“I Want To Be Let Alone”

Greta Garbo was mimicked in a faux Swedish accent for saying “I vant to be alone”. Originally a line from one of her movies, observers noted that it fit her role in private life. She once clarified that attribution as false and a correct version was “I want to be let alone”. That made all the difference.

I think Garbo’s point was that she was in control of her own life and didn’t want anybody’s advice or interference in living it. She retired from her film career partly because she would not compromise with an industry which compels its stars to become something akin to public property.

Garbo was hounded in retirement. Given to regularly taking long walks around Manhattan, it became a New York phenomenon to make “Garbo sightings” or encounters.

Why all this attention?

I think she had committed the “sin” of being an individual in an increasingly collectivist society. Individualist America has been regressing politically to a more collectivist culture since the advent of the Progressive Era.

A society that reveres the individual is one that respects privacy. Collectivism considers the individual a member of the group, class or tribe to which he belongs.

Garbo was exclusively concerned with her self, free to choose with whom she would associate. She wasn’t turning her back to the world.


Fortunately for Garbo she didn’t reside in contemporary Toronto, where there are numerous public institutions to deal with recalcitrant individuals.

The Toronto Foundation conducts “quality of life” studies and has recently found “more Toronto residents living isolated lives”.

Global News cites Sean Meagher, executive director of “Social Planning Toronto” who offers possible reasons for the fact that “. . . almost 70,000 homes in Toronto are made up of unrelated people . . ..”

The “Vital Signs” report, apparently conducted annually, points to “potential health risks for those living alone.” There are references to many other independent studies which address these and other “potential” issues.

Does anyone think to ask how all this “social planning” and “independent study” is financed and whether it adds any real value for anyone?

Also why?

Why is there such a discipline as “social planning”? It seems to be conducted by a privileged number of individuals who presume to know what is the best way for the rest of the individuals in society to live.

“Living in isolation” according to these “social planners” is fraught with all kinds of negatives. They’ve got the matter covered with programs encouraging “loners” to mingle.

It never seems to occur to them that a significant number of the 70,000 homes in Toronto made up of “unrelated people” are individuals who have chosen this lifestyle.

Like Garbo, they might just want to be let alone.


“Spending” Fundamentals

Canada’s Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, donned his new pair of designer shoes last Tuesday and delivered the government’s budget. For clarity it ought to be called the government’s spending plans, larded with lots of “feel good” spending initiatives that have nothing to do with practical finance or economics.Shoes

To many of us the hoopla that surrounds the government’s budgeting process and the endless commentary that follows release of the budget itself is mind-boggling. Lawyers, accountants, journalists and various pundits on television are engaged in analyzing the government’s budget.

It is easier to understand what’s going on if you identify and keep the fundamentals in mind as you try to follow the responses.

To start, consider that on a personal level, whether your means are modest or extravagant, one thing is certain: you can’t spend more than you earn. Even if you do, you must eventually repay the resulting debt from your future earnings.

You have a method, formal budget or not, for deciding what you can afford to spend.

You have limits.

Now consider your agent, the government, the proper and fundamental role of which is to protect your rights. Agents don’t work for free so you pay some amount in the form of taxes to secure this service.

Lately, your agent’s fees have gone up and it seems there are no spending limits.

To be frank, the government is spending like a drunken pothead. And, there’s a lot of frivolous spending going on, nearly $20 billion per year over the annual tax levies.

The government, to make matters worse, has no earnings. It doesn’t produce anything so adds no economic value. The Canadian government, like all governments, only spends the wealth taken from the productive in society.

Let’s keep this fundamental set of facts in mind as we consider some commentary.

Andrew Coyne, writing for the National Post criticizes the budget in a lengthy piece for favouring “equality” over addressing spending and economic growth.

Probably true, but this level of critique does not address the fundamental, which is only spending.

Anthony Furey, for the Toronto Sun calls it the first “social justice budget” and criticizes it in that context. He points out that the budget mentioned “gender” 358 times as it focused on this and other issues of “identity politics”.

This too is fair criticism but leaves the spending fundamental for you to decipher.

A Bloomberg News analysis published in the Financial Post challenges the government for possibly missing its last chance to balance the budget.

Bloomberg essentially maintains that Canada’s in a good growth position now but it may not last. The government in other words is too optimistic and has no contingency plan if an economic downturn happens.

One of the best headlines for an article about this budget comes from a Toronto Sun editorial which states it’s equally bad for all genders.

All these concretes and associated analysis distract from the fundamental however.

Guess what? It’s spending.

No matter how many specific bits of nonsense are addressed the fundamental problem is that our government can’t control its spending.

I didn’t buy a new pair of shoes to present these observations. My budget doesn’t permit such extravagance.

Acadia University’s Faculty of “Support”

Controversial views at a university? Heaven forfend!

I know it’s repetitive to level criticism at universities for deviating from the traditional role in which controversy, debate and challenging discussion were the norm and not the exception they are today requiring “formal investigations”. But, if the mortar board fits, wear it.

Acadia University is launching an investigation into the classroom conduct of professor Rick Mehta because of complaints about his controversial views on decolonization, gender identity and other mind benders such as “truth and reconciliation”.

From the notice to professor Mehta about the impending investigation comes this statement: “The university has a legal responsibility to provide an environment free from discrimination, sexual harassment and personal harassment”.

Now that seems like quite a logical leap considering that Mehta has simply expressed differing views, according to the article. It’s also indicated that he has advised his students that he isn’t testing them on any of the issues he’s raised but just wants them to consider “a different perspective from what he calls the dominant political orientation on campus“.

Mehta also reportedly states that:

I would have no problem if people refuted me and told me I was being unreasonable, that is perfectly fine. I would love it if students just told me I’m wrong.

That apparently would be too stressful for today’s students, many of whom evidently prefer to complain to authorities that they don’t feel safe in the university environment.

Some professors may feel the same. Matthew Sears, associate professor of classics and ancient history at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, according to the article, called Mehta’s “free-speech absolutism” extreme, noting that free speech does not mean consequence-free speech.

Fair enough, but we’re talking about consequences that relate to truth not “political correctness”.  And that’s revealed in another statement attributed to professor Sears in this article: “The university must weigh a professor’s right to free speech with a student’s right to be safe and supported in class . . ..”

A university student is an adult not a child. His elementary and secondary education ought to have prepared him to think for himself, to understand the essentials of history and to logically seek further knowledge to integrate with what he may already know.

A university student should be challenged as an independent thinker not treated as a pre-pubescent child in elementary school requiring constant supervision and “support”.


Be Careful What You Wish For

A Postmedia News editorial opinion in the Toronto Sun is more than a little ironic, if not hypocritical.

The editorial urges Canada’s Liberal government not to overstep on its threats to increase regulation of social media over the undefined concept of “fake news”.

Rightly, it argues that the government should not be the arbiter of truth.

However Postmedia News is one of the Canadian media organizations currently lobbying for additional financial and other regulatory privileges of benefit to it and other established media.

What government subsidizes and/or regulates it must control.

The special treatment of print media in Canada is ostensibly to preserve its “Canadian identity” and content in the North American economy. That’s effective control.

It may be “soft power” but it’s palpable. If you doubt that you merely have to tune in to the public broadcasting juggernaut of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

Passive consumers in Canada quickly learn to be anti-American, chauvinistic advocates of universal healthcare, gun control, multiculturalism, egalitarianism and all things with a Liberal or New Democratic Party imprimatur. Oh, and of course hockey, which is not such a bad thing.


Promoting Statism

Republican John Kasich is suggesting that the United States may be witnessing the end of the two-party system.

I hope not but he may be right.

The key issue in politics is the relationship between the individual and the state. Fundamentally the individual is primary. The state or government is an institution created by man.

Some disagree, at least by inference. Their mistaken ideas and actions suggest so. Examples include the great tyrants of the twentieth century: Hitler, Lenin, Mao, Mussolini, Pol Pot and Stalin.

The marvel of the US two-party system is that it allows the contrasting views to be placed clearly before the citizen electorate. At one extreme is the argument for individual rights, freedom and capitalism. At the other is the argument for collectivism, central planning and statism.

Unfortunately the US has been following the path of statism for about a century with many advocates for its various forms: socialism, fascism, welfare-statism, mercantilism and the modern “mixed economy”.

Aside from the more obvious forms of dictatorship, socialism and fascism, most forms of statism in the modern era represent compromises between individualism and collectivism.

The trouble with compromise is when it is on fundamental principles. When that happens the most consistent advocate prevails. The Democrats have prevailed because they have been more consistent. Most Democrats agree in principle with the tenets of the Left; egalitarianism, government-provided healthcare, minimum wage laws and other centrally planned regulations governing the economy, even though they may disagree on the extent of such practices.

On the other hand, Republicans for decades have been the party of capitulation to the political and economic initiatives of Democrats. Republicans compromise on the fundamental of the relationship between the individual and the state on nearly every major issue.

It’s an issue of morality whether to defend the individual or the collective. Both parties have emerged as defenders of the collective, disagreeing perhaps only on matters of degree or form. This yields constant conflict on thousands of concrete issues. Naturally, more conflict means more political parties are likely to arise.

What is needed is a political party that staunchly and morally defends the individual against the state. The Republicans need to revamp the party on a moral foundation or give way to continuing conflict, the rise of more parties and ultimately some form of dictatorship.


A Rare Voice of Reason

Not all lawyers are clueless. Charles Lugosi of Victoria, B.C. has an opinion published in The Globe and Mail which invests a calming breath of reason in the ongoing emotional outrage that has characterized the response to the verdict in the trial of Gerald Stanley.

Mr. Lugosi relates a case in which he defended an “Indigenous” man who was tried for second-degree murder involving the death of a white man. The jury was apparently white. The accused was acquitted. There were no protests or riots nor charges of racism.

Rightly, Mr. Lugosi condemns the special interest and political interference that has permeated the response to the verdict in the Stanley trial. He defends the jury system, respects and appreciates the task performed by the jurists and the solemn instruction to juries by judges.

Thank you Mr. Lugosi.


Judge and Jury

The National Post has rendered a service to Canadians by publishing the full instructions to the jury in the trial of Gerald Stanley for the murder of Colten Boushie.

Although lengthy it is well worth your reading to gain an appreciation of what the jury members spent some fifteen hours deliberating over before finding Mr. Stanley not guilty.

What a refreshing alternative to the emotionally charged rhetoric from myriad sources over the past few days.