Monday, July 23, 2012

A Letter to Robert Wenzel

A post on has me riled up. This is my open letter to EPJ editor and publisher, Robert Wenzel, a part of which is posted in the comment section of the post:

from our correspondence and my presence in the comment section of EPJ you've seen that we see eye to eye on most things, I'm sure. I have a lot of respect for you, and for Lew Rockwell, however, I have never understood what both you and Rockwell see in the self-styled shaman Altucher. I actually have been taking time out of my day to contemplate this, and have come out more puzzled than before. I stopped reading his "I lost $15 million in cash / cried on the floor with my daughters crawling around me" drivel a long time ago. The fact that he lost the $15 mil due to poor investing decisions should alert him (and you) that he made the $15 mil as a result riding the tech bubble, rather than as a result of entrepreneurial prowess. He picked himself up: good for him! It's a great story to read... once or twice, after that it gets a bit stale.

Now try losing about the same amount of money made not by riding a bubble, but due to entrepreneurial capabilities, and losing it not due to poor decision making, but as a result of a government plot to make an example of you for defying it. Not ever crying about it, but just plowing through it, leaving all your worldly possessions in fleeing from persecution and landing in a country where you don't speak the language--at the age of 50. This happened to my dad.

I bring all this up so that in order to set up my point. This nonsense Altucher blabbers on about paying your kids to learn is exactly what governments do now. What you did with your kid is worlds apart from Altucher's idea. You paid Wenzel Jr. for a product. Your son had to acquire the skills and material for it on his own (even if you paid for the tickets to the game, he had to give up his time to watch the game, and had to PAY ATTENTION while there). Altucher's idea of paying your kid to read anything smacks of the same stench a Macedonian "pro-capitalist" blogger wrote about a couple of years ago. The Macedonian blogger is Secret Police stooge playing the assigned role of a pro-capitalist. His job is to produce "Shit Pies" intended to misinform and cloud ideas. I'm sure Altucher is not paid by the Establishment to write his Shit Pies, but he still writes them. Paying a kid to learn whatever fails to teach him that there is supposed to be a purpose to his action. It smacks of failure of economic calculation.

I've never received a cent for my schooling efforts. Nor for doing household chores. Nor did I ever receive a set allowance. I did get to keep the change when my dad would send me to get him cigarettes or a paper, but not when I was sent to get bread. When I did work in the company (from about the time I could walk) I got paid for it; until I was made partner (in trust) when I was about 8. Then I received the biggest schooling in my life: forget about getting paid for the little things, my pay is the profit of the enterprise. It was along reasoning of these lines that I was never paid to do household chores: if I had a benefit from the activity, the benefit was my payment.

The other big lesson I was taught was when I was about 4 or 5. It happened on pay day. Being the mini Robber Barron that I was, I was furious that we were giving our blocks of cash to our workers. My dad then took the time to explain that our workers had earned that pay through their efforts; more still, that since they were paid piece-work, and since we profited from every piece, the more money they took home on pay day, them more money that brought us. Ever since I've loved pay-days.

Another thing my dad did: when each of us turned 8, my dad paid for my brother and me to take English classes, but he did not "care" if we went to class, or how we did. However, he frequently needed translators, and he paid for the service. My older brother made his first money off interpreting for my dad by the time he was 12 or 13. By 18 he was working as a translator for monitoring missions in Macedonia, by 19 he was the first non-military personnel to enter post-war Kosovo as an interpreter for the US Army. Again, my dads approach is far more in line with what you did: pay for the specific product, not for the abstract ingredients--which is what governments do when encouraging perpetual "education."

Now that I'm done pointing out the some of gap between you and Altucher (I don't even want to get into his claptrap about not owning a house, etc.), I would like to ask what I've noticed others have asked of you: What do you see in this guy that gives you reason to promote him?

Dušan Petrovski

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Is Burgas the New Sarajevo?

There was a bomb attack on a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria yesterday. From Reuters:

Six people were killed in a bomb attack on a bus carrying Israeli tourists at a Bulgarian airport on Wednesday and Israel accused Tehran of carrying out the attack, promising a strong response to "Iranian terror."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran and said Israel would respond.
"All the signs lead to Iran. Only in the past few months we have seen Iranian attempts to attack Israelis in Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya, Cyprus and other places," Netanyahu said in a statement.
U.S. President Barack Obama called the attack "completely outrageous". "The United States will stand with our allies, and provide whatever assistance is necessary to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of this attack," he said.

It's funny how Netanyahu has immediately concluded that Iran is behind this. It seems that all the evidence he is basing this conclusion is the fact that "[t]he blast comes on the 18th anniversary of a 1994 bomb attack on the headquarters of Argentina's main Jewish organization by an Iranian-backed Hezbollah suicide bomber, which killed 85 people." Can this be the "killing of Frans Ferdinand" moment for the Iran war? The assassination of Austro-hungarian archduke in another Balkan city in 1914 led to the Great War. As EPJ's Robert Wenzel has been pointing out it seems that Wall Street has abandoned Obama. A repeat of September 2008 would mean a sure defeat for the incumbent, so is this Obama's move to display himself as strong on national security?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Socialized Healthcare is Incompatible Wtih Personal Liberty

[This post originally appeared on the blog on July 6, 2012]

In the build-up and aftermath of the US Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the so-called individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act numerous articles were published and republished on the inefficiency of nationalized healthcare. (The most insightful of these I find to be Kel Kelley’s “The Myth of Free-Market Healthcare.”) These articles made their point very well: that socialized medical care is inferior to that provided by the free market, and that under such a regime Americans ought to expect a reduced lifespan, lower quality of service and care provided and outright shortages. And, while the moral argument was also ably made by those opposing the idea of the government forcing a person to purchase something he does not wish to, it seems to me that one point has not been articulated well enough, which I shall attempt to undertake below. It is the point of nationalized healthcare as the death knell to any idea of personal liberty and choice.
To be sure it is irrelevant to this argument whether or not there is an industry backed conspiracy behind the abandonment of a market system that according to many functioned perfectly well. Likewise it is of no significance whether or not those who supported and ultimately forced the new regime of a government enforced cartel upon the rest of society had good, but misguided intentions. Relevant only are the facts of what this regime represents and how deeply it penetrates into the lives of those living under it. Canada has been under a socialized healthcare regime long enough that her citizens simply take it as given that there can be no other way. Many liberties have suffered or outright been lost in this country as a result of its healthcare system, and the adoption of a similar regime in the US is doubtless going to prove fertile soil for more aggression upon personal liberties in the name of the communistic healthcare system.
Even the supporters of nationalized healthcare admit—more so, they base their entire argument on—the fact that its basic purpose is to spread the costs by including every member of society in the pool. There are two problems with this. The first one has been discussed in the abovementioned articles which made the economic argument against socialized healthcare: the fact that the more persons are included in the program, the higher the probability that the percentage of non-contributors will rise at the expense of contributors. That is to say that the problem of the “free rider” grows, rather than shrinks. When socialized healthcare propagators admit to this point, they bring morality into their argument by making the case that those non-contributors need to be helped by those who are labelled as “better off.” The point is lost on them that a major motivating concern is wiped off for those “downtrodden” to improve their lot, thusly trapping them in the bowels of the social order.
The second problem is less obvious to spot, yet, it is considerably farther reaching, and ultimately more deleterious to the notion of personal liberty. Any insurance scheme profits by having to pay out as little as possible. To achieve this, prevention of payment causing damage is imperative. By putting the whole society into a single pool of insured, the stage is set for ever more government intervention in the personal lives of citizens. Thus, products can be banned from consumption or be made mandatory to use in order to “control the costs of healthcare.” Now government has an open and quasi-legitimate avenue to pick winners and losers on the market. Much of this has been in practice for many years now, such as with the war on tobacco, the War on Drugs and more recently the war on obesity. Under conditions of free market healthcare a person’s choice to pursue what some claim to be an unhealthy lifestyle is his, as well as the costs that are to be borne with it. Yet, under a nationalized regime, person A’s health wrecking habits are to be borne, in part or wholly—depending on whether A is a contributor toward the insurance fund or not—by persons B, C, D and so on. As his co-payers or sponsors B,C,D, etc. have a moral right to impose on A a lifestyle that they find suitable for him relative to his health. They have this right because they become part owners of A. Under this regime A loses any right to be an individual and to act to his accord.
Now, individuality may not be a tenet of great importance to many or even most people. In fact, it may be the least important issue to all persons in a society but one. Is it just for that society to deny that single person that which may be the single most important issue to him? Surely we cannot answer this question in the affirmative and claim to have any regard for human life. To compound the argument, the individualist is only concerned with his own being and has no desire to force the rest of society to do as he does.
Bans on certain foods and drinks—witness New York City’s ban on certain sized soft drinks—are certain to become a norm. While it may seem outlandish to suggest it now, mandates to perform certain amounts of physical activity may be forthcoming, too. This may be executed in the form of decrees obligating employers to pay for employees gym memberships; obesity taxes; or compulsory neighbourhood workouts. Predictably, such mandates will be greeted by Keynesian influenced economists as pro-growth. Such calls are already being made by the philosopher-kings of the Court intelligentsia:
… I think we should focus paternalistic laws on children. Youngsters can’t make rational, informed decisions about their bodies, and our society agrees that parents don’t have the right to make disastrous decisions on their behalf. Accordingly, we require parents to enroll their children in school, have them immunized and make them wear seat belts. We require physical education in school, and we don’t let children buy alcohol or cigarettes. If these are acceptable forms of coercion, how is restricting unhealthy doses of sugary drinks that slowly contribute to disease any different?
The cited author completely ignores the point of personal choice and speaks of “societal acceptance” of ideas. Socialized healthcare gives him a new avenue to pursue his goal of shaping society to his vision, since “we are all in it together.”
Doubtless, a government ban on a product practically never drives that product out of circulation; it simply pushes it into the so-called underground market. The only thing ever to drive a product out is its obsolescence—remember that the horse buggy was never outlawed. Witness instances with the prohibition of alcohol in the US during the 1920’s, the ongoing War on Drugs, “illegal” immigration, prostitution, etc. However, despite the failure of these policies of prohibition, major market and societal disruptions take place when they are put into force. The Prohibition brought with itself the dreaded Mafia, which after Prohibition’s repeal turned its activities onto weapon, drug and human trafficking. Along the way the Mafia infiltrated and corrupted many law enforcement and judicial agencies, making them not onlky completely impotent with respect to these policies, but wholly changing the nature of them—thus turning law enforcement into worse offenders against the private citizen than the Mafia ever was. Politicians grew richer and more corrupt as a result of bribery. It grew government to immeasurable size, ballooned its budgets beyond sustainability—thereby increasing the need for an increase in the money supply in order to make up the budgetary deficits—and gave government bureaucracies powers to submit the taxpayer into a subject. It is irrelevant to this argument that the Prohibition was brought about on a different pretext. It is relevant, however, that not only these prohibitions on alcohol and drugs failed to force the public to quit enjoying the products in question, the prohibition made the products more potent and more harmful to the users. Likewise it is relevant to note that the prohibitions gave governments the opportunity to directly pick and choose companies to present with monopolies, thereby making the political system a “pay to play” regime where the highest bidder can lobby the government to outlaw its competitors. The interested reader is referred to Dr. Mark Thornton’s piercing analysis of the consequences of these policies summed up in his study titled The Economics of Prohibition.
Alcohol and tobacco have been under a prohibition-by-taxation regime in Ontario for many decades now, producing quite a “dog-chasing-its-own-tail” situation. Since the government of Ontario has been using the revenues produced by these excise taxes to pay for the healthcare system, it has found itself on both sides of the issue. On the one hand, since it taxes $7.00 per bottle of wine that retails for $8.00, it wants to maximise sales of alcohol and tobacco in order to increase revenues. On the other, higher consumption means higher demand on the healthcare system. In the meanwhile, alcohol sales have been limited to a handful of franchisers who have managed to gain the favor of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario—thereby cartelizing the alcohol distribution industry and severely limiting entry into it, thus also limiting consumers’ choice. Further, the LCBO dictates the sizes and types of containers to be used: preferring larger containers to smaller, and tetra-pack to glass; again forcing both the consumer to purchase alcohol in larger quantities than he wishes to—so that the Ontario government can tax him more—or to not buy at all (that is no real choice); and giving an upper hand to certain producers of containers over others.  The Ontario Government’s pretext to such market interventions is the communistic healthcare regime.
The situation with tobacco is even worse. Sales of tobacco products are not as centralized as are those of liquor, which leaves more room for smugglers. Since a pack of cigarettes costs approximately $0.50 to produce and distribute, and excise taxes price it at $9.00-12.00, the margin to add the cost of smuggling is too great to fail to tempt those inclined to such business. It ought to be mentioned here that among the worst offenders in this respect are the large legitimate tobacco product manufacturers, who simply let a certain percentage of their production slip off the books. Corrupt Third World governments are also a great participant in the underground cigarette market. Indeed, the Yugoslav civil wars of the 1990’s were mostly funded by cigarette smuggling into the highly taxed European markets. While excise taxes do raise the price of cigarettes, no study has conclusively proven that this policy has managed to deter people from smoking, as some forgo other purchases when cigarette prices go up, and others seek out underground market supplies. Thus, the demands on the healthcare system remain constant; yet, the expected revenues fail to materialize.
The quasi-ban on tobacco products gives tobacco farmers who are uncompetitive against foreign competition an excuse to go hat in hand seeking subsidies from the government. This further distorts agricultural markets, as these uncompetitive farmers are discouraged from changing to more profitable crops; or to change the use of their land completely. Thus they keep the prices of desirable crops or land higher than they ought to be under free market conditions.
A nationalized healthcare system encourages the expansion of the welfare state. While without such a regime the case for providing the “necessities of life” for those “who cannot afford” them is made on a compassionate basis, under the nationalized regime it is “economically wise” to provide all insured with meals that meet certain nutritional standards, as well as housing of a minimum standard. It is not unconceivable to see a power hungry politician making the case for such programs. Once this threshold is passed, emotional considerations are certain to follow, as unhappiness can always be said to be a cause for mental afflictions. It is hardly worth talking about the manipulations that are to take place with regard to modes of transport, construction materials, sources of energy, types of entertainment enjoyed, etc., that can (and are likely to) be directed in the name of improving the healthcare system.  Under socialized healthcare even the so-called democratic means—rule by majority—of decision-making becomes unnecessary. Public approval becomes obsolete, because all that matters is “keeping the costs of healthcare down.” Now, all social engineers require in order to force what they want on society are “studies,” which who’s to say will not be financed by interested parties.
The proponent of the State will surely interject here by arguing that these sort of nefarious activities of private enterprises are precisely why “we” need government to intervene as the impartial judge over what is “good” and what is “bad” for society. Yet, they miss the point that in a free market no enterprise can force the consumer to buy its product, nor can it forcibly strike down its competition. Only the entity which holds the monopoly of force—the government—can, and a socialized healthcare scheme gives politicians and bureaucrats all that much more power to force the citizen what and how much of it to consume, how much to pay for it and who to buy it from. In trying to capture the essence of the fascist economic system, John T. Flynn wrote in As We Go Marching:
[W]hat emerges in the end is a multitude of colossal bureaus which take over the direction and supervision of all industry and trade and which gradually absorb all the decisions of industry and trade.
It is in this that the true significance of the word “bureaucracy” takes its origin. When government confined itself to managing its own affairs, policing society, managing its armed forces, furnishing a judiciary to society, protecting the health and persons of its people, it operated through agencies which were called bureaus and those who manned them were called bureaucrats. But the modern government bureaus and their bureaucratic managers in the national socialist state are something quite different. The vastness of the modern state, the multitude of human situations it undertakes to regulate and care for, the extension of its directing hand to the affairs of every business unit are such that the bureaucrats participate in the formulation of the policies and making of the decisions of private life. The bureaus are no longer behaving as the servants of the state rendering services to the people as citizens. They are now engaged in managing and operating the private affairs of the people. And while the whole tendency of European states has been in this direction, it has remained for the fascists to adopt the practice as an institution of government upon a general—or to use its favored word—a totalitarian scale. (p. 141)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Elliot Lake: A Nanyist Tragedy

[This post originally appeared on the blog on July 2, 2012]

This society’s insistence on overvaluing incompetence has taken its toll again. The tragedy of the collapsed shopping mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario underscores all that is wrong with the present system of public oversight over private concerns, which has all the traits of textbook fascism: “an authoritarian, collectivist political ideology which stresses the importance of the national interest over the rights of individuals. [W]hile a collectivist ideology, fascism attempts to preserve private property rights and some of the associated benefits, such as the profit motive, but only when they do not come into conflict with what the political authorities deem to be the national interest.”
The fallaciousness of the idea that paid strangers manning so-called public-sector agencies can play the role of the “brother-keeper” has yet again been exposed. With reports estimating 20 or more possible survivors trapped in the collapsing mall, rescue efforts were aborted on Monday, June 25, 2012—three days after a rooftop parking garage collapsed on a food court—by the authorities acting under the command of the Ministry of Labour.

Who were these authorities? Police, fire and rescue teams, i.e. public employees hired and paid enviable salaries specifically for the purpose of protecting taxpayers’ properties and lives. Yet, when the situation arose for them to earn their pay, the authorities decided that it was too dangerous in relation to their lives. Taxpayers be damned! The authorities can always get more of them. The fact that none of these public employees—so often lionized by our media, the publicly funded CBC in particular—perished or was injured in “the line of duty” may be the saving grace of this tragedy, for Lord knows we’d never hear the end of that, what with all the pomp and circumstance of their state funerals and so on.

As has become customary, apologies for the public servants immediately began pouring in from a sympathetic media. Police, firefighters and rescue personnel are the much glorified, can-do-no-wrong “heroes” of this society because they supposedly risk their lives in fulfilling the duties of overgrown nannies. They represent the most glorified of bureaucrats whose duty is to impose and execute the rules of behavior over the rest of society.
Beyond the failure of the authorities to fulfill what we are told are their “duties,” this tragedy has highlighted what Albert Jay Nock repeatedly warned about in Our Enemy, The State: the deterioration of social power that accompanies the socialization of society.
Indeed, it is by this means that the aim of the collectivists seems likeliest to be attained in this country; this aim being the complete extinction of social power through absorption by the State. Their fundamental doctrine was formulated and invested with a quasi-religious sanction by the idealist philosophers of the [19th] century; and among peoples who have accepted it in terms as well as in fact, it is expressed in formulas almost identical with theirs. Thus, for example, when Hitler says that “the State dominates the nation because it alone represents it,” he is only putting into loose popular language the formula of Hegel, that “the State is the general substance, whereof individuals are but accidents.” Or, again, when Mussolini says, “Everything for the State; nothing outside the State; nothing against the State,” he is merely vulgarizing the doctrine of Fichte, that “the State is the superior power, ultimate and beyond appeal, absolutely independent.” [Emphasis added] (p. 7)

Reports coming out of Elliot Lake told of “public outrage” at the botched rescue, of bureaucratic petition signing and pleas to higher authorities, yet there where are no reports of a spontaneous taking to action by the citizens themselves. They sat paralyzed, held candlelit vigils, lobbied politicians and so on, yet no one took the action of crossing the police line. Those subjects of officialism have lost the ability to think and act for themselves: they can only act on the command of a government sanction. The National Post reported that veteran rescuers who had done work in Haiti were summoned by a private citizen, only to find themselves—much like the pet dog who is halted by the invisible fence—denied access to ground zero by the all powerful police tape.
On the morning of June 26, CBC Radio 1 ran a story about a man whose fiancée was trapped in the mall believed to be showing signs of life. The report explained how the poor fellow just sat in a corner of the mall’s parking lot, waiting dutifully like a dweeb for the authorities to bring back his loved one. Initiative—that human characteristic that took our kind from being just another animal to being the unique race in the history of the Earth—obviously abandoned this fellow. He’s not to blame: the system is to blame; the system that takes away all the initiative that it can from the individual.

It starts by taking away the initiative to earn and save for child rearing by sponsoring it through baby bonuses and subsidized daycare. Then, the publicly bred child gets fed through the conveyor belt of forced and mutually paid-for, one-jig-fits-all public schooling system where the most important thing that children are taught is not to think things through to their logical conclusions; where they are taught of the virtues of taxation and the evils of individualism; where they are taught about the false dichotomy between the political Left and Right; and above all where they are trained to be obedient servants of the State.

Public education must work in such a way, for it is a means for the State to perpetuate itself. For, you see, the State is a Ponzi scheme. It produces nothing; it only transfers income from one to another. As such, the State constantly needs new entrants in order to perpetuate itself. Public education is the manufactory of new recruits, who, by spending their formative years under the direction of government aggrandizers are doomed to a denial of an opportunity to allow their critical thinking capacities—what Herbert Spencer dubbed “intellectual vision”—to develop freely.
Beginning with rudimentary vision, which gives warning that some large opaque body is passing near … the advance is to developed vision, which, by exactly-appreciated combinations of forms, colours, and motions, identifies objects at great distances as prey or enemies, and so makes it possible to improve the adjustments of conduct for securing food or evading death. That progressing perception of differences and consequent greater correctness of classing, constitutes, under one of its chief aspects, the growth of intelligence, is equally seen when we pass from the relatively simple physical vision to the relatively complex intellectual vision—the vision through the agency of which, things previously grouped by certain external resemblances or by certain extrinsic circumstances, come to be more truly grouped in conformity with their intrinsic structures or natures. Undeveloped intellectual vision is just as indiscriminating and erroneous in its classings as undeveloped physical vision. [Emphasis added] (The Man versus the State, p. 6)

If discovered for what it truly is, the State, like any other Ponzi scheme, would immediately disintegrate. Now, if human beings are rational beings who constantly strive toward accomplishing that which is in their own best self interest, and furthermore, if Ponzi schemes benefit the earliest entrants to the detriment of the latter, how is it then that the Ponzi scheme that is the State manages to keep attracting generation upon generation of new members? Does this fact not prove that human beings are irrational and generally stupid, as most proponents of the paternalistic State would have us believe? No. History shows us that the State is a product of violence and coercion; that it took hundreds of years for states to impose themselves on those outside of them. At present we are witness to countless so-called civil wars and similar acts of aggression throughout the globe where sets of violent armed gangs are attempting to impose themselves as the rulers of vast numbers of people and their land. In general, these armed bandits make claims upon something that developed naturally as part of human interactions in an effort to improve their conditions—language and customs—to impose something quite unnatural upon it: the idea of the nation.
Public education, as administered by, conveniently enough, receivers of the public doles, conducts the critical duty of blunting intellectual vision; thereby disabling the individual’s capacities to classify the State properly: under the class of thieves. “At the period when our intellectual faculties begin to develop themselves, at the age when impressions are liveliest, when habits of mind are formed with the greatest ease—when we might look at society and understand it—in a word, as soon as we are seven or eight years old, what does the State do?” asks Bastiat.
It puts a blindfold over our eyes, takes us gently from the midst of the social circle that surrounds us, to plunge us, with our susceptible faculties, our impressible hearts, into the midst of Roman society. It keeps us there for ten years at least, long enough to make an indelible impression on the brain. (The Bastiat Collection, p. 133)
The lack of individual initiative in Elliot Lake is the embodiment of obedience to authority. This is the stuff George Orwell wrote about in 1984, in whose Oceania the Proles loved Big Brother! Likewise, it is this sort of obedience to authority that leads to the deterioration of social power as evidenced when families de facto abandon their mentally ill members in the care of the socialized healthcare system.
Mindless collectivism and blind obedience to authority were at the bottom of the Holocaust. It must not be neglected that the extermination of the Jewish race was not the end to the Nazi program; it was but a means of strengthening the collective of the Arian nation. The events in Elliot Lake present a comparable example of drone-like behavior, inhuman enough to stand incapacitated to act contrary to an administrator’s order.

This wretched state does not come over night. Indeed, Mises, Hayek, Spencer, Haziltt and other individualists famously bemoaned the rise of the bureaucrat in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In Bureaucracy, Mises gave a short history of the gradual rise of officialism as a desired vocation in continental Europe, where
the bureaucrats have long formed an integrated group. … In all these countries there were many good families whose scions chose the bureaucratic career because they were honestly intent on serving their nation. The ideal of a bright poor boy who wanted to attain a better station in life was to join the staff of the administration. Many of the most gifted and lofty members of the intelligentsia served in the bureaus. The prestige and the social standing of the government clerks surpassed by far those of any other class of the population with the exception of the army officers and the members of the oldest and wealthiest aristocratic families. (p-p. 54-55-56)
Alas, in an all out effort to save face, the authorities have taken parts of the collapsed mall for an investigation. I’ll spare the reader the anticipation of the investigation’s results. It will be determined that the failure was the fault of some contractor or of the greedy mall owner, thereby placing blame again on private enterprise and market competition for “recklessness in the ruthless race for profit.” The fact that the developer jumped through dozens of hoops in an effort to appease building and safety codes, as well as the fact that the construction, and subsequent use was approved by a government official will be lost. Predictably, there are already hints coming out of CBC Radio 1 that the botched rescue will be blamed on cuts to the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue team’s budget. The solutions offered by the bureaucrats will, unsurprisingly, be more taxation and more bureaucracy.

There are likewise promises of independent inquiries into the botched rescue. The reader need only be reminded of the public inquiry into the brutish behavior of the Toronto police force during 2010’s G-20 Summit. The inquiry has finally been completed, two full years after the fact; the report boldly criticizes the police and its supposedly civilian overseer, the Toronto Police Board; yet no single police officer or official has or will be assigned any tangible responsibility for the gross abuses of civil rights that took place during the event.

Lastly, no one has addressed the root of the problem. We, the public, are given false assurances every time a public bureau sets and checks the standards for anything; for what are these engineers, architects and scientists manning the public agencies but the bottom-feeders of their respective professions who could not get hired in the real economy, dubbed by the state as “the private sector.” In an effort to boost employment statistics, politicians create unnecessary jobs for these incompetents, the results of which we witnessed in Elliot Lake. Likewise, what are the police, fire and rescue departments, but collectives of overpaid, overhyped meatheads—and potential competitors to the violent apparatus of the State if left on the outside—who have no interest in being anyone’s “brother-keeper.” They’re just looking for the largest paycheque earned with the least exertion of effort—just like the rest of us. Their glorifications are stupid, senseless and downright idiotic.

While as individuals these so-called heroes are restricted by their human instincts to survive and profit personally, as bureaucrats they are constrained by the nature of bureaucraticism. Mises elaborated on these shortcomings when he wrote of their European predecessors.
They developed a character peculiar to their permanent removal from the world of profit-seeking business. Their intellectual horizon was the hierarchy and its rules and regulations. Their fate was to depend entirely on the favor of their superiors. They were subject to their sway not only when on duty. … The emergence of a large class of such men dependent on the government became a serious menace to the maintenance of constitutional institutions. Attempts were made to protect the individual clerk against arbitrariness on the part of his superiors. But the only result achieved was that discipline was relaxed and that looseness in the performance of the duties spread more and more. … Of course, the bulk of the bureaucrats were rather mediocre men. But it cannot be doubted that a considerable number of able men were to be found in the ranks of the government employees. The failure of European bureaucracy was certainly not due to incapacities of the personnel. It was an outcome of the unavoidable weakness of any administration of public affairs. The lack of standards which could, in an unquestionable way, ascertain success or nonsuccess in the performance of an official’s duties creates insoluble problems. It kills ambition, destroys initiative and the incentive to do more than the minimum required. It makes the bureaucrat look at instructions, not at material and real success. (p-p 55-56)
While blame may be shouldered by the vague notion of greed, responsibility will only get dissipated throughout the collective. However, if each person were to be held responsible for their actions—positive or negative—we’d be less likely to witness tragedies like the one befalling Elliot Lake, or like one waiting to happen on the publicly owned and operated Gardner Expressway in Toronto due to falling debris. Yet, a system of personal responsibility is possible only where government interference is absent, for then there is no opportunity to dissipate the blame or confiscate the gain.

Bureaucrats cannot and will not be my “brother-keepers.” Only my brother (literal or figurative) can take that role. This is not to say that society ought to regress into one of autarkic family units. It is to say that social power ought to be allowed to work its way freely inside a society and to allow one to earn their “brother-keeper” by means direct social interaction. The lives lost in Elliot Lake may have been saved if strong personal bonds overrode bureaucratic decrees; or if entrepreneurially minded private rescuers were allowed to offer their services for a mutually agreed upon fee to the families of those trapped under the rubble; or if these same private rescuers were allowed to take a true entrepreneurial gamble in attempting to save the victims in the hope that they may earn a reward from them or their families or friends.
My Zimbio
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