Should We Subsidize CO2?

Alberta’s NDP government passed its carbon tax law today.

Many agree that it is one of the stupidest taxes ever created, however even many arguments against the tax accept the basic premise that CO2 is a negative externality and “something must be done.”

But what if the premise underlying the tax — not to mention any other “climate change” policy — is wrong?

What if the social cost of carbon is negative — i.e. the net effects of carbon are positive?

A new paper by Dayaratna, McKitrick, and Kreutzer finds reason to believe this is justified by the empirical data:

Substituting an empirical ECS distribution from LC15 yields a mean 2020 SCC of $19.52, a drop of 48%. The same exercise for the FUND model yields a mean SCC estimate of $19.33 based on RB07 and $3.33 based on the LC15 parameters—an 83% decline. Furthermore the probability of a negative SCC (implying CO2 emissions are a positive externality) jumps dramatically using an empirical ECS distribution. Using the FUND model, under the RB07 parameterization at a 3% discount rate there is only about a ten percent chance of a negative SCC through 2050, but using the LC15 distribution, the probability of a negative SCC jumps to about 40%. Remarkably, replacing simulated climate sensitivity values with an empirical distribution calls into question whether CO2 is even a negative externality. The lower SCC values also cluster more closely together across difference discount rates, diminishing the importance of this parameter.

This all makes perfect sense, because there are non-climate effects of CO2 and they are extremely beneficial to the planet (plant growth, crop yield, human well-being). Furthermore, the climate effects of CO2 observed in the real world are far less damaging than what’s been predicted by the models of climate change propagandists — and these too are largely beneficial. On this, see Goklany’s Carbon Dioxide: The Good Newsfrom GWPF.

So using the logic of carbon tax advocates, since carbon provides us with overall benefits, we should subsidize carbon rather than tax it extra.

CONCLUSION

From the standpoint of economics and ethics, we should neither subsidize carbon nor tax it.

If you have a carbon tax, get rid of it. If you don’t have one but think you need one, forget it.

Carbon taxes are an abomination — they do nothing to improve the environment and exist only to plunder citizens so that politicians, central planners and cronies can enrich themselves.

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Observations on the Royalty Review Panel Open House

In the following I will share the observations of a man who attended last night’s Royalty Review Panel Open House in Calgary, originally posted on Instaface or Facegram or whatever it’s called. This man is an entrepreneur in the Alberta oil industry, so it seems reasonable that he understands many of the underlying issues. His reporting rings true to me and it should deeply unsettle not just Albertans, but also the other Canadians who gobble up the transfer payments out of Alberta:

Well I went ahead and attended the Royalty Review Panel Open House in Calgary last evening to see what they had to say. They had lots of stand up displays with hundreds of factoids about supply, world prices, reserves and a whole bunch of other information most of us Albertans have known about for decades. Interestingly enough they had whiteboards for attendees to write comments, Trevor Marr took pictures and the attendees were hammering the government hard on the many points you’ve already posted, read, liked and shared on these pages.

I spoke and asked questions about the risk of engaging in a review at a time when prices are low and royalty revenues are already in full collapse. The Al Gore trained political hack, ATB CEO Dave Mowat did confirm that the government would be lucky to collect $3 Billion this year, down from $9 Billion last year. He couldn’t answer why if we were at $13 Billion prior to the last review and it contributed to a drop to $9B since and were now down at less than $3B, what good could possibly come from throwing two plus years of uncertainty into the mix now? He kept referring to how they were sure that they could OPTIMIZE the royalty rates. But no, the full report wouldn’t be shared with Albertans as a large portion of their process was so complicated it could only be done by 3 separate expert non public panels that they are hiring to work for a whole month. But the end result would be the best Royalty Rate system ever done and the OPTIMIZED recommendations would be provided to the NDP government by December 31st, 2015. He also said that since oil would be phased out over the next 20-30 years, it can no longer be viewed as a finite resource since we have more than will ever be able to be sold! He said the inability to get to markets wasn’t relevant to the rate structure! He also said if our oil wasn’t competitive in the world markets not having pipelines to those possible clients didn’t matter. He said it wasn’t their concern if other taxations such as corporate tax rate increases or carbon tax burdens were put on our oil and gas industry as they were only mandated to recommend a royalty rate structure that was based upon 4 core principles that could guide all the future rate reviews. He suggested that every two years or so they might want to adjust rates! He admitted that the $65 Billion in annual investment by the oil and gas industry was dependent upon both pricing and royalty competitiveness. He wouldn’t say how much lower the investment is this year nor how much investment might be withheld due to the not knowing what the rates are going to be. He couldn’t answer as to how long it might take the NDP government to implement their recommendations or even if they would.

I came away convinced that the whole process is a traveling Gong Show run by ideologues who are so enamored with their own intelligence that they actually believe that they can squeeze more revenue out of the resources that we own by performing a superb OPTIMIZATION of the rates. They have no concept of RISK. Dave Mowat declared that the USA is no longer a trusted customer, that they have become our biggest competitor and since they produce so much oil relative to our miniscule output, we cannot compete. I also spoke with Peter Tertzakian from the panel who accused the PC’s of not collecting enough over the past decades. He also had absolutely no concern that the revenues had fallen due to the low prices, he expressed a concern that Albertans weren’t getting enough revenue from the oil being sold with no concern that the O&G industry were operating at a loss as is!

In other words, much like Rachel’s NDP government, nobody on this Royalty Review Panel are prepared to Stand Up For Alberta! They do not understand risk management, product promotion, stability needs of large long term investment, spinoff benefits from capital investment, incentivization potential, access to tidewater ports and human cost impacts from reduced employment opportunities. We must redouble our efforts to wake them up. I got under their skin, Mowat tried to label me as smug but apologized when I called him out for attempting to assign a negative connotation on a brief facial expression I might have had while listening to another speaker grill him. Although someone in the back did holler that I should be the next Energy Minister. 🙂

Let me call attention to a few of the most startling comments here.

[Mowat] also said that since oil would be phased out over the next 20-30 years, it can no longer be viewed as a finite resource since we have more than will ever be able to be sold!

WHAT.

Dave Mowat declared that the USA is no longer a trusted customer, that they have become our biggest competitor and since they produce so much oil relative to our miniscule output, we cannot compete.

WHAT.

I also spoke with Peter Tertzakian from the panel who accused the PC’s of not collecting enough over the past decades. He also had absolutely no concern that the revenues had fallen due to the low prices, he expressed a concern that Albertans weren’t getting enough revenue from the oil being sold with no concern that the O&G industry were operating at a loss as is!

WHAT.

We shouldn’t be surprised by foolishness coming out of a Royalty Review Panel that is chaired by Al Gore fanboy Dave Mowat, but this is actually worse than I expected. If such considerations are guiding the panel’s recommendations, Alberta is in a lot of trouble.

The entire royalty review is based on asinine premises as demonstrated above along with the laughable pretense of caring what the public has to say.

Scary NDP Climate Change Survey Reveals Their Desired Policies

Members of Notley’s NDP government are global warming radicals. Remember that the global warming movement is not actually about science and global warming, which is why global warming fanatics disregard the mountain of evidence that refutes them. Global warming activists slavishly cling to junk science because they yearn for power where lawmakers, bureaucrats, and crony capitalists who favor socialism can gain control over the economy.

With that in mind, the government has released a fake survey regarding Alberta’s policies on climate change. It is fake because they really don’t care what anyone thinks. It’s like “you can choose any color you like as long as it’s red.”

(By the way, you don’t need to be an Albertan to take the survey.)

Basically, it is a rather unfair survey. It doesn’t really give you the option to reject all the proposals. Sure, it asks you whether you support more “government action” on climate change, but after that you only get loaded questions and the option to rank various dumb policies from most awesome to least awesome. So obviously the plan is to disregard any opinion where the respondent says they want no further government action on climate change, and just tally up results the rest of the survey and say “Such and such are the policies Albertans support the most!”

First it asks you whether you are worried about climate change. Well, despite all the chatter about it, no one really seems to be all that concerned about climate change to be honest. They care about it less and less with each year, and it’s at the bottom of their list when it comes to environmental issues.

global warming gallup poll

worriedagreatdeal

From there, each section starts with a preamble of deceptive, shallow propaganda. A large section of deception precedes the bulk of the survey:

The world’s climate has changed at an unprecedented rate since the 1950s. Increasing concentration of greenhouse gases have warmed the atmosphere, diminishing snow and ice, warming oceans, raising sea levels, and causing more extreme weather, such as floods and droughts. We can also see its effects locally through impacts such as the spread of the mountain pine beetle.

Scientific evidence tells us that – without significant action on a global scale – the consequences of climate change will be severe.

Even if all of this were true (it isn’t; global warming exists only in the minds of charlatans and cranks), it doesn’t follow that we can or should use the government to do anything about it. So the survey basically starts off with a big non sequitur and by lying to the respondent .

Then comes the craziness:

In advance of the conference, the Government of Canada has proposed a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. While Alberta’s energy-based economy helps fuel economic growth across Canada, we also account for approximately 37 per cent of Canada’s total emissions. The reputational impact of Canada’s action on climate change is likely to fall heavily on our province, which has already drawn domestic and international criticism.

This is really awful. The NDP is telling us that we should ravage the economy for the sake of our reputation among contemptuous and ignorant people — within and without Canada — who might not like us because we burn a lot of fossil fuels while we recover even more fossil fuels, supporting humanity with cheap energy which makes the modern world’s economy possible at all. At the same time, some people seeking power in the next federal election want to prevent Alberta from mining tar sands and burning fossil fuels in the process.

Slight detour: Regardless of any commitment Ottawa makes, there is no real constitutional authority for the federal government to interfere with a province’s resource development. The 1982 Amendments to the Constitution Act explicitly state the that the provinces have exclusive jurisdiction over their non-renewable natural resources. Of course, as always with these matters, there are some loopholes. The federal government has jurisdiction over  “local Works and Undertakings declared by the Parliament of Canada to be for the Advantage of two or more of the Provinces.” That’s a problem. Plus, we had the National Energy Program regardless of any constitutional division of powers. So the Constitution Act doesn’t seem to be worth a damn. On the other hand, provincial governments have the constitutional right to do anything they want regarding the resources in their territories.

But anyway…

Then the propaganda tries to make us care about another climate change conference and fairy tale treaties:

In December 2015, the United Nations is hosting the Conference of Parties in Paris. The desired outcome is to create a binding treaty that will commit all nations to significantly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

This is completely Irrelevant. These treaties never go anywhere. No one cares about them. There are no sanctions. The governments of the world never bothered to implement the Kyoto treaty of 1992 or its update in 1997. It lapsed on with the end of 2012. Game over. No one cares.

Then comes this nonsense:

Alberta’s energy economy depends on its ability to reach – and sell – our resources in markets throughout North America and around the world. These markets are increasingly demanding cleaner forms of energy. If we don’t take action on climate change locally, Alberta will find itself increasingly isolated and shut out of markets.

This is just wrong and sneakily misleading. When it comes to the environmental issue, opposition to the pipeline infrastructure stems from people, rightly or wrongly, being afraid of toxic substances flowing through the country in pipelines with the potential to leak out or spill and poison everything around them and kill everybody. It has nothing to do with climate change! Alberta can implement all the climate change policies it wants, but people will still have rational and irrational concerns about pipelines. Alberta’s efforts to access new markets for its products will not at all be helped by its abusive government’s bigger, badder climate change policies.

From there, the various agree/disagree questions reveal all the dream policies of the NDP. Question #14 is where it becomes obvious that they don’t care about your opinion. These are the things the NDP wants and it’s going to do them.

Now, thinking about the options discussed above, please rank them by priority with the highest being the action you would most like to see taken. Drag the choices into your preferred order, or use the arrow buttons to move the options up or down.

choices

So it asks you to rank a bunch of terrible policies that all belong in the “evil and uneconomical” category: an exploitative interprovincial cap n’ trade system, increasing taxes on industrial companies that burn fossil fuels, increasing subsidies to companies with political connections, increasing taxes on everyone, and subsidizing middle and upper class people who own buildings and houses.

You’ll notice it fails to include the option of “no further government intervention, thanks.”

Then in goes on to ask whether you support more horrible policies, including:

  • Redistributing money to favored municipalities and spending more money on government institutions for “retrofits”
  • Subsidizing homeowners (which tend to be middle or upper class people) with ‘incentives’ and grants (theoretically, incentives could include reducing taxes and regulations on more energy efficient technology — but who are we kidding? This is the NDP).
  • Subsidizing and protecting politically favored renewable energy producers.
  • Literally killing (or “phasing out,” as the NDP likes to say) an industry that some people don’t like. Don’t you love when the government decides who will be in business and who won’t be?

This is all quite terrifying. This tells us what the NDP wants. They just want to beat us over the head with fake survey results in a pathetic attempt to justify their destructive policies.

If you want bureaucratic control over the economy, inefficiency, unemployment, and impoverishment, you should support the NDP’s climate change policy.

If you want to subsidize India and China, where they don’t care about the bureaucratic rules and regulatory systems in Alberta, then you should support the NDP’s climate change policies.

If you want to get less energy and pay more for everything, then support the NDP’s climate policies.

If you are a good person, you should oppose them.

NDP’s Royalty Review Czar Dave Mowat Is a Climate Change Propagandist Trained by Al Gore

I knew I smelled a rat when Notley’s NDP chose ATB President and CEO Dave Mowat to head the royalty review board.

In a process that will surely revolve around “fairness” and other uneconomic nonsense, why would the NDP pick a banker of all things to head the review?

Well, now we know.

mowatandgore

algorelies

http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/story.html?id=5371ac3d-3b2d-4825-a158-45fd0c3978bb&k=18066

Hmm, do you think his thinking might be a bit clouded by Algore’s lies?

Al Gore’s documentary is one of the most deceitful pieces of trash ever created. Rather than provide a thorough critique, it is sufficient to show this:

al_gore_graph

The x-axis there is supposed to be time. How does the data go backwards in time? That doesn’t make any sense!

I know Algore created the internet with his bare hands and all that, but did he invent a way to break the laws of space-time too? This is total nonsense — climate change propaganda at its worst.

Can Dave Mowat explain this magical graph? Was that part of his propaganda training with Algore?

Heck, the famous Algore graph shows CO2 increases preceding the temperature rise. You fail automatically at science if you observe that A precedes B and therefore conclude that B causes A.

Algore is a shameless liar and anyone trained to spread his lies should not be running a royalty review for Alberta’s oil industry.

It’s seems fair enough to say that Dave Mowat is biased. So he is the perfect guy to push the NDP’s agenda.

Alberta’s NDP, Unions, and the Minimum Wage

When analyzing public policy, one must typically ignore stated goals and understand the economic incentives that make groups favor certain forms of economic intervention.

Unions, as a group, tend to favor market restrictions that prop up their higher wage rates.

Alberta’s NDP, led by Rachel Notley, favors unions.

evilnotley

This an important factor in the NDP arguing for a 50% increase to Alberta’s minimum wage, despite protests from the business community and anyone with an understanding of basic economic law. NDP goal to hike minimum wage has nothing to do with helping less productive workers make more income, regardless of what their stated objectives are.

Minimum wage laws are a classic form of monopolistic grants of privilege that benefit some groups at the expense of others. Despite the proclaimed objective of minimum wage laws, which is to increase incomes of the most marginal workers, the actual effect is the exact opposite — it makes them unemployable because they are not sufficiently productive to be employed at the legal wage rates. This means that minimum wages will always cause more unemployment than otherwise — any economist who denies this is either a liar or a fool who doesn’t even understand the basic principles of price controls.

Who benefits from such laws? Certainly not the marginal workers, for it becomes illegal to hire them at the wage justified by their productivity. On the other hand, anyone employed above the minimum wage benefits because their competition is reduced. In particular, unions benefit from minimum wage laws. Unions despise cheaper labor competition. Minimum wage laws remove competition of less productive workers by forcing them to be unemployed.

And there is another reason why unions love minimum wage hikes — it is a devious way to increase their own wages. This can work in many ways depending on the labor agreement. Some agreements trigger mandatory wage hikes when statutory minimum wages increase (because wages are based on a percentage above minimum wage). Others have provisions to open wage negotiations if minimum wages go up.

I am not making this up. Economic theory informs us that we should expect nothing less. But consider also a 2004 study in the Journal of Human Resources by economists William Wascher, Mark Schweitzer and David Neumark. They clearly showed that lower-wage union workers usually see a boost in employment and earned income following a mandated wage hike. And those non-union wage workers who are now unemployed or unemployable? Who cares! The union members already have higher wages and protected jobs. So what if this cruel policy leaves in its wake desperate workers who can no longer legally work?

As for the NDP, there should be no doubt that Premier Rachel Notley is a union hack. Most of her career has been in the service of unions. Consider a few facts from her personal history:

She is married to Lou Arab, a communications and public relations staffer for the Canadian Union of Public Employees[2] and a campaign strategist for the party. She lives with him and their two children in the historic district of Old Strathcona located in south-central Edmonton.[17]

After law school, Notley articled for Edmonton labour lawyer Bob Blakely, and went on to work for the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees representing members with Workers’ Compensation cases.

She worked for a short time for the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE),[20] worked at Athabasca University,[21] acted as volunteer co-ordinator for the Friends of Medicare “Romanow Now” campaign, and finally as a labour relations officer for the United Nurses of Alberta.[1]

Can there be any doubt that Notley will seek to benefit her union friends at the expense of other groups in society? Of course not.

Rachel Notley and the NDP are looking to empower unions. They don’t care if they hurt society’s least productive workers, like teenagers, people with disabilities, workers with language barriers, anyone without much experience for any reason, and ethnic or racial groups that may face discrimination.

Some will argue that forcing minimum wages higher makes employers invest in more equipment and develop new technology and this will increase productivity of labor. Therefore, this improves the economy. But this is a silly argument. Capitalists are always seeking ways to increase productivity, so to think they are just sitting around waiting for the government to force price floors on labor to do so is a joke.

But even assuming the employer doesn’t just reduce his quantity of labor demanded, his investment in new capital is limited by savings in the economy. Increasing minimum wage does not increase the total supply of capital available. If anything, capital will merely be shifted from some industries to others in an attempt to offset an artificially higher cost. Capital is not being reallocated because of a market requirement, and so this is not an economic improvement.

Don’t be fooled by anyone who says they want to increase the minimum wage to help the poorest workers. The main concern motivating the NDP to increase the minimum wage is helping unions.

Anyone advocating a higher minimum wage should be ridiculed and shamed out of public office on account of sheer ignorance.

Politicians Are Bad for Your Health

In politics, a classic strategy for dealing with legitimate criticism is to ignore the real issue and just whine about “personal attacks.”

This is a common tactic relied upon by both the right and the left. We see this in the reaction to Conservative Party VP Jordan Lien’s criticism of Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman’s ban of menthol cigarettes.

According to the internet, the following Facebook comment is very bad:

bigboned

The reaction to this was extremely unfavorable to Lien. People called it “dumb,” “sexist,” “insensitive,” “irrelevant,” “misogynistic” (!), and so forth. One PC party drama queen named Warren Mitchell even declared he was ripping up his membership card in disgust. “I’m done with this *$@%^ party.”

Well, it is a *$@%^ party. But seriously, let’s look at this issue in some detail.

Lien actually raises a completely legitimate point that is lost amidst the chorus of inauthentic outrageHere is the issue:

If it is justified to ban menthol cigarettes for the sake of “public health,” shouldn’t we ban other tasty but unhealthy things? Obesity, like smoking, also uses up resources in the health care system. A 2010 report estimated that direct costs of overweight and obesity represented $6 billion — which is 4.1 % of Canada’s total health care budget.

Serious money.

So, following the logic of Health Minister Hoffman and the Alberta government, perhaps things like candy, soda, fast food, and other wonderful treats that make life worth living should be banned as well.

If not, why not?

A wannabe social engineer like Hoffman cannot provide a reasonable answer. The problem with social engineers, whether they are on the left or right, is that there is no limiting principle to their philosophy. Once a person accepts intervention as an acceptable policy, then any limitation to the intervention is essentially arbitrary. So why not ban everything that is unhealthy, and force everyone to be healthy? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

To be consistent, Sarah Hoffman should want to ban all the things that have made her obese on the same grounds as her ban on menthol cigarettes. Otherwise, we will have a less healthy society.

“Every Albertan should be able to enjoy a life free of preventable tobacco related disease,” Hoffman pontificated as she announced her government’s menthol cigarettes ban.

“Every Albertan should be able to enjoy a life free of preventable tobacco obesity related disease,” she could be saying on the exact same grounds.

“These changes will help make smoking less attractive to youth,” she declared.

“These changes will make smoking eating too much less attractive to youth,” she could have said.

If not, why not?

Most people realize that it is absurd to ban everything that is unhealthy, but they lack principles and are happy to ban things they don’t like — but don’t ban anything unhealthy they like, oh no.

Sarah Hoffman may not smoke menthol cigarettes, but her variety of unhealthy lifestyle is also subsidized by taxpayers and also unpleasant for other people.

The only justified solution to this problem is the government should neither ban menthol cigarettes nor unhealthy foods. This is the only consistent and sane conclusion.

Behavior controls are a type of socialism where the negative effects on society are often neglected. Yet it is irrefutable that such controls lead to economic impoverishment. However, even most economists fail to understand this.

Firstly, behavior controls directly concern the use one can make of his or her own body. If the government imposes restrictions on how one can use one’s body, then one will value one’s body less than otherwise. It is important to understand the incentive here: if the government restricts the ways in which one can use one’s own body, it reduces the degree of ownership one has over oneself. Real ownership means exclusive use and control. One way to think of it is like leasing one’s body from the government, and not owning it oneself. You can use the body for approved activities only.

The actual consequence of this is that people will be less likely to invest in themselves, and they will be more likely to “consume their human capital” — in other words, a person will tend to treat his body less well than if one had “full ownership” of it. It is this economic truth that underlies the idea that giving people freedom makes them more responsible (something many find counter-intuitive).

Secondly, and in a more general sense, as with all forms of political interference, this form of regulation hurts one group and benefits another. The group that can no longer perform certain (non-aggressive) activities is worse off than before, while the group that does not want to tolerate the objectionable behavior (like smoking or eating too much fast food) is better off. More specifically, the producers and users of the things whose consumption is now restricted are the ones who suffer. The ones who benefit are the non-producers and non-users of the goods in question. This encourages people to allocate their efforts towards non-productive activities and discourages productive activities. This makes society poorer.

And it is not a good argument to say we need to ban something because it costs the health care system more money. The very nature of socialized health care is to subsidize unhealthy lifestyles. It is impossible for socialized health care not to do this. So you must either accept that this is an inherent feature of your precious public health care or you must reject public health care. Either way, one must reject banning unhealthy choices for this reason.

At this point, someone might even accept this basic economic argument but protest, “Hey, that’s fine but he shouldn’t have said she was morbidly obese! That’s not nice!”

If a woman said the same thing but health minister was a fat man, the outrage would be virtually nonexistent. People would probably think it was funny. But that’s not the point.

Lien could have made his point with no reference to her physique, that is true. Rhetorically, it was very effective to do so. No one would actually deny that the health minister is obese. Obviously, Sarah Hoffman is a rather large woman. It even seems highly plausible that she is morbidly obese if we use the roughest definition, which is simply 25% above a woman’s “ideal weight.”

His comment simultaneously highlighted the arbitrariness of the law and the hypocrisy of a person with one unhealthy tax-subsidized lifestyle banning someone else’s tax-subsidized unhealthy lifestyle. A reasonable person who is not desperate to be as offended as humanly possible should understand this. So it is good to point out the inconsistent principle to illustrate the point.

It’s like people who like to drink alcohol for whatever reason and want snorting coke to be illegal, or vice versa. Such principles are arbitrary, cruel, and hypocritical. “So let me get this straight,” someone says, “this coke-snorting politician wants to ban alcohol? Give me a break.”

The nature of socialist health care is that it functions as mandatory medical insurance where everyone is pooled together, so people acting in healthy ways will always be pooled with people acting in unhealthy ways. If you want socialist health care, you need to shut up and deal with it.

Anyway, the whole incident reminds me of the classic South Park episode, “Butt Out,” where the comically compulsive over-eater Rob Reiner campaigns fanatically against smoking.

Jordan Lien should have stood up for himself, but instead he gave a pathetic apology like a whiny loser.

If people were serious about public health and justice, they would focus on the substance of the issue. Instead, they are complaining about evil conservative men trying to “keep women down” and “fat shaming.” A dumb politician guy said something mean… on the internet. The horror! And everyone is in a competition to be more and more offended than everyone else, which is how one gets street cred in the attention-seeking world of social media. Apparently, that’s all that matters.

Ron Paul in Calgary

Last Friday, I attended the Ron Paul speech at the “Making Alberta Safe for Capitalism” summit.  This was at the Westin Ballroom in downtown Calgary. I was among approximately 300 attendees, which included financial professionals, publishers, IT nerds, engineers, students, neocons, and more.

I would like to note how this attracted virtually NO media attention. I do not think there is any “conspiracy” here — rather, it is simply due to Ralph Klein’s memorial service being held at the same time. We all know how the media loves to fill its time with the glorification dead politicians whenever the opportunity presents itself. This week, they’ve got Thatcher.

Besides, Ron Paul’s ideas make Canadians uncomfortable. Most people don’t want to talk about such things.

Ron Paul’s speech was basically what you would expect if you’ve been following him for the last few years. I’ve been watching Ron Paul’s political career since 1998, so I was very familiar with all the themes: personal responsibility, free markets, small government, anti-war, and anti-central banking. Still, it was great to pay respects to someone who is more than just an honorable statesman (a contradiction in terms when applied to anyone else), but a man whose efforts have done more for the liberty movement than anyone else in the modern era.

Having retired from politics, this was Ron Paul without any filter that might have previously been imposed by the realities of being in political office. Yet since his message has always been fundamentally radical, there was no difference with post-politics Ron Paul. The message is just as unfavorable to economic, social, and imperial intervention as ever.

At various points throughout the speech, I would look around to gauge the response to certain statements. How delightful to see various attending neocons squirm uneasily when Paul declared there should be no income tax. Some folks scowled at the suggestion to replace government welfare entirely with private charity. Otherwise, the ideas of less spending, less tax, less regulation, and more civil liberties were received favorably. Paul age and manner makes is a kind, wise grandfatherly figure — part of his great success is due to his ability to convey radical arguments in favor of liberty while making them seem completely non-controversial.

The biggest opportunity that was missed in Dr Paul’s speech was HEALTHCARE. If there is a sacred cow in Canadian politics, it’s definitely government healthcare. Without a doubt, government healthcare is a disaster, and Canadians need to learn why it will always be awful regardless of the huge piles of money thrown at it. Unfortunately, healthcare was not covered at all in Dr Paul’s remarks. Too bad. Huge missed opportunity, I think.

He is a medical doctor and an economist who can speak with authority on the failings of public healthcare. He is also old enough to speak about American healthcare system before the government became heavily involved. Before Medicaid, Medicare, the HMO Act of ’73, and so on, there was relatively little government intervention with the provision of healthcare. Basic medical services were cheap and plentiful, and a greater portion of the population had health insurance compared with now. The audience would have greatly benefited from hearing his insights on this subject. He has effectively explained the necessity of free markets in medical care — it is a message Canadians desperately need to hear from somewhere. Virtually no one will touch the issue of public healthcare in this country. We will all be worse off as long as this condition persists.

I would have also liked to hear more war-related remarks. Essentially, anything that applies to the US wasting lives and money on Afghanistan applies to Canada as well. Paul spoke about Iraq more than Afghanistan — which is fine in and of itself, but Canada was not seriously involved in Iraq. Our participation in Afghanistan is another story. Sadly, Afghanistan is an issue that people barely seem to care much about. If they do, it’s because they are dumb enough to think we have Canadian forces there “fighting for our freedom.” Yuck. The lack of interest is even more critical now, because Obama has declared he is “bringing the troops home” in 2014. This is typical government strategy: declare “victory!” and suddenly no one cares anymore. Just like Iraq, where there was never any “victory”, and as I write this the country continues tearing itself apart.

Ron Paul’s speech included a few “fanservice” parts for the Calgarian audience:

He said, “Ralph Klein sounds like a guy I might have liked.” Fair enough, given the memorial was that day, and Klein actually did cut spending at one point.  So that’s cool, whether or not Klein was a principled friend of liberty.

He also gave his support to the Keystone XL — with the important qualification that one can get the permission of property owners, the government should not stand in the way of pipeline construction. This is an rather critical proviso, because in reality pipeline construction does involve government takings/expropriations. Remember: in Canada, the Crown owns all the land as a matter of law.

Anyone who attended this event specifically for Ron Paul could be described as “cutting-edge.” Canadians are not generally ready for the radical Paulian message. For many Americans, there is the emotional connection to ideas of independence, revolution and decentralization, even these are not embraced in practice. The Paulian message can get its hooks in that. For Canadians, the state is endlessly glorified in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. There is no element within our culture that reinforces skepticism about state power. The closest thing to this is Albertans’ memories of the NEP, but that is a regional sentiment and it is being gradually overwhelmed with the pleas for more government.

I hope that the mere fact that Ron Paul has visited Canada to give pro-capitalism speeches indicates that there is a growing audience for the message of liberty in this country. Just as the 20th century demonstrated communism was a lie, the 21st century will show us that democracy is a lie. Democracy’s death throes will be earth-shattering. Liberty’s natural elite must spread and shine the light through dark times, so that a better age may yet emerge.

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