then make fun of him because he can’t walk.) While lowering almost everybody’s taxes, they want a special bracket appended to the deal to punish people with a million dollars or more to “pay for” everybody else’s tax relief. My question, in an era when government takes too much away from us already, why the bloody hell should it be allowed to steal more?

Even from people who are supposedly hated by the “masses”? (I seriously doubt it. “The Democrat Party masses, more likely. Most right-wing masses — if there is such a thing — aspire to become millionaires, themselves.)

Half a century ago, when I was a shiny new Objectivist warrior, jousting with various statist orcs and trolls on the left, a major concern of theirs seemed to be the big, luxurious houses that rich people built for themselves or bought and lived in. Somehow, there was something evil or sinful in that — “conspicuous consumption” one famous comtard called it — and it needed to be stopped. It didn’t ever seem to have occurred to these feeble-minded pickpockets (who had likely never done an honest day’s work in their worthless lives) that the construction of a big, luxurious house (today, we call them McMansions) requires the skilled services of dozens, if not hundreds, of earth-movers, concrete-workers, framers, finish carpenters, glazers, roofers, plumbers, sheet-rock guys, landscapers, etc., most of whom have families to feed, clothe, and house, themselves.

They need rich people to build big, luxurious houses for.

In general, there are few, if any, ways the most malign “malefactor of great wealth” can spend his money without benefitting someone who needs a job. Even cocaine has to be cultivated and processed by somebody. This lesson was learned the hard way back in 1990 when Idiot-in-Chief George 41 Bush broke his “read my lips” promise and allowed a punitive “luxury tax” to be levied on yachts, big, expensive cars, and assorted other keen stuff like that. Hundreds of jobs were lost. Thousands suffered. One company went from 220 workers to 50 overnight. Within two years those who had stirred up class envy the most energetically were calling for repeal of this “hate the rich” tax. In the same way, millionaires’ money would fly overseas in an instant and vanish from our struggling economy.

QotD: Crony capitalism

Filed under: Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Fascism is actually an economic system, of which “crony capitalism”, an illegitimate partnership between government and business, is an excellent example. Known otherwise as corporate socialism or simply corporatism, other eras (Adam Smith‘s for instance, in his book Wealth of Nations) have called it Mercantilism.

L. Neil Smith, “The American Zone”, The Libertarian Enterprise, 2016-03-20.

November 4, 2017

The death toll of a century of Communism

Filed under: China, History, Politics, Russia — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Yuri Maltsev on the human cost of the Russian Revolution and its follow-on upheavals worldwide:

The horrors of twentieth-century socialism — of Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Mao, and Pol Pot — were the offspring of 1917. Seventy years earlier, Marx and Engels predicted the overthrow of bourgeois rule would require violence and “a dictatorship of the proletariat … to weed out remaining capitalist elements.” Lenin conducted this “weeding out” using indiscriminate terror, as Russian socialists before him had done and others would continue to do after his death.

The late Rudolph Rummel, the demographer of government mass murder, estimated the human toll of twentieth-century socialism to be about 61 million in the Soviet Union, 78 million in China, and roughly 200 million worldwide. These victims perished during state-organized famines, collectivization, cultural revolutions, purges, campaigns against “unearned” income, and other devilish experiments in social engineering.

In its monstrosity, this terror is unrivaled in the course of human history.

Lenin’s coup on November 7, 1917, the day Kerensky’s provisional government fell to Bolshevik forces, opened a new stage in human history: a regime of public slavery. Collectivist economic planning led to coercion, violence, and mass murder. Marx and Engels had defined socialism as “the abolition of private property.” The most fundamental component of private property, self-ownership, was abolished first.

[…]

The Marxists’ biggest targets have always been the family, religion, and civil society — institutional obstacles to the imposition of the omnipotent state. With the Bolsheviks in power, Lenin set out to destroy them.

Murder of children became a norm after he ordered the extermination of Czar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their five children. Millions of families were rounded up and forcibly relocated to remote and uninhabited regions in Siberia and Kazakhstan. Hundreds of thousands of children died of starvation or disease during their journey into exile and were buried in mass unmarked graves.

In 1935, Stalin introduced Article 12 of the USSR Criminal Code, which permitted that children age twelve and older be sentenced to death or imprisonment as adults. This “law” was directed at the orphans of victims of the regime, based on the belief that an apple never falls far from the tree. Many of these kids, whose parents had been jailed or executed, were commonly known as bezprizorni, street children. They found themselves living in bare, dirty cells in a savagely violent gulag, where they were mixed with dangerous criminals and were brutalized and raped by guards and common criminals.

On a lighter note, here’s a review of The Death of Stalin from Samizdata:

The Death of Stalin opened recently across the UK. It is an excellent black comedy, 5 stars. The film opens with a musical performance for Radio Moscow, Stalin likes it, and asks for the recording. There is none, so, in true Soviet style, the recording is ‘faked’ by the terrified producer, who resorts to desperate measures. The backdrop to this is nightly NKVD raids, roaming through apartment blocks with the citizenry knowing what to expect, Beria adds his own touches to the minutiae of the raids. We see Stalin’s inner circle, all desperately keeping track of what they have said, and striving to please their master.

Then Stalin collapses, with a little sub-plot device thrown in. Beria is the first to find him, and gets his head start on the race for power. The others in the Praesidium arrive, and the plotting begins. Efforts to get a doctor for Stalin are complicated by the consequences of the Doctors’ Plot, with the NKVD rounding up whoever they can find instead. But it becomes clear that Stalin is in a terminal condition and he then dies.

It should be noted that the film is by the writers of The Thick of It, something, not having a TV, I have never seen, but it has the flavour of a much coarser version of an Ealing Comedy. Beria’s raping and torturing is a major theme, and anyone who sits through the first 15 minutes should by then be under no illusion about the nature of the Soviet Union and socialism. Another excellent aspect of the film is the use of various accents, Stalin is a cockney (perhaps he should have been Welsh, an outsider, emphasising his Georgian origins). Zhukov a bluff Lancastrian (or Northerner), Malenkov and Khrushchev have American accents.

Dierdre McCloskey on populism

Filed under: Economics, History, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

A recent paper, “Populism Is Zero Sum Under Majority Rule” [PDF], prepared for the Stockholm meetings of the Mont Pelerin Society:

Populism revives the ancient ideology of zero sum for an age of majority rule. Liberalism, by contrast, is a recent ideology of positive sum, with rights for minority groups, which often generate the positive sum. The pioneering management theorist of the 1920s, Mary Parker Follett, called it “win-win.” Populism speaks instead of “win-lose,” and darkly suspects that the minority groups are the source of the “lose.”

Populism can be given what the philosophers call an “ostensive” definition, that is, pointing to instances one after another until the point is clear. All right, to speak only of those who achieved substantial if often temporary political power, the Gracchi, Savonarola, William Jennings Bryan, Mussolini, Juan Peron, Huey Long, Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace, Hugo Chávez, Silvio Berlusconi, the Tea Party, Jeremy Corbyn, Marine Le Pen, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump. Zero sum prevails. Italy in the 1930s can be rich and, especially, glorious only by foreign conquest, incompetently pursued. Southern whites in the 1880s can only be dignified if blacks are not. America in the late 2010s can only be made richer if China and Mexico are made poorer.

What has been odd and definitive of populism during the past couple of centuries, though, is not the zero sum, an old and commonplace assumption about the economy, but majority rule as the default in politics. “Democracy,” after all, has only recently become a good word. Majority rule was until the nineteenth century regularly described as mob rule. Odi profanum vulgus. It was to be disdained, and only a tiny group of radical priests and levellers disagreed. “When Adam delved, and Eve span/ Who then was the gentleman?” John Ball asked in 1380, for which he was drawn and quartered. In 1685 the Leveller Richard Rumbold, facing the hangman, declared, “I am sure there was no man born marked of God above another; for none comes into the world with a saddle on his back, neither any booted and spurred to ride him.” Few in the crowd gathered to mock him would have agreed. A century later, many would have. By 1985 virtually everyone did, at least in declaration.

Populism, then, is democracy in the polity when obsessed with zero sum in the economy. Socialism is a populism with a grand theory attached. Neither is strange. After all, zero-sum thinking is deeply natural. It is the default, certainly, for humans and for other great apes. Herd animals and social animals behave “charitably” towards their herd or society, it may be, though all animals will fight for territory, or else avoid the fight from a sense of justice. A dog will not steal another’s bone.

Modern populism was expressed by the Louisiana governor Huey Long in 1934 as “Every man a king.” A classical liberal can warmly agree, as against the affection for hierarchy among conservatives. In the eighteenth century kings had rights, and women had none. Now, thankfully, it’s the other way around.

But Huey’s way of achieving the rights was that of both Bad King John and his enemy Robin Hood, characteristic of the feudal and now the socialist and populist order, of violence. “It is necessary to scale down the big fortunes,” he said, “that we may scatter the wealth to be shared by all of the people.” Scale down by governmental violence one person’s earnings by trade and betterment, in order to give to another person, and all will be well. Zero sum. Win-lose.

November 2, 2017

“… the United States made a collective choice to let the South have a mythology in place of independence”

Filed under: History, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Colby Cosh is cheering on the carnage of the US-Civil-War-revisionism war that appears to have broken out to our south:

As someone who is relishing the United States’s outburst of Civil War revisionism, I am a little confused by the controversy over a remark by the White House chief of staff, John Kelly. Kelly is being assailed for saying in a Fox News interview that “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the (American) Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”

This was part of a familiar-sounding encomium to Gen. Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy’s warlord. It is the kind of thing, until recently an accepted part of the American civil religion, that is being instantly challenged in our tempestuous moral climate. And I think this is, on the whole, terrific. About time, and then some.

But I would have thought that the objectionable part of Kelly’s comment was the stuff about “men and women of good faith” — as if Southern whites had not made war for the purpose of preserving a caste’s economic advantage and its political dominance within the federation. Did “good faith” always characterize the Confederacy’s collective behaviour before and during the war? One thinks of Andersonville, or Fort Pillow, or Bleeding Kansas, or — to throw in a Canadian angle — the Confederacy’s use of British North America as a base for conspiracies and violence. We may even recall Preston Brooks beating Charles Sumner nearly to death in the United States Senate in 1856, and being lionized throughout the South for it.

“Good faith,” eh? This reflects the toxic part of the schoolhouse account of history given to Americans: faced with the problem of being bound together in a Union as a victorious nation and a vanquished one, the United States made a collective choice to let the South have a mythology in place of independence. An account of the war as a fateful collision between “ways of life” was allowed to stand — perhaps in the absence of acceptable alternatives — and the South was permitted to commemorate and celebrate war heroes without inviting odium or reprisal. Those heroes ultimately remained part of the ruling class in the South.

It is easy to recognize talk of “good faith” (or “ways of life”) as the thinking of somebody still under the cultural spell of Gone With the Wind. The puzzle is that it does not seem to be the “good faith” part of Kelly’s comment that is inviting the strongest objections. He is being vilified by the “lack of an ability to compromise” part.

George Orwell had a lot of rejection slips for Animal Farm

Filed under: Books, Business, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

But of those, this one from T.S. Eliot is perhaps the most representative:

(Click to see full-size)

H/T to Raj Balasubramanyam for the image.

QotD: Free trade versus modern “Free Trade” agreements

Filed under: Economics, Environment, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Once upon a time, free-trade agreements were about just that: free trade. You abolish your tariffs and import restrictions, I’ll abolish mine. Trade increases, countries specialize in what they’re best equipped to do, efficiency increases, price levels drop, everybody wins.

Then environmentalists began honking about exporting pollution and demanded what amounted to imposing First World regulation on Third World countries who – in general – wanted the jobs and the economic stimulus from trade more than they wanted to make environmentalists happy. But the priorities of poor brown people didn’t matter to rich white environmentalists who already had theirs, and the environmentalists had political clout in the First World, so they won. Free-trade agreements started to include “environmental safeguards”.

Next, the labor unions, frightened because foreign workers might compete down domestic wages, began honking about abusive Third World labor conditions about which they didn’t really give a damn. They won, and “free trade” agreements began to include yet more impositions of First World pet causes on Third World countries. The precedent firmed up: free trade agreements were no longer to be about “free” trade, but rather about managing trade in the interests of wealthy First Worlders.

Eric S. Raymond, “TPP and the Law of Unintended Consequences”, Armed and Dangerous, 2016-04-12.

November 1, 2017

Spain versus Catalonia

Filed under: Europe, History, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Tim Black on the situation in Catalonia after the abortive declaration of independence:

L’Estelada Blava, the “blue-starred flag” of the Catalonian independence movement
(Via Wikimedia)

An excessive focus on history can obscure the real dynamic informing the Catalonia autonomous community’s push for independence from Spain. It makes it look as if what we’re seeing now is a revival of a longstanding strain of Catalan nationalism, drawing on its 12th-century legacy as a principality, fired up by the divided union of Aragon and Catalonia during the early modern era, and burnished with the left-wing romance of Catalonia’s stand-alone, red-and-black resistance to General Franco during the 1930s. It makes it look, ultimately, as if Catalonia is not only an entity distinct from the rest of Spain, it is also a victim of, if not Spain, than certainly the Spanish state.

Not that matters have been helped by the Spanish government’s brutal, anti-democratic response to Catalonia’s independence referendum, as unconstitutional and therefore illegal as it was. It merely reinforced the impression that this is a conflict between an oppressive state and an oppressed people. After all, such is the defensiveness and weakness of the Spanish political class, we saw armed units of Guardia Civil assaulting Catalan voters, forcibly shutting polling stations and confiscating ballot boxes, and now we see charges of rebellion and sedition being laid at the doors of the leading pro-independence Catalan politicians, which has even prompted the Catalan president Carles Puigdemont to flee to Brussels. This really does look like a conflict rooted in some longstanding desire of the Spanish state to bend the Catalans to its will.

But to think that misses the real catalyst for the Spanish crisis, which lies less in Madrid or Barcelona, than in the European Union’s HQ in Brussels. That’s because, in the EU’s flight, manned by Western Europe’s political classes, from the democratic accountability of national peoples, in its demonisation of the very idea of national sovereignty as a species of 1930s-style nationalism, indeed in its essential anti-national elitism, it has created a transnational, technocratic set of institutions that necessarily weakens national state structures, depriving nations of numerous lawmaking powers, border controls and economic independence. Admittedly, the Spanish nation state has never been particularly strong. In common with the rest of Europe, its party-political system is in disarray, with its two traditional behemoths, the Socialist and Popular parties, hollowed out, and populist rivals exploding on to the scene. And, specific to Spain, the state has failed properly to cohere itself as a state, with suppressed regional antagonisms re-emerging in the post-Franco era. But the EU has not only exacerbated the internal weaknesses of the Spanish state; it has also fundamentally undermined even the possibility of a functioning nation state.

[…]

Yes, the cultural distinction between Catalonia and the rest of Spain has come to the fore in recent decades, with the red-yellow-and-blue Estelada a familiar sight hanging from buildings, and Catalan a familiar sound on the streets. But it’s clear that the driving force is less cultural difference, no matter how divisive, than the experience of EU-driven austerity as an unnecessary drain on an economically rich region. This is why support for Catalan independence has only risen dramatically since the economic crisis. As the Financial Times puts it: ‘After decades during which Catalan support for independence hovered between 15 and 20 per cent, secessionist sentiment started climbing rapidly in 2009. By 2011, according to the closely followed survey by the Catalan Centre for Opinion Studies (CEO), support for independence was above 30 per cent. Two years later, it reached an all-time high of 48.5 per cent.’

This is not a uniquely Spanish phenomenon, either. In other EU member states, the same dynamic is at work, with richer regions or areas with a sufficiently distinct cultural identity seeking to unfasten themselves from the rest of their respective nations. You can see it in the desire for greater economic autonomy of the rich Lombardy and Veneto regions in northern Italy. And you can see it again in Belgium, with the wealthy northern region of Flanders continually seeking to decouple itself from the de-industrialised, relatively impoverished southern region of Wallonia.

October 31, 2017

How Sugar Subsidies Ruin Halloween

Filed under: Economics, Government, Health, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

ReasonTV
Published on 30 Oct 2017

This Halloween while you’re getting pudgy from candy, crony capitalists are getting rich off of sugar subsidies. The system is rigged through price controls, subsidies, and tariffs, all designed to protect the sugar industry from competition – and basic math. In the latest “Mostly Weekly” Andrew Heaton tears into the Willy Wonkas gaming the system, and shows why an open market can more than handle your sugar craving.

We may no longer refer to a last-place candidate as having “lost their deposit”

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Colby Cosh on a recent court ruling in that hotbed of radical democracy, the Alberta Queen’s Bench, declaring candidate deposits for federal elections to be unconstitutional:

Deposits are a tradition in Canadian federal elections as old as the ballot itself, dating to 1874. But Queen’s Bench Justice Avril Inglis’s ruling suggests that their days are probably numbered. They were introduced for the purpose, stated at the time and very often re-stated since, of deterring frivolous candidates for office. Before the year 2000, you needed to hand over $1,000 to run in a federal election: you got half back automatically if you complied with the Ps and Qs of election law, and the other half if you got at least 15 per cent of the vote.

This practice ran into trouble when (literal) communists litigated against it, arguing that it impeded the Charter rights of the poor and humble to participate in elections. Parliament acknowledged this by making the full $1,000 refundable, so talking heads no longer speak of “forfeiting one’s deposit” on election night. But the government continued to take the view that the “frivolous” need to be discouraged from pursuing federal candidacies. This was not really a satisfying rectification of the Charter issue, as Kieran Szuchewycz, an Edmontonian with some legal experience, seems to have noticed.

The truth is that Szuchewycz (who, for all I know, could be the guy who mops my local 7-Eleven) ran circles around the Department of Justice lawyers who turned up to oppose him. Justice Inglis has ruled that the $1,000 deposit fails almost every point of the Oakes test for laws that impinge on Charter rights. She found that “preserving the legitimacy of the electoral process” is an important objective, but the connection between having a grand lying around and being a “serious” candidate is not clear.

Szuchewycz observed that nowhere in the literature defending election deposits is “seriousness” or “frivolousness” defined. Nobody can point to an example of any harm arising from the existence of even admittedly frivolous candidates, like the long-established Rhinos.

And, well, the deposit doesn’t seem to discourage the Rhinos, does it? If you are well-heeled but “frivolous” you can afford the deposit. If you are in earnest, but broke, it’s a problem. And there are other “seriousness” tests in election law, notably the requirement for candidates to gather nominating signatures from riding residents. So what’s the thousand bucks for specifically?

Update, 8 November: Elections Canada is respecting the Alberta Queen’s Bench decision and no longer requires candidates in federal elections to submit a deposit. H/T again to Colby Cosh.

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