“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.

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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.

Justice “Denied?”

An opinion by a Toronto-based criminal attorney may reveal much of what is wrong with Canada’s criminal justice system.

Guess what? It’s not the article’s brilliance but the revelation that it displays a lack of understanding or even ignorance of the virtue of justice and principles of logic.

David Butt, a contributor to The Globe and Mail is probably as typical a practitioner of logic as one may find in Canada through its establishment media and politics.

Mr. Butt’s reportage of the verdict in the Colten Boushie case begins with:

(Gerald Stanley) testified that his gun went off accidentally, and the jury believed him, or at least had a reasonable doubt . . .. Typical courtroom stuff.

But, Mr. Butt then clarifies his position by rewriting as follows:

 . . . a white man, was found not guilty of murdering Colten Boushie, a young Indigenous man, by a jury with no visibly Indigenous members.

Suddenly sounds ominously different doesn’t it?

Well frankly no it doesn’t to a reasonable person. What it sounds like is that Mr. Butt is framing his argument by using irrelevant, emotionally charged terms to describe the jury verdict, a verdict reached I would speculate by more evidence than “the jury believed him.” If it were that simple I doubt whether a trial would have been necessary.

Mr. Butt then states that the absence of an “Indigenous” member on the jury in a “racially” charged case lets down all of “us”. In essence, like the protesters, most of the media and politicians following the verdict, this is tantamount to charging the members of the jury with “racism”. That is their payment for this service.

The opinion is loaded with similar leaps of logic. It should be read by anyone who wonders why the reaction to this particular verdict has been so completely emotional, that is, devoid of reason. It is a microcosm of one of the things that is completely wrong about Canada.

For example, this lawyer says:

Trials are meant to deliver social peace, and allow us to move on after acute tragedies tinged with controversy lead to serious criminal charges.

Wow. I thought it was crime not tragedies and controversy that leads to criminal charges. Fundamentally, there are two types of trials in western democratic societies: civil and criminal. Unlike civil trials which are about restitution for damages relating to civil wrongs and breaches of property rights, criminal trials are about punishment for rights violations. There is no restitution of any kind possible for Colten Boushie who is dead.

The criminal trial of Gerald Stanley is or should be a solemn affair. There is a process long-established by centuries of jurisprudence rather than ” . . . accumulated life experience and common sense” as Mr. Butt has written.

The trouble with common sense is that it isn’t all that common. It is a remnant of what was once a respect for logic and reason. It is adequate for the simple reasoning of a child but not for more abstract matters such as theoretical knowledge or the complexities of evidence at trial. I would have expected a professional attorney to argue his case in terms of reason, logic, jurisprudence, rights and maybe, the facts of the case.

Colten Boushie and four other individuals trespassed on Mr. Stanley’s farm while in an intoxicated state and were apparently attempting to steal or borrow without permission one or more vehicles. A conflict ensued in which Mr. Boushie was unfortunately killed.

Mr. Boushie paid too dearly for his own criminal actions and thus it seems his individual rights were violated. But that applies both ways. Boushie was violating Mr. Stanley’s rights as well. Did Mr. Stanley overreact and was the death accidental? The police were called and they gathered evidence. A criminal charge was made.

Now it might be that the jury selection process could be improved with the consequence that there may be more “Indigenous” representation in future but the criteria for selection cannot be based on such elements as race or racial quotas. Nor is it reasonable if the current process allows race to be a criteria.

This trial, the verdict and the reaction to it reveal at least one fundamental problem with the criminal justice system and with the policies and institutions of Canadian government: they rest on group identity. The consequence is perpetual conflict and pressure politics.

The evidence is in the reaction of Mr. Boushie’s family, lawyers such as Mr. Butt, much of the establishment media and craven politicians across the party spectrum, but most particularly from the prime minister. It is completely inappropriate for Mr. Trudeau and other politicians to be commenting on this verdict or entertaining the emotional demands of Mr. Boushie’s family of “justice” for Colten Boushie.

Justice is a moral principle demanding that man judge and evaluate the things and actions around him objectively. He can be wrong of course. It is the quality or insufficiency of evidence that allows for error.

So, this verdict might have been wrong due to insufficiency of evidence and it appears that it did not meet the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt”. However such errors would not be cured by racist adjustments to jury selection based on the identity of the victim or the accused.

And regrettably, any prospects for retrial have probably been incurably tainted by the intense, irrational responses of those in our society who ought to know better.