My view of the Ontario leaders debate

I published an op-ed piece on Digital Journal and reposted it to Examiner that iterate my thoughts on Tuesday’s Ontario leaders debate. Here is the article in full:

The Ontario party leaders gathered in Toronto to debate Tuesday for the only time this provincial election. It would be an understatement when I say that all three party leaders are dunces and frighten the Ontario electorate, particularly libertarians.

Tuesday night’s TVO debate was a perfect illustration of what is wrong with the today’s electoral system in this province: Kathleen Wynne and the Liberal Party are honest when they tell voters they’re going to waste money, hike taxes and run up massive budget deficits and overall debt levels; Tim Hudak and the Progressive Conservatives will talk of limited government, reductions in spending and lower taxes but it will stab you in the back, rip out your guts and and steal your money.

In fact, the leaders debate reminded me of the old adage that governments never learn, only people do.

This is why whoever forms the next provincial government – most polls indicate that the Grits will gain another minority government and be the ruling party for the fourth consecutive election cycle – Ontarians will lose, especially if you consider yourself a libertarian or a paleoconservative.

What is perhaps the most terrifying prospect is that Wynne and the Liberals will likely emerge victorious on Jun. 12 after wasting billions of dollars, whether it was due to the gas plants, eHealth, ORNGE, the Ontario Lottery Gaming Corporation, MaRS or the Pan-Am Games. It just seems that Ontarian voters, predominantly those located in urban centres, are complacent and indifferent towards their tax dollars being frivolously misallocated over the past decade.

Nevermind, people never learn either.

It was quite ubiquitous that neither Wynne or NDP leader Andrea Horwath have ever picked up an economics textbook authored by Murray N. Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, Henry Hazlitt, Friedrich Hayek or even Milton Friedman – perhaps one penned by John Maynard Keynes, Robert Reich or Ben Bernanke, but that’s just as dangerous to the average person.

All three leaders talked about how government is the solution to our problems rather than the cause of them. Each of the three leaders spoke as if they needed to protect the voter instead of protecting the voter from the provincial government. Although Hudak sounded nice at times, he often pontificated the virtues held by statists.

Here are just some of the examples to showcase the leaders’ economic ignorance:

100,000 public sector workers

Hudak certainly isn’t a friend to capitalism and free markets, but his reduction of the public sector workforce is a step in the right direction. Although he should have promised to slash even more, the four-year plan of reducing the government workforce from 1.2 million to 1.1 million isn’t something that is going to “shock” the economy. A significant percentage of the reduction is through attrition and retirement and it won’t happen all at once.

Besides, why can’t the provincial government return to pre-2009 levels? As Hudak alluded to, no one complained at the time that the government was too small. Why can’t the province reduce spending by eight percent over a four-year timeframe?

The Ontario Premier argued that it would be irresponsible to do so and it would hurt the economy. If she had studied 19th century French economist Frederic Bastiat then she would have remembered “That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen.” Instead of bloating the size of government, which her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, did prior to and during the Great Recession, the money taken from the private sector and private individuals could have been invested in the economy and created jobs. This is why voters are fooled into Wynne’s warnings because they have not seen what the private economy would have produced.

“The State opens a road, builds a palace, straightens a street, cuts a canal; and so gives work to certain workmen – this is what is seen: but it deprives certain other workmen of work, and this is what is not seen,” wrote Bastiat. “The road is begun. A thousand workmen come every morning, leave every evening, and take their wages – this is certain. If the road had not been decreed, if the supplies had not been voted, these good people would have had neither work nor salary there; this also is certain.”

With money returned to businesses and individuals, they will have a better time handling their own money. Remember the famous Milton Friedman quote: Nobody spends somebody else’s money as wisely as they spend their own.

Partnering With Businesses

When Wynne says that she wants to invest in companies so they can move forward into the 21st century and government can partner with private enterprise, what she’s really saying is that she wants to pick the winners and losers. This is a fallacious public policy and one that governments must veer away from immediately because it undermines free markets and capitalism and creates corporatism.

Also, it creates a double standard: why should one business be subsidized and the other business not? It’s a ridiculous initiative, especially considering that a company like Samsung does not need provincial funding.

The government has no business subsidizing and bailing out private companies: if the company fails and files for bankruptcy then a more competent company will take over the profitable assets and establish a long-term viable business. This is simple economics and business finance, something that government officials have no understanding of.

In this case, Wynne said that the PCs would not have intervened in the automobile sector crisis, which is false because they likely would have taken part in bailouts akin to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. However, even if the PC leader refrained from bailing out the auto industry then this would have been a smart decision and would have saved taxpayers from spending money it didn’t have.

Other industries are having a hard time so why not bail them out? The horse and buggy industry and home-to-home milk delivery men still haven’t recovered.

Again, Hudak is correct in his assessment that corporate welfare is wrong, but, like a substantial number of other conservatives, he’ll backtrack on his word and subsidize companies he deems worthy of receiving taxpayers’ money.

Here is what economist Gary North wrote in a 2006 article published on the Mises Institute website entitled “The Snare of Government Subsidies”:

“The answer, philosophically, is to avoid sniffing at the bait. This must be done on principle. It would help if businessmen understood the chain of events which follows from the acceptance of a government subsidy. Yet even if this chain of events is not understood, men should still be able to recognize a violation of basic moral principle when they see it. They should understand that the coercive power of the state should not be used to benefit one group at the expense of another. Such power is inevitably misused, if not immediately, then ten years or fifty years down the road. The precedent is evil; the results following it will also be evil.”

Taxes Are Part of the Societal Contract

Statists usually espouse the supposed virtues of taxation. Proponents of big government and socialists regularly present the case that taxes are necessary in order to maintain a civilized society. Yet again, this is a false premise because it suggests that we can only survive with theft and coercive power that only the state can have.

When Wynne says that “taxes are the price we pay for looking after each other,” the question that must be asked: who signed off on this? Are we our brothers’ keeper? Aren’t we individuals? Why do we use force and violence to “look after each other?”

This argument essentially implies that society has values, but in actuality people have values, not governments.

Even if Wynne was correct in her sentiments then how come her government has taken tax money and wasted it on eHealth, ORNGE, two Liberal politicians, unions and public sector workers? Shouldn’t taxes benefit everyone then? It’s nonsensical for someone with her and her party’s record to utter such words of “looking after each other.”

Murray Rothbard wrote in “The Ethics of Liberty”:

“Just as no one is morally required to answer a robber truthfully when he asks if there are any valuables in one’s house, so no one can be morally required to answer truthfully similar questions asked by the State, e.g., when filling out income tax returns.”

Voters have to realize that the government doesn’t produce anything and it doesn’t create jobs. The private sector is the element that produces goods and services and creates the jobs. Whether it’s Wynne, Horwath or Hudak, the government produces nothing and just takes and takes from youth, the middle class and seniors.

The only thing the government can and should do is provide a stable business and political environment: a cut in red tape, bureaucracy and regulations, low taxes and a government that won’t institute a doomed-to-failure retirement pension that will likely become insolvent in the next 25 years.

If Hudak wanted to gain some support from libertarians and true conservatives and stand out from the crowd then he should have said any of the following:

I want to leave you alone.

The Kathleen Wynne government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it. (allusion to Ronald Reagan)

If you put the Kathleen Wynne government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand. (allusion to Milton Friedman)

Indeed, it might be time to look at Allen Small and the Libertarian Party of Ontario.

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