Daniel Hannan: Politicians can’t create jobs

This is an important point – and one that all politicians ought to be reminded of, often and firmly.

I am not an economist, so there is no way I am going to articulate this eloquently or even remotely well, but…I would not be myself if I didn’t give it a shot.

There is an old joke – very old – that could get people sent to jail if they said a variation of it back behind the iron curtain, where I grew up:

What is the fastest way to get rid of all the sand in the Sahara desert?

Create a government department with the sole purpose of supplying sand to the Sahara.  Give it a steering committee, a 5 year plan and lots of money and power to enforce policies.  For a little while, nothing will happen.  Then:  BOOM!  Sand will be more scarce in the Sahara than meat is in butcher shops!

(If you are one of the younger readers who does not remember what life behind the iron curtain was like, let me just say that butcher shops usually had very, very little to offer.  If a supply of meat was even rumoured to be coming in, people would stand in lines for hours, sometimes lining up all night just so they may be one of the first few in line in the morning because the supplies were so meager that even with limits per customer, only the first few people in line would get to buy any meat.  Bread and milk were usually available, but again, even with bread, the supply would run out before the demand.  I remember days when the limit would be set at one quarter loaf of bread per customer, so that my mom would go line up and send me to line upseparately, so we’d get half a loaf between us.  No kidding.  We had money – but there was no ‘stuff’ to buy with it.)

‘Governments creating jobs’ is one of those easy to fall into fallacies.  Like ‘the broken window’ fallacy:

The fact is that governments do not just ‘have money’ to spend:  their money comes from taxes, current or future.  Taxes are taken from people who earn it by the threat of force:  these people now no longer have that money to spend to look after themselves and their family.

Ah, say government spending proponents, but what if people want to save their money instead of spending it?  That would be bad for the economy and that is why governments must take it from them and spend it!

Isn’t that just a little oppressive?  And arrogant?

A government is supposed to represent the people and do the people’s bidding – not force people to do the government’s bidding!

The suggestion that governments should spend the people’s money because people don’t want to spend it themselves is illustrative of how the relationship between the citizens and our government has been inverted:  insted of being our servant, the government has become our master, forcing us to do what we do not want to do.

That we are proposing ‘government stimulus spending’ and ‘government creating jobs’ as desirable actions should give us a moment of pause to consider what this implies about our relationship to our governments and the status of our civil liberties!

More thoughts about the issues of ‘privcy’ and ‘presumption of privacy’

Over the weekend, this video, purported to be from ‘Anonymous’, was released.  It demands that the Canadian Minister, Vic Toews, remove bill C-30 (which would permit civil servants unlimited snooping powers on the citizens via the internet without judicial oversight) and that he step down immediately.

The following video also purports to be from ‘Anonymous’.  As I have no connection to that group, I have no idea if it is authentic.  However, I do think it is worth posting because it raises several issues worth further discussion:

This video raises the connection between the desire by various governments to regulate arms and to regulate the internet.

This is a deeper connection that one may think, at first glance.  But, deep down, both are attempts to take away the citizen’s ability to protect themselves – including, if necessary, to resist their government.  Both are ways in which governments make their citizens less secure, more isolated, and more afraid of their government.

Even if you are not as libertarian in your views as I am (I think that monopoly control over infrastructure – even, or perhaps especially, information infrastructure – is perilous to civil liberties), it is easy to see how governments are threatened by citizenry that is difficult to control and willing and able to oppose them.

Firearms are a means of physical self-defense and an equalizer between the strong and the weak.  Even a small woman can protect herself from a rapist with the use of a gun:  her physical safety is no longer dependant solely on the timely response of the state to come to her aid.  This threatens the government monopoly on the enforcement of laws:  as every monopoly’s natural reaction would be, the government’s reaction is to restrict this competition.

Let’s be clear about this:  government ‘regulation’ of firearms is not about increasing public safety by having many well trained, well armed citizens available in public spaces who would be able to stop law-breakers and thus increase public safety.  To the contrary:  it is always specifically designed to restrict gun ownership, use, and the very presence of privately owned guns in public spaces.  This intolerance on the part of government of guns in private hands – even though this increases public safety – is indicative of the government’s disrespect for its citizenry, with the goal to increase government coercive powers at the root of all ‘arms regulations’.

Information is a weapon and a powerful one.

So is anonymous speech.

The internet enables both.

As a matter of principle, anonymous speech is necessary for the preservation of the very freedom of speech.  For example, The Federalist Papers could never have been published had their authors not had absolute anonymity at the time of publication!  The bigger the government is, the more dangerous it is to speak up against it openly.  Without anonymous speech, governments do indeed become more totalitarian and more tyrannical in nature:  this cycle has been repeated so often, it is blatant.

Yet, the ever-growing governments in the formerly-free world now wish to have complete and unfettered access to the information which would identify each and every internet user:  to be able to attach a name to every sentence uttered on the internet, from seeking sensitive advice at an online support group to dissenting political speech!

Of course, the governments are also increasing citizen surveillance on so many fronts…  There will soon be no arena where we do have ‘presumption to privacy’, not even in our homes and certainly not anywhere else.  So, the whole ‘getting a warrant’ might be a mute issue…

Technology is beautiful – but it is a tool, to be used for good or evil.  It is necessary that we understand these tools because our society will need to evolve along with them.  What am I talking about?

For example, drone-based aerial surveillance…

Or this totally awesome ‘bug thech’!  (Do watch the video, it is art and technology combined!)

What is my point?

As new technologies arise, we will need to develop laws to govern their use.  However, these laws (all laws, really) ought to be focused on protecting the civil libeties of individual citizens – not legitimizing the ways that governments and big business can circumvent them!

Ezra Levant and John Robson on Justin Trudeau