Archive for June, 2012
Dave Killion — June 30, 2012
I just finished listening to a podcast of Episode One from the new CBC Radio One program “The Invisible Hand“. The topic is so-called price gouging, and I have to give credit to the show’s producers for taking on such a tricky and tough topic right out of the gate. Opposition to gouging is widespread, given the concern we all have for fairness coupled with the misperception that raising prices during an emergency is harmful and unfair. Despite this, ‘The Invisible Hand’ presents evidence that leaving the market to function free of government controls will produce good results.
Although libertarians will likely learn very little from this episode, CBC Radio speaks to an audience that often works hard not to hear good economic reasoning, and for that reason alone it is important for us to lend our support to this show. Please visit the site, recommend it to others, leave a favourable comment, and best of all, go through the existing comments and down-vote the economic ignoramuses and anti-social naifs. It’s an easy way to do a little good for the cause of freedom.
Dave Killion — June 29, 2012
I continue to follow Jody Paterson’s blog, which mostly concerns her new life working with an NGO in Honduras. She recently posted about Angelitos Felices, a foster home where, in addition to the regular volunteer work she does, she does EXTRA volunteer work -
“At first glance, the place is awful. It’s dark and strangely damp, a big empty space stuffed with children and smelling like a mix of musty clothes, garbage and a whiff of excrement. I’ve started dabbing patchouli oil under my nose to help me hang in through a couple hours of being inside the place.
The room where the kids sleep would be ridiculously overcrowded even if the bunks were all functional and there were enough mattresses for every bed. But that’s not the case, and I have to presume a lot of them sleep on the floor in the dank and empty space on the second floor adjacent to the bedroom.”
I am full of admiration for the way Paterson puts her money where her mouth is, but I give her a hard time on this blog because I think she typifies a peculiar and all-too-common type of blindness particular to supporters of government aid and the welfare state. In this instance, Angelitos Felices sounds like the kind of place that many folks would like to support, but the amount of money people are willing to voluntarily donate to charity is strictly curtailed by the amount of money they are compelled to donate to charity. So instead of giving voluntarily to provide food, shelter, and medicine to Honduran orphans, we are forced to give involuntarily to provide clean needles to Canadian IV drug addicts, and to subsidize food and shelter to people whose behaviour has exhausted the charitable goodwill of their own friends and family. And this is due in great part to people who, like Paterson, have pressed the government to do more and more and more. They may think that they are doing good deeds, but really, all they are doing is making it harder for us to support the truly needy.
Dave Killion — June 28, 2012
Although I am not happy to learn that the US Supreme Court has upheld the bulk of President Barack Obama’s health care law, it pleases me no end to see that the deciding vote was not the dependably pro-freedom Anthony Kennedy, but Chief Justice (and Bush nominee) John Roberts. The Republican outrage at Roberts for adhering to his understanding of the law, rather than adhering to the Team Red playbook, is extremely satisfying.
Dave Killion — June 27, 2012
As I wrote in yesterday’s post, there are legitimate concerns surrounding the contracting out of public services. My chief apprehension is that what governments like Sandy Springs are doing is not actually ‘privatization’, despite liberal (and often pejorative) misuse of the word. In order for a government to privatize a service, it must remove itself entirely from the provision of that service. For example, if a municipality decides to privatize rubbish removal, it simply announces that it will be out of the trash business by a certain date. It then arranges to auction off all its garbage trucks, and whatever equipment that was used for running the waste management system. After that, the only state involvement will be enforcing prohibitions against the use of force and fraud by waste removal companies and their customers.
Contracting out, on the other hand, is a form of public-private partnership (PPP or P3s) in which the government is still involved up to its elbows. When done badly, P3s can wind up merely replacing an expensive and inefficient service staffed by government employees with an expensive and inefficient service staffed by private sector employees. The consumer still has limited choice, and the supplier is protected from the market forces which would drive innovation and thrift.
Although a well-done PPP can go a long way towards easing the damage government does to taxpayers, I don’t consider ‘contracting out’ to be very libertarian. I defend them when I need to, and I’m happy to see them succeed, but I prefer to use my limited time and resources to advocate for taking services out of the inefficient and corrupt hands of the state, and handing them over to the private sector. Why settle for less?