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Canadians Confused by the Correct Use of the Term “Liberal” – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Canadians Confused by the Correct Use of the Term “Liberal” – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance Hat
Jeffrey Tucker
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The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has been following the political upheavals in the US with some curiosity. In light of this piece, they called me to discuss where the Republican ticket is representing capitalism well. In the course of the interview, I described myself as a fan of commercial society, free enterprise, deregulation, and therefore a classical liberal. I said later that I’m a radical liberal.

Much to the amazement of the producers, it was this section of the interview (which was heard by more than a million people) that caused the biggest response. They were flooded with comments of confusion. Why does this guy call himself a liberal?

The producers were intrigued enough to do an entire segment on the topic, the results of which were interesting and substantial. Of course the topic is complex because the meaning of the word has changed so much in the last 100 years. The corruption of the term became so intense following World War II that the leftover liberals had to change their name to libertarians.

And today matters are in flux. In Eastern Europe and large parts of Latin America, the term is used correctly. In Europe, it is a mix. In the UK, the word liberal is coming back as a description of people who celebrate commercial society, favor peace, support civil liberties, and reject big government. In the US, the term has been left on the table, but is still mostly associated with the opposite of its traditional meaning.

The result of the CBC’s investigative efforts are as follows.

On last week’s episode of The 180, we spoke with Jeffrey Tucker, a self-described ‘classical liberal.’ He argued Donald Trump is giving capitalism a bad name, by presenting himself as a titan of industry, when he’s really more of an entertainer.

After that interview, we received notes from people questioning Tucker’s bona-fides as a ‘liberal,’ since he spoke highly of individual liberties, free markets, and limited government. Some said Tucker was clearly a ‘neo-liberal,’ some said he was a ‘large R conservative,’ presumably meaning Republican, while others thought the term ‘classical liberal’ had plenty of negative connotations all on its own.

So what is a classical liberal?

First off, you should totally click the play button on this page to hear the audio explainer. It’s got all kinds of fun music and clips of people using the word ‘liberal’ in weird and hilarious ways. Like when Rush Limbaugh said the Soviet Union and Cuba and China were run by ‘liberals.’ Weird.

Part of the problem with the word ‘liberal’ is it’s used differently across time, and across countries. In Canada, the word mostly means a supporter of the Liberal Party, or someone in the political middle. In the United States, it means a strong social progressive, and in some circles can mean a socialist or a communist. In Europe it’s associated with internationalism and free migration. In Australia, in the words of Australian Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull, it means the primacy of “freedom, the individual, and the market.” 

That last one, the Australian definition, is probably closest to what political scientists consider a classical liberal view.

John Locke

If you want to get what classical liberalism is, and where liberalism as an ideology comes from, you gotta know about this guy, John Locke. 

Locke was an English philosopher who lived in the 17th century, and one of the most important people in the development of liberalism, both classical and modern, according to Barbara Arneil, Professor of Political Science at the University of British Columbia.

“In essence what he introduced to the political lexicon was the idea of individual rights. He said individuals have rights by nature, and if the government does not serve those rights, then the people could get together and reject the government. So in essence, this idea of individuals and their rights begins the notion that the government is answerable to individual people.”

This was still a time of kings and emperors and lords and barons, so Locke’s ideas were rather significant. And these liberal ideas influenced a good deal of western society, including the founding documents of the United States of America.

“Thomas Jefferson drew a lot of his philosophy from John Locke. He saw him as the greatest political thinker. So there’s a lot of Locke in the American Declaration of Independence. On the economic side, Locke was also somebody who developed the idea of the right to private property. So we have both the political and economic repercussions and we see them right around the world. All the bills of rights, really originate with Locke’s original idea.” 

So if someone says they’re a classical liberal as opposed to modern liberal, they’re probably more in line with Locke’s original sentiments.

Times change, so do words, and so do ideas

At some point, liberalism shifted from its emphasis on individual liberties, to include regulating business, and using the government to support individuals, rather than simply leaving them alone. According to Lee Ward, Associate Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of Regina, the shift is part of the industrial revolution throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

“The term liberalism takes on a new kind of meaning, politically. Sometimes called ‘welfare liberalism. At that point, liberalism is accommodating the new demands produced by industrialization. So classical liberals in the 17th century were talking about an economy that was very rudimentary compared to what we have today. A bank in the 17th century doesn’t mean the same thing as a bank in the 20th century. So by the time you get to the 20th century, liberalism has changed.”

To Barbara Arneil at UBC, it’s not simply that the definition of liberalism changed, it’s that over time, some people changed their conception of ‘freedom’. Whereas classical liberals think of liberty as being free from interference, modern liberalism considers whether the government can support people in society to freely pursue their goals.

“I think the thread that remains throughout all liberal thought is the idea of the individual and their freedom. So initially, freedom is understood as being free of restraints. But now we have a different definition of freedom, and it’s about  having the necessary supports to have freedom that has any meaning.”

The concepts of liberalism, both classical and modern, are political philosophies and ideologies not specific political affiliations, and these concepts, among others, influence parties across the Canadian spectrum.

Labels and insults

In the United States, ‘liberal’ is often used as an epithet. To some degree, the terms ‘neo-liberal’ or ‘social conservative’ or ‘socialist’ are also used as negative descriptors in Canada. 

To Ward, it’s not particularly helpful to use philosophical terminology as a pejorative, or to try and sum up a person’s character or values with a snippy line about liberals, conservatives, socialists, or anarchists.

“I worry that sometimes we throw out terminology as weapons, as rhetorical jabs. Understand that behind all of the different perspectives and ideologies, there’s some claim to justice there. And even if I disagree in large measure with much of what’s being said, there’s is some truth that is being expressed. There’s something good in it. As good as it is to be engaged in politics and to really care about what’s happening, it’s also good to step back sometimes and to understand that when we use terms like conservative, liberal, progressive, socialist, they’re all reflecting a certain claim to justice, and there’s probably something in each of those that we can agree with.”

According to Ward, if we could understand that behind all the terms we throw around to describe people, there is a rich intellectual history, we could have more respectful and constructive political debate.

Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education and CLO of the startup Liberty.me. Author of five books, and many thousands of articles, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook. Email

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Protectionism Will Not Make America Great – Article by Pierre-Guy Veer

Protectionism Will Not Make America Great – Article by Pierre-Guy Veer

The New Renaissance HatPierre-Guy Veer
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At the end of June, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump made a fiery speech about trade in Pittsburgh. Using many of Bernie Sanders’ talking points on the subject, Trump said, among others, that he would hold China accountable for the manipulation of its currency and unfair trade practices, withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

Trade vs. Trade Treaties

There is some wisdom on Trump’s part about NAFTA. This agreement would deserve the label “bureaucratic agreement on trade” rather than “free trade agreement.”

For example, Annex 313 states that Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey can only be called as such (and be sold) if they are produced in Tennessee “in accordance with the laws and regulations of the United States governing the manufacture of Bourbon Whiskey and Tennessee Whiskey.”

The same rule applies to Canadian Whisky in Canada and Tequila and Mezcal in Mexico. Annex 703.2.A.4, on its side, contains a truckload of products which are exempted from free trade, including Canada’s milk supply management which may cost the average family $267 a year.

Trump is also right about being hesitant to support the TPP. What has leaked out of it shows that the agreement has more to do about protecting intellectual property rather than genuine trade liberalization. Such protection would stifle innovation and slow economic growth – just imagine if there had been a patent on the wheel or iron casting when it was first invented.

Fairness is Buying What You Want from Wherever

However, Donald Trump is wrong to advocate for “fair” trade. In his platform he calls for a level playing field in order to have a “fairer” trading relationship with China, known for its heavy top-down approach on foreign businesses.

This amounts to protectionism that could set off a very costly trade war. American consumers will pay the price – a form of tax. It could set off a deep recession. When you consider the stakes here, you see that all of Trump’s valid complaints about trade treaties are designed to bring about something that is even worse.

If, however, Trump’s goal is really to “make America great again,” then he should not be caring about China’s trade practices, but embracing unilateral free trade.

Of course there would be unavoidable, short-term pain with job losses in industries that cannot compete with China and other industries. The steel industry, for example, would not be protected by the recently enabled 266-percent tariff imposed on Chinese steel and would shed many jobs.

However, people using steel (for construction, manufacturing, etc.) would save so much money by being able to import cheaper steel. This surplus money will not evaporate; it will return in the economy in the form of savings, job creation, and economic growth.

This is not trade theory: unilateral free trade has successfully happened. Famous French liberal Frédéric Bastiat has abundantly talked about England turning to unilateral free trade and how it helped the country become even richer.  It even “gave them bread” during a bad harvest 1847 thanks to wheat imports.

By walking down this “bold path,” to quote minister Peel who enacted free trade, America would truly be great. Government would stop subsidizing agriculture in every single form, thereby not only improving the quality of the water supply, but also reversing the contentious debate about undocumented Mexicans whose livelihood was destroyed by U.S. corn subsidies. Capital resources would be allocated in a more efficient way according to supply and demand – it might still be farming, but it could become manufacturing, mining, or even services – and save an average of $6.1 billion per year until 2019.

Trade liberalization, combined with Trump’s promises to lower business income tax to 15 percent and tackle the deficit and debt, would truly “make America great again.” Because after the unavoidable short-term pain of adjusting to new incentives, Americans will get back to work and better supply the world’s demand on their own.

Pierre-Guy Veer


Pierre-Guy Veer

Pierre-Guy Veer is a Linguistic Reviewer at Lionbridge

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

The Need for a “Buy Human” Program – Article by Bradley Doucet

The Need for a “Buy Human” Program – Article by Bradley Doucet

The New Renaissance HatBradley Doucet
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The Canadian government is apparently facing growing pressure to graft a Buy Canadian program onto its billions of dollars of planned infrastructure spending. That way, all those taxpayer dollars would help support employment and economic growth here at home instead of shipping it across the border and overseas. Who could object to such a well-meaning policy to prop up good, Canadian jobs?

Well, for starters, someone concerned with cost-effectiveness could raise an objection. Such a person might argue that our representatives in government have a responsibility to see that we taxpayers get our money’s worth when they, for example, decide from whom to buy the steel that will be used to build our bridges. Before raising our taxes even higher than they already are, or sinking us further into debt and saddling our kids with the bill, they should try to stretch each tax dollar as far as it’ll go. And if getting the best value for our money means buying steel from China, then that’s what they should do.

Someone who understands the general benefits of trade and specialization could also easily object to a Buy Canadian program. When we engage in voluntary exchange with other people, we do so because we expect to benefit—and the people we trade with do the same. By specializing in some form of production, we can get better at it, becoming more skilled and even finding better ways of doing things. Then, through trade, we benefit not only from our own skills and innovations, but from other people’s as well. Importantly, this dynamic holds whether our trading partners are across the street or on the other side of the planet.

On the flipside, someone who understands how harmful a trade war is to everyone concerned would have good reason to object to measures like a Buy Canadian program. All parties are losers in a trade war, as protectionist barriers beget more protectionist barriers. It’s like two imbeciles in a gunfight: one shoots himself in the foot, and his rival retaliates by shooting himself in his foot. As our economies limp along with these self-inflicted wounds, we are also in increased danger of seeing our strained relations deteriorate into actual wars, since instead of at least valuing foreigners for what we can get from them through trade, we find it easier to denigrate them as something less than human, the better to justify dropping bombs on them. If this seems farfetched, just think of how certain media outlets portray the people who are currently having bombs dropped on them.

And speaking of foreigners, someone whose concern for the well-being of his or her fellow humans doesn’t stop at an imaginary line on a map could also find a Buy Canadian program objectionable. It’s true that some people’s lives here at home are disrupted when businesses close, or when certain kinds of jobs disappear altogether from the local landscape. But the people we trade with in other countries? They’re people too, and trade benefits them just as it benefits someone in this country. Why their well-being should matter less to me because they live in a different country, I’ve never understood.

If we want to lend a hand to our neighbours who lose their jobs, we can help them transition to some other kind of work. But “we” shouldn’t keep making steel if “we” can’t make it at a competitive price anymore; instead, we should switch to doing something else, and buy our steel from people willing and able to produce it and sell it at a lower price. They in turn will buy from us the things that we are comparatively good at. And if other governments want to subsidize their steel industries—and therefore our purchases of steel—then our own governments shouldn’t compound the mistake by following suit.

Think about it: If it makes sense to Buy Canadian, then why not Buy Quebecois? Buy Montreal? Buy Mile-End? Buy Fairmount-between-St-Laurent-and-Clark? The simple fact is that global trade has made the globe richer, helping to bring us closer than we’ve ever been to eradicating extreme poverty, and allowing everyone not living under the boot heel of authoritarianism the opportunity to live a decent life. Parochialism will only make us poorer and less connected with other people around the world. Instead of Buy Canadian or Buy American programs, what we really need is a Buy Human policy, trading with whichever of our fellow human beings are offering us the best value for our money in their efforts to improve their own lives.

Bradley Doucet is a writer living in Montreal. He has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also is QL’s English Editor.
A Transhumanist Manifesto for Calgary and Beyond – Article by Reed Nelson

A Transhumanist Manifesto for Calgary and Beyond – Article by Reed Nelson

The New Renaissance HatReed Nelson
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What is Transhumanism?
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Transhumanism is the idea, philosophy, movement, what have you, that human beings both can and should be enhanced by the use of technology. So while some people use glasses, cars, phones computers, airplanes, and so forth, well, we Transhumanists want to go further.

A lot further.

We want robotic hearts, we want to stay young, we want to be stronger, faster, smarter, and more loving than we are now.

And we don’t people to feel depression, or rage, or extreme loneliness, or to experience cancer, AIDS, or disability of any sort.

We want everyone to feel and function well, all of the time, and we want to grow as never before.

Now consider this.

For the entirety of our species we have only been changing the external – where we live, what clothes we wear, what religions we devote ourselves to and so forth.

And now, I and many others believe that it is time to change the inside.

It is time to evolve.

On Rational Devotion

It seems to me that within Christianity, as well as many other religions, there is the idea that one must devote to God, and God will respond – that is to say, God will heal you in his time.

His time? Does that mean, not even in this life, and yet still you are asked to devote?

(Oh, and why does he heal say, loneliness but not an amputee?)

If God is real, then at minimum, he should meet us halfway, and for each prayer, a little healing, and for each verse read, a little healing.

But of course it doesn’t work that way, and the believer is told to keep going and just, well, believe. That to me sounds like mental slavery.

And I will have none of it.

Technology heals. Nature heals. Animals heal. People heal each other.

And technology has the potential to be, and often already is, the greatest healer of all.

Why devote to anything else then?

P. S. In the movie Forrest Gump, what heals the legs of Lt. Dan? Oh right, technology.

Please, brothers and sisters, let us now turn away from the empty promises of holy books, and instead let us support Transhumanism, for it shall lead us to real healing.

So now we come to arguably our crystalline truth – if there is a biological problem, there is a biological solution.

Zoltan Istvan for American President 2016.

Spread the Good News.

600px-Transhumanism_h+.svgH+ Symbol Image by Antonu

Reed Nelson is the founder of The Transhumanist Party of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. See the Facebook page of The Transhumanist Party of Calgary here.

Giving Thanks and Looking Forward – Article by Bradley Doucet

Giving Thanks and Looking Forward – Article by Bradley Doucet

The New Renaissance HatBradley Doucet
October 15, 2015
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Expressing gratitude, according to self-help gurus and neuroscientists alike, is a sure route to being a happier person. Thanksgiving, then, should be the happiest of all holidays—and not just because of the turkey dinner with all the fixings and the football-watching marathon. In addition to the good things this holiday brings, it also contributes to well-being by encouraging us to give thanks for the good things in our lives. And when I do stop and think about it, I am grateful for a great many things.

On a personal level, I’ve got loving and beloved friends and family, a happy and sane home life, relatively good health, and work that I find meaningful and stimulating. I grew up in an overwhelmingly French-speaking town, but went to English schools all my life, allowing me to become almost perfectly bilingual, and now I live in one of the safest big cities in the world. I had the pleasure of spending years formally studying music, philosophy, and economics, all of which I now have the privilege of continuing to study informally these many years later.

On a political level, I’m grateful to be living here and now, in this country and century. Canada is one of the most economically free countries in the world, and not coincidentally, one of the wealthiest. Thanks to a newfound liberty and dignity for inventors and businesspeople starting just a couple of hundred years ago in northern Europe, an explosion of innovation and rapid economic growth has made almost everyone much better off today than anyone could have conceived of back then. Furthermore, in much of the world, the lot of women and minorities has improved dramatically. And despite the impression left by a media formula that still favours bad news over good, violence of all kinds continues to decline.

If I sometimes complain—and I do, about things both big and small—I like to think it’s because I can see an even better world just around the corner, and I know we could get there a lot faster if we would only tweak a few things. Of course, as often as not, I complain because I haven’t been managing my sleep schedule properly and I’m just cranky. Assuming that my motives are always noble is an example of a self-serving bias, by the way, one of many that can get in the way of objectivity and clear-headedness, and thereby keep us from that better tomorrow.

I do see a better world, though, and I look forward to moving toward it, in fits and starts, as we humans are wont to do. I look forward to the continuing spread of Enlightenment values and sensibilities: reason, science, peace, and trade. I look forward to the further democratization of human life through that most democratic of institutions: the market. Instead of imposing majority (or plurality) preferences on each other in alternating cycles as the pendulum swings from left to right, the market allows multiple options to coexist peacefully. The more we can allow each other the freedom to live our lives as we see fit, without trying to force our values down each other’s throats, the more experiments in living we can carry out, with all the benefits that we know experimentation brings.

It is important to note that this better world does not rely, as Marxist and other utopias do, on a violation of human nature. We are flawed and fallible creatures, which is a good reason not to invest in some of us the power to rule over others. We tend to act for ourselves in the first instance, and for others only in widening and weakening circles of empathy, but how could it be otherwise? As long as we do not initiate force against each other, this egoism can spur us to serve each other through positive-sum trade, and can even be a fountainhead of creativity.

I look forward to a time when the legitimacy of peacefully pursuing your own interests is more widely recognized. On a related note, I look forward to a time when actions are not judged primarily by their “good” intentions, but by their actual effects. Many altruistic or seemingly altruistic acts do more harm than good, and many egoistic ones are immensely beneficial. To judge according to intentions alone is to care more about appearing virtuous than about actually working toward a better world.

We have already come so far, and I am truly grateful to the giants of the past who gave so much of themselves—altruistically perhaps, but with a deep and healthy egoism as well, I am convinced. And I look forward with optimism, in this age of information, that we will do what it takes to continue to evolve our institutions and bring them more in line with the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of humankind.

Bradley Doucet is a writer living in Montreal. He has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also is Le Québécois Libre’s English Editor.

The Ukrainian Regime’s Censorship Spreads West to Canada, and Political Correctness is to Blame – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The Ukrainian Regime’s Censorship Spreads West to Canada, and Political Correctness is to Blame – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
April 14, 2015
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There is nothing friendly to liberty or to Western values about the government of Petro Poroshenko and Arseniy Yatseniuk in Ukraine – a regime completely incapable of understanding the principle of individual rights or the freedoms of speech, property, and conviction that this principle entails. The Ukrainian government has just enacted a law prohibiting the private expression of Communist symbols and ideology, while elevating to “national hero” status the Ukrainian Insurgent Army of Stepan Bandera, who collaborated with the Nazi army during World War II and committed systematic acts of genocide against Russian, Belarusian, Polish, and Jewish civilians. Bandera serves as an explicit inspiration for the neo-Nazi Right Sector paramilitary organization, whose fighters have been documented by Amnesty International to have committed extensive war crimes against civilians in the Donbass region, and whose leader Dmytro Yarosh now holds a prominent position as advisor to the Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief.

Criticism of Bandera and his Ukrainian Insurgent Army is now illegal in Ukraine. According to UaPosition, a Ukrainian website aimed at informing non-Ukrainians about Ukraine, the text of the law legitimizing Bandera’s thugs reads as follows: “Public denial of the legitimacy of the struggle for the independence of Ukraine in the twentieth century [is] recognized [as an] insult to the memory of fighters for independence of Ukraine in the XX century [and as] disparagement of the Ukrainian people and is illegal.”

As David Boaz put it, “One difference between libertarianism and socialism is that a socialist society can’t tolerate groups of people practicing freedom, but a libertarian society can comfortably allow people to choose voluntary socialism.” No libertarian or even remotely quasi-libertarian society would censor the expression of even the most strident socialist or communist viewpoints. On the other hand, legal censorship of opposing viewpoints was indeed a hallmark of the former Soviet Union. A government that attempts to censor the ideas that, at least ostensibly, animated Soviet policies, becomes just a mirror image of the Soviet regime by adopting the very same policies in essence. In addition, the Ukrainian regime has prohibited films alleged to “glorify” the Russian military and has imprisoned journalists and activists who criticized military conscription, such as Ruslan Kotsaba.

The Poroshenko/Yatseniuk government has assumed the worst characteristics of the former USSR regime without any of its few decent attributes. By validating both historical genocidal ethnic nationalism and its neo-Nazi successor movements, the Ukrainian regime has departed from one of the most important admirable aspects of the post-1941 USSR: its adamant opposition to Nazism and to the plethora of ethnically tinged fascist movements that arose in the wake of Hitler’s invasions of Eastern Europe. Indeed, one of the reasons why so many Soviet subjects of diverse ethnicities acquiesced to the tyranny of Stalin and his successors was the fact that the Soviet regime did act to protect them against the worse threat of genocide by Hitler and his petty nationalist allies. The prohibition on criticism of the Banderites is, in the eyes of many Ukrainians, Russians, and Belarusians, a prohibition on criticism of the armed gangs who murdered or tried to murder their grandparents.

Even more troubling, however, is that the zeal of “pro-Ukrainian” activists in the West is creating a chilling effect on speech and criticism of the Ukrainian regime even in Canada. Valentina Lisitsa, a world-renowned pianist born in Ukraine who became a US citizen and is currently residing in Paris, has become the latest victim of the campaign to silence those who disagree with militant Ukrainian nationalism. Lisitsa’s performances of classical compositions (see and hear examples here, here, here, and here) are completely apolitical and have attracted tens of millions of views on her YouTube channel. She was due to play Rachmaninoff’s Concerto #2 (earlier recordings are here, here, and here) at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, before her appearance was cancelled at the behest of anonymous Ukrainian nationalist activists, who also fueled a social-media outcry against Lisitsa. The reason? Lisitsa posted on her Twitter account satirical, often scathing criticism of the Ukrainian government and its war against separatists in the Donbass – specifically condemning the neo-Nazi and genocidal strains among the Ukrainian government’s paramilitary supporters. She has remained steadfast in defending her posts as free expression – and rightfully so, as her liberty to express her views does not require those views or the manner of their expression to be inoffensive or universally agreeable to all. Furthermore, any manner of words or imagery she used pales in comparison to the real deaths of over 6,000 civilians (and likely many more) in the Donbass, many at the hands of the Ukrainian army and its allied “volunteer” paramilitary battalions. Lisitsa was outraged at the people and policies that brought about the deaths of these innocents, and she was right to proclaim her outrage.

But whether or not one agrees with Lisitsa or with the manner in which she expressed her views, her performance of Rachmaninoff had no relationship to any of her political activities – and none of her other classical performances over the course of many years had even the remotest political aspect. By successfully pressuring the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to cancel Lisitsa’s appearance, the Ukrainian nationalist activists recreated in Canada the same politicization of classical music for which Stalin’s Soviet Union was infamous. Some of the most innovative 20th-century composers – including Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Aram Khachaturian – were often victims of Stalin’s denunciations and sometimes came perilously close to imprisonment or worse. In a free society, it is generally recognized that a person’s artistic prowess and political positions are separate matters unless the artist wishes to intentionally combine the two – as, for instance, in a work of explicitly politically motivated art. Preventing the performance of art that is inherently apolitical, on the grounds of the artist’s outside political activities, creates a chilling effect on both art and peaceful political activism. Artists, fearing that their livelihoods would be denied to them if they became too vocal about current events and ran afoul of one pressure group or another, would be incentivized to stick only to bland, uncontroversial statements or avoid discussing any subjects where significant disagreements might arise. Art would suffer, as works of technical and esthetic merit would become more difficult for audiences to access, given that anybody with controversial political views would be shut out of the talent pool.

The cultural reign of political correctness in the West further exacerbates the threat of the chilling effect on art and speech. The political repression of art in the contemporary West would come not from a top-down decree by a government, but rather due to any sufficiently vocal special interest claiming to be “offended” – not just by an idea contrary to its own agenda, but by the whole person expressing that idea. It then becomes the case that no Stalin is necessary – but the effect is the same: ideologically motivated threats cowing artists into acquiescence to the popular political agenda of the day. A person can become widely denounced, blacklisted, and shut out from opportunities that should be determined by artistic merit alone – not due to any conspiracy, but rather because the typical, middle-of-the-road decision makers in private as well as public institutions become fearful of the special interests’ ire. Political correctness is not primarily a problem of governments, but rather a problem of a deeply broken societal and intellectual culture, where not giving offense is prioritized over the pursuit of truth and justice. In the case of Lisitsa, as usual, the politically correct prohibition on offense results in the most offensive possible ideologies having a free hand to shut down dissenting views. What “offended” fundamentalist Islam has been able to perpetrate in shutting down debate in Europe for over a decade, “offended” Ukrainian nationalism is beginning to inflict in Canada now, often with the vociferous support of media commentators crusading against “hate speech” – a phrase which can mean anything they want it to mean.

The Ukrainian nationalists are able to export their agenda of censorship and intimidation to the West as parasites taking advantage of a weakened host. Political correctness is the disease that renders Western public discourse vulnerable to their arguments, while endangering the vital critical voices who need to be heard in order to prevent a tragic Western-led escalation of the Ukrainian civil war. It seems that the only way the Ukrainian regime and its nationalist allies will be able to render Ukraine more Western is to render the West more like Ukraine. We in the West need to strengthen our defenses and develop an immunity against this incursion of illiberalism by reaffirming the values of individual rights, open discourse and debate on controversial ideas, free expression of dissenting views, and resistance to the dependence of art on political orthodoxy.

Math Education Should Be Set Free – Article by Bradley Doucet

Math Education Should Be Set Free – Article by Bradley Doucet

The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
February 12, 2015
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At different times in my life, I have earned my living tutoring high school math, helping struggling students struggle a little less with quadratic equations and trigonometric functions. I always excelled at math when I was in high school, and my temperament is well-suited to being patient with kids who are not understanding, and to figuring out why they’re not understanding. The experience of assisting a couple of hundred different students over the years has convinced me that just about anyone can learn to understand high school math. Some people simply need more time than others to become proficient with numbers and graphs and such.
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Given my background, I read with interest The Globe and Mail’s write-up in January 2014 on what they are calling the Math Wars, “a battle that’s been brewing for years but heated up last month when this country dropped out of the top 10 in international math education standings.” Specifically, since the year 2000, Canada has fallen from 6th to 13th in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Robert Craigen, a University of Manitoba mathematics professor, points out that this slippage coincides with the move away from teaching basic math skills and the adoption of discovery learning. In much of Canada today, this latest fad has children learning (or failing to learn) math by “investigating ideas through problem-solving, pattern discovery and open-ended exploration.”
 ***

Interestingly, when the Canadian provinces are included in the PISA rankings, Quebec is first among them, places 8th overall, and has lost practically no ground over the last dozen years. Why is Quebec suddenly ahead of the pack? Another Globe and Mail article from last month says that little work has been done on this question, but that “researchers have started focusing on Quebec’s intensive teacher training and curriculum, which balances traditional math drills with problem-solving approaches.” Basic math skills and problem solving sounds like a winning combination to me—and I bet the extra teacher training doesn’t hurt either.

Personally, I have long thought that math students should be allowed to progress at different rates. Currently, the brightest students shine out by scoring 90s and 100s while weaker students flounder with 60s and 70s and are forced to move on to more complex topics without having mastered more basic ones, almost ensuring their continued difficulties. With student-paced learning, the brightest students could still shine out by progressing more quickly, but weaker students would be given the time they need to master each topic before tackling harder problems. Everyone would get 90s and 100s; some would just get them sooner. Teaching would have to change, of course, in such a system. Maybe students would end up watching pre-recorded lessons, a la Khan Academy, and teachers could become more like flexible aides in the classroom, in addition to monitoring individual students to make sure they aren’t slacking off.

The Globe and Mail ended its editorial on Canada’s math woes last Thursday with a call to action: “If our students’ success in math really matters—and it does—it’s time to a have national policy discussion on how to move forward. Everything should be on the table, including curriculum reform. Let’s think big.” I can’t think of a worse idea. Even if you put me in charge of developing this national policy, it would still be a bad idea. After all, who’s to say if I’m correct in supposing that learning at your own pace is the way to go, that it would help everyone succeed and take away some of the anxiety many feel about math? Maybe it would be good for some, and less good for others. Maybe some people need the thrill of competing for top marks, while others would thrive in a less overtly competitive environment. Maybe people are different.

It’s bad enough that governments fix policies for entire provinces; the last thing we need is for everyone in the entire country to be doing the same thing. To the extent that there is a better way (or that there are better ways) to teach math, ways that we may not have even tried yet, the best means of discovering them is to allow different schools to teach math differently, to vary curriculum and teaching style and class size and whatever else they think might help. Let them compete for students, and let the best approaches win, and the worst approaches fall by the wayside, instead of having everyone follow the latest fad and doing irreparable damage to an entire cohort of kids.

It’s very hard to imagine this happening, though, in a system that is financed through taxation. Even though it’s ultimately the same people paying, whether directly as consumers or indirectly as taxpayers, people get into the mental habit of thinking that the government is paying, as if the government had a source of income other than the incomes of its people. And if the government is paying, then the government has to make sure it’s getting its money’s worth, and it’s only natural then that the government (i.e., politicians and bureaucrats) should set the curriculum and educational approach and make sure everyone is progressing at the same pace, in flagrant disregard of human diversity. It seems that we have a choice between “free” education and setting education free. Politicians and bureaucrats won’t give up control without a fight, though, which is a shame in the short term. But it may not matter in the longer term, as private initiatives like the Khan Academy make government schooling increasingly irrelevant.

I love math, and I furthermore believe that it is important for people to learn math. Mastery of math does indeed matter, which is precisely why we should think small and avoid the siren song of a “national policy discussion on how to move forward” on the educational front. Instead, we should let a thousand flowers bloom, and work with, not against, the natural diversity of humankind.

Bradley Doucet is Le Québécois Libre‘s English Editor and the author of the blog Spark This: Musings on Reason, Liberty, and Joy. A writer living in Montreal, he has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness.
More Guns Plus Less War Equals Real Security – Article by Ron Paul

More Guns Plus Less War Equals Real Security – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
November 2, 2014
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Last week’s tragic shootings in Canada and Washington state are certain to lead to new calls for gun control. The media-generated fear over “lone wolf terrorists” will enable the gun control lobby to smear Second Amendment supporters as “pro-terrorist.” Marketing gun control as an anti-terrorist measure will also enable gun control supporters to ally with those who support any infringement on liberty done in the name of “homeland security.”As with most infringements on liberty, gun control will not only make us less free, it will make us less safe. Respecting the right of the people to keep and bear arms is the original and best homeland security policy. Restricting the right of people to arm themselves leaves them with no effective defense against violent criminals or a tyrannical government.

Every year, thousands of Americans use firearms to stop violent criminals. One notable example occurred in September, when Oklahoman Mark Vaughan used a rifle to stop a knife-wielding co-worker who had already killed one person and wounded another. Unfortunately, most of the media coverage focused on speculation that the assailant was motivated by “radical Islam” rather than on Vaughan’s use of a firearm to protect innocent lives.

It is no coincidence that states that pass “concealed carry” laws experience a drop in crime. Since passing concealed carry in Texas in 1995, murder in the state has declined by 52 percent. In comparison, the national murder rate declined by only 33 percent.

Perhaps the best illustration of the dangers of gun control is federal regulations forbidding pilots from having guns in their cockpits. Ironically, this rule went into effect shortly before September 11, 2001. If pilots had the ability to carry guns on 9/11, the hijackers may well have been stopped from attacking the World Trade Center and Pentagon or persuaded to not even try.

Shortly after 9/11, I introduced legislation allowing pilots to carry firearms in the cockpits. Congress eventually passed a bill allowing pilots to carry firearms if they obtain federal certification and obey federal regulations. Aside from the philosophical objection that no one should have to ask government permission before exercising a right, the rules and expensive approval process discourage many pilots from participating in the armed pilots program.

It should not be surprising that the anti-gun Obama Administration wants to eliminate the armed pilots program. I actually agree that the program should be eliminated, so long as pilots who can legally carry a firearm in their states of residence can carry a firearm on the planes they fly. Allowing pilots to carry guns is certainly a more effective way of protecting our security than forcing all airline passengers to endure the TSA.

Both gun control and foreign interventionism disregard the wisdom of the country’s founders.

An interventionist foreign policy, like gun control, threatens our safety. A hyper-interventionist foreign policy invites blowback from those who resent our government meddling in their countries while gun control leaves people defenseless against violent criminals. Returning to a foreign policy of peace and free trade and repealing all federal infringements on the Second Amendment will help guarantee both liberty and security.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Once-Peaceful Canada Turns Militaristic; Blowback Follows – Article by Ron Paul

Once-Peaceful Canada Turns Militaristic; Blowback Follows – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
October 30, 2014
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In 1968 the government of Canada decided to openly admit Americans seeking to avoid being drafted into the US war on Vietnam. Before, would-be immigrants were technically required to prove that they had been discharged from US military service. This move made it easier for Americans to escape President Johnson’s war machine by heading north.
***

Although a founding member of NATO, Canada did not join the United States in its war against Vietnam. The Canadian government did not see a conflict 7,000 miles away as vital to Canada’s national interest so Canada pursued its own foreign policy course, independent of the United States.

How the world has changed. Canada’s wise caution about military adventurism even at the height of the Cold War has given way to a Canada of the 21st century literally joined at Washington’s hip and eager to participate in any bombing mission initiated by the D.C. interventionists.

Considering Canada’s peaceful past, the interventionist Canada that has emerged at the end of the Cold War is a genuine disappointment. Who would doubt that today’s Canada would, should a draft be re-instated in the US, send each and every American resister back home to face prison and worse?

As Glenn Greenwald pointed out this past week:

Canada has spent the last 13 years proclaiming itself a nation at war. It actively participated in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and was an enthusiastic partner in some of the most extremist War on Terror abuses perpetrated by the U.S.

Canada has also enthusiastically joined President Obama’s latest war on Iraq and Syria, pledging to send fighter jets to participate in the bombing of ISIS (and likely many civilians in the process).

But Canada’s wars abroad came back home to Canada last week.

Though horrific, it should not be a complete surprise that Canada found itself hit by blowback last week, as two attacks on Canadian soil left two Canadian military members dead.

Greenwald again points out what few dare to say about the attacks:

Regardless of one’s views on the justifiability of Canada’s lengthy military actions, it’s not the slightest bit surprising or difficult to understand why people who identify with those on the other end of Canadian bombs and bullets would decide to attack the military responsible for that violence.

That is the danger of intervention in other people’s wars thousands of miles away. Those at the other end of foreign bombs – and their surviving family members or anyone who sympathizes with them – have great incentive to seek revenge. This feeling should not be that difficult to understand.

Seeking to understand the motivation of a criminal does not mean that the crime is justified, however. We can still condemn and be appalled by the attacks while realizing that we need to understand the causation and motivation. This is common sense in other criminal matters, but it seems to not apply to attacks such as we saw in Canada last week. Few dare to point out the obvious: Canada’s aggressive foreign policy is creating enemies abroad that are making the country more vulnerable to attack rather than safer.

Predictably, the Canadian government is using the attacks to restrict civil liberties and expand the surveillance state. Like the US PATRIOT Act, Canadian legislation that had been previously proposed to give the government more authority to spy on and aggressively interrogate its citizens has been given a shot in the arm by last week’s attacks.

Unfortunately Canada has unlearned the lesson of 1968: staying out of other people’s wars makes a country more safe; following the endless war policy of its southern neighbor opens Canada up to the ugly side of blowback.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

The Police State Needed to Enforce Vice Laws – Article by Bradley Doucet

The Police State Needed to Enforce Vice Laws – Article by Bradley Doucet

The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
June 27, 2014
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What if Canadian governments rigorously enforced all the laws of the land, outrageous price tag and complaints from bleeding-heart civil-rights types be damned? It might be literally impossible economically speaking, with the costs in terms of extra police and prisons approaching and even surpassing 100% of GDP. This is all the more likely given the lost productivity associated with throwing millions of people in jail. But leaving aside the economic calculation, which I have neither the resources nor the expertise to carry out, I want to focus instead on the fact that rigorously enforcing Canadian laws would involve throwing millions of people in jail.
***

Don’t believe me? I have two words for you: drug laws. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 44% of Canadians say they have used marijuana at least once, and hence have broken the law. Next time you’re sitting on a bus, look to your left, then look to your right: On average, one of those two people has at least tried marijuana, assuming only that bus riders are statistically representative of Canadians in the relevant ways. That’s roughly 15 million Canadians who would have done jail time if our laws were perfectly enforced.

Even if we just incarcerate those who have used marijuana in the past year, we’re talking about approximately 1 in 8 Canadians aged 15-64, which means locking up some 3 million people. More, really, because I know there are some aging hippies and recently retired baby boomers over the age of 65 out there who are still toking up.

Of course, this ignores the dynamic effects of massively ramping up enforcement levels. If we really put our money (all of it?) where our mouths are when it comes to drug laws and made a serious effort to arrest every last person who took a pull on a joint before passing it along, there would be some significant decrease in the number of people who smoke marijuana. But this would mean spending a whole lot more money. Even the United States, which spends over $50 billion a year on the drug war, only arrested around 750,000 people in 2012 for marijuana law violations (650,000 of which for mere possession). Given that both countries have similar rates of marijuana use, this means that most of the roughly 25 million Americans aged 15-64 who smoked pot last year got away with it.

But economics aside, if we get really serious about enforcing drug laws, we could say goodbye to anything resembling privacy. The draconian measures required even to approach total compliance with our drug laws would be positively Orwellian: cops on every corner, stopping and frisking passersby that look suspicious (or foreign); road traffic slowing to a crawl thanks to checkpoints at major intersections where you have to show your papers and pee into a cup; random no-knock raids at every third door, during which swat team members may or may not shoot the family dog; warrantless wiretapping of every phone call and email message, carried out by humourless killjoys drunk on their power; cameras in all our bedrooms and bathrooms, watched by perverted busybodies who couldn’t cut it as airport security goons.

Patently impossible, you say. We wouldn’t stand for it, you object. Maybe. But then, why do we stand for selective enforcement, with its unavoidable, inherent injustices? If the police and the courts can’t apply the law equally to all, then officers and prosecutors and judges will apply it at their discretion. Since humans are far from flawless, they will apply it disproportionately, according to conscious or subconscious prejudices. Or they will target gadflies like Marc Emery, whose five-year exile to a US prison is finally coming to an end. Was he extradited and thrown in the slammer for selling marijuana seeds over the Internet, or for criticizing the powers that be a little too loudly and a little too effectively?

The Canadian government’s new bill proposing to outlaw sex work (or rather, to outlaw the buying of sex, but not the selling of sex) would similarly not be enforceable to any significant degree without a massive police state. Arrest every person who visits a prostitute? We’ll need many more cops, much more surveillance, many more courts, and many more prisons. And while prostitutes would not be thrown in jail, arresting all their clients would effectively make it impossible for them to practice their trade. Which of course would be the point, if the law were fully enforced. It won’t be, so again we’ll be left with selective, discretionary enforcement, with the added benefit of making prostitutes’ lives more dangerous while appearing to be doing something.

But this unattractive choice between a police state on the one hand and discriminatory, opportunistic enforcement on the other is a false dichotomy. As my QL colleague Adam Allouba recently wrote in a different context, “a far better solution is to make as little of the human experience subject to legislated rules as possible.” We wouldn’t want to do away with laws against such clearly destructive acts as murder, assault, theft, and fraud. But why exactly can’t we follow the lead of places like the Netherlands when it comes to voluntary exchanges of money for sex or soft drugs?

Our existing and soon-to-be-adopted vice laws rest on the assumption that either buyers (of pot) or sellers (of sex) are victims. Now, the very illegality of the activities in question may indeed increase the incidence of peripheral crimes like gang violence or human trafficking. But by and large, voluntary exchanges themselves do not involve victims—just people who have made choices of which you may disapprove. And the lack of any real victim is precisely what makes vice “crimes” so difficult to prosecute without gargantuan budgets and a blatant disregard for people’s rights. In this day and age, knowing all that we know, we can, and should, do better.

Bradley Doucet is Le Québécois Libre‘s English Editor and the author of the blog Spark This: Musings on Reason, Liberty, and Joy. A writer living in Montreal, he has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also writes for The New Individualist, an Objectivist magazine published by The Atlas Society, and sings.