The Free Market Existentialist: Review and Musings

May 19, 2016 § Leave a comment

When I first joined the libertarian camp through my membership and subsequent candidacy in Trois-Rivières for the Libertarian Party of Canada, I had low expectations as to quality of the philosophical discourse I would be hearing. In terms of political philosophy, I had read mostly classical and post-war liberals (those usual suspects in English, and French anti-totalitarians: Camus, Aron et al), which had a great influence on me. Comforted in what I thought to be a solid position on the ethical justification of the free-market in the wider context of the attainment of a free society, I came to be skeptical of other extremes, on both sides of the spectrum. I despised the left, which held no coherent idea of what freedom really meant and believed in concepts like the social contract and social determinism, which I abhorred. On the other side of the spectrum, the radical right’s economics-based justification of the free-market model, with it’s utilitarian leitmotiv implying that it aught to be adopted because it would work better, seemed just as empty as the left’s constant referencing of the socialistic Scandinavian model as an empirical success to be emulated. To be sure, a lot of the discussion of libertarianism I have encountered through my contact with like-minded folks both inside and outside of the party remains either very technical or heavily reliant on moral facts deemed objective, but I was pleased to have discussions that went far beyond that at times. Metaphysics, ontology, epistemology often came to be mentioned.

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If there was any doubt in my mind left about the depth and breadth of libertarian thinkers, my recent reading of William Irwin’s The Free Market Existentialist: Capitalism Without Consumerism has succeeded in washing it away. In a political environment where many (most?) adepts believe in some kind of objective reality, either through Randian objectivism, or through the moral a priori of natural rights or the non-aggression principle, Irwin confronts the pack by offering a coherent system of belief that ties in the metaphysics of post-modernity with the political ideals of libertarianism. He reconsiders existentialism in a way which rids it’s wrongfully applied stigma of having been shared by the apologist of totalitarianism that was Sartre, drawing on others who have helped shaped the idea before it’s rise to fame, notably Nietzsche. After having rid existentialism of it’s Sartrian burden, he makes a perfectly sound case for the mutual complementarity of existentialism and capitalism, two systems that promote self-ownership and self-determination on the ontological and material fronts, respectively. The book then suggests alternative ways of defining ethics in the metaphysical void which characterises existentialism. I was taken by surprise about the inclusion of a full chapter on evolutionary ethics, a field that I have never even heard of that ties in evolutionary biology with the ethics of human behavior. The book ends with two chapters on property rights and the minimal state, which offers libertarian alternatives to current political organization that are coherent with the metaphysically existentialistic and anti-moral position presented in the previous chapters.

If not for anything else, this book is important because it confronts libertarians with ideas that are widely accepted within our scene, to the point of being taken at face value by most. Perspective is easy to lose in today’s world, an age where content is custom-tailored to us on various social media platforms, inevitably creating what amounts to high-tech echo chambers. Patting each other on the back for accepting the NAP is unlikely to produce productive debate and further advance the philosophical positions within our movement; in that, Irwin’s book is a helpful reminder that knowing the strengths AND weaknesses of the philosophical underpinnings of libertarianism is the best way of comfortable in presenting and debating it.

Of course, the book has several other merits. Amongst which, it looks to be easy enough to read for the casual reader, with a very straightforward presentation of the arguments in favour of the author’s position. Being intimately familiar with the French obsession with footnoted references and comments which are immensely distracting visually, I can appreciate the authors (editors?) choice of placing all references and notes at the end of each chapter, thus making the book easier to read for everybody while still providing an important list of related materials for those who would like to supplement their reading lists.

One of its other strong merits is that it rings many bells in the post-modern mind: metaphysical nihilism which results on near-absolute moral relativism and evolutionary biology are ideas which individuals from all post-war generations, with exception of a few rabid religious fanatics, accept as true to some extent. At the very least, all are familiar with them. Irwin builds on these ideas which are current and resonate with the times, making for a potent book that, for all its use in shaking up existing libertarians, also has what it needs to win over new converts. Its unpretentious style and presentation only helps to make the book more accessible to others who might be in another corner of the political spectrum.

If I were to have one criticism of the book, it would be on Irwin’s dismissal of Richard Joyce’s definition of moral fictionalism as incompatible with existentialistic ethos. While I’d agree that holding beliefs of moral realism which we know to be false is inauthentic, it seems to me that there is another way of imagining fictionalism which would relate to the existentialist ideal of self-definition. Couldn’t moral frameworks, in addition to being inherited through evolution, be shaped by the individual through empirical experience? What I have in mind is something akin to Popperian epistemology applied to morals. Confronted with the impossibility of empirically testing the outcome of every moral position, some things have to be taken as a priori knowledge: this would be evolutionary core morality. The incapability of proving moral objectivity provides the grounds for falsification at all times, and the process of falsifying pre-existing moral positions is done through individual, subjective experience. As such, a person who empirically experiences that lying generally has negative consequences can maintain the fiction that lying is bad, while knowing that there is probably no objective grounds to defend this. Having not read Joyce, there is little doubt that I am going well over what definition he made of fictionalism; maybe it is closer to Olson’s moral conservationism. Either way, Irwin seems to rejet both on the grounds that they too readily separate real life and abstract philosophical pondering, thus making the individual inclined to shed his make-believe morality whenever it would be convenient for him or her. Much like a person cannot easily shed an identity that it has itself construct, I don’t believe that the kind of moral fictionalism I am describing can so easily be shed. Not unlike with science, such fictionalism would promote gradual evolutions in morality, possibly with occasional breakthroughs,  but nothing that would permit jumping and out of moral belief systems at will.

Speaking on Rawls and his Theory of Justice, one of my philosophy teachers told us in that the 20th century had been incredibly stale in terms of innovations in the field of political philosophy, and that environment, Rawls’ Theory of Justice was a beacon of light when it came out. Considering the fact that libertarianism is largely based on ideas that hark back to Locke and Smith, I’d argue that Irwin has the potential to be the libertarian equivalent of Rawls. Nozick rivaled Rawls in terms of his systematic approach to think of justice, but it’s precisely this fact that made him, in my opinion, under-read in libertarian circles: he’s just not a fun read. Much like Rawls, Irwin throws the groundwork for heated debate both within our circles and outside of them, he presents a position which is both unusual and well grounded in literature, and he makes his point in that is accessible and layman-friendly. All of those factors make it, in my opinion, a very important contribution to political science and political philosophy as a whole, and to libertarianism in particular.

You can get Irwin’s book on Amazon, and check out his academic page for more info on his work.

The Libertarian Case for Bernier

May 18, 2016 § Leave a comment

Libertarian discussion groups on Facebook are filled with vitriol, and that’s putting it lightly. Our reputation for infighting precedes us, but I believe that the same thing could be said about ideology-based communities; if the Marxist meme pages I following on social media are any indication, we’re not alone in bickering about doctrinal purity and the criteria for evaluating political actors and their policies.

When Maxime Bernier announced he was running for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC), many underlined his leadership bid as proof of existence of a “libertarian” wing within the conservative party. That, of course, was enough to spark spirited debate on the aforementioned Facebook discussion groups. How can he be a libertarian if he voted for [insert flagrant example of government over-reach instigated by the CPC here]!? It’s a question that’s definitely worth asking, since libertarians put so much emphasis on moral evaluation of  government action, but I don’t think it’s the proper question to ask. The correct one is as following: can Bernier contribute to the libertarian movement writ large? My answer to this is I believe he can.

Full disclosure: I’m a current member of the Libertarian Party of Canada (LPoC) and I have run for them in the riding of Trois-Rivières in Quebec in last October’s election, and if given the chance, I will run again. I’m also a self-identifying minarchist; haters, sue me. Despite this,  I think that Bernier can help us, if not the party, then at least the movement. Bernier is a camera-friendly guy running for a party which can attract said cameras, and he talks the libertarian talk: he’s outspokenly for limited, unobtrusive government, free markets and individual freedoms; heck, I even heard him quote Bastiat at an event recently. In terms of brand recognition, this is what we want.

Literature on political parties classify the latter in several categories, namely office-seeking, vote-seeking and policy-seeking parties. For all intents and purposes, in our institutional arrangement, office-seeking and vote-seeking can more or less be lumped in together. Wide-spread appeal is what those parties attempt to gain in order to capture the most popular votes and / or offices, and resort to what they can to reach that objective. Many times, this can mean throwing moral considerations and founding principals out of the window when the situation requires it; this is how you get such erratic policy choices during electoral campaigns, with “fiscal conservatives” being in favor of meddling in free market operations and a hard leftist party promising balanced budgets in it’s first mandate. Old parties are experts at this kind of machiavelic  road to power, and while they are loathed for it, they have several hundred years worth of seat time in parliament to show for the efficiency of this tactic.

We libertarians are different, or at least aught to be different. We are policy-seekers, in that our policy objective is to reduce government (we’ll settle on this minimalistic platform to avoid bickering). While the power-hungry office seekers from the other party have a stack in discrediting their rivals for the sake of keeping their seats, we have now such incentive; our drive is not to put our asses in seats, but rather affect change in a way that accomplishes our policy goals. Getting into parliament is obviously one way towards this, but we shouldn’t be camped on this option, hence my advocacy for getting libertarian-minded Bernier at the head of the bigger right-wing party.

Another option to make gains is to make our ideas known. If you’ve heard LPoC leader Tim Moen give a public talk just once, you’re probably familiar with his keenness of critical mass theory, in which the winning over of a part of the population on certain ideas sets off a chain reaction which propulses those ideas into the mainstream. It’s a nice theory, not just because of it’s suggestion that we can get libertarianism into the mainstream, but also because it implies that we have to do it the “proper” way: winning hearts and minds in sufficient numbers, and not debasing ourselves to adopting whatever the electorate approves of that day to then stuff it down the throats of the public with professional spinsters.

Spinsters aside however, we still need to get the message out there, and this is exactly what Bernier can do for use. His uttering of  libertarianism can only do good. If he’s wrong in his interpretation of it, we’ll be there to set him straight; if he’s right, the party can still ride on the idea that we are the only ones that can claim to have clean hands. Either way, people will be googling “libertarianism in canada”, and last time I checked, the LPoC is the first result of that search. Maybe the keyboard warriors will even unite under the threat of this statist usurper of our ideas; wishful thinking.

Best case scenario, Bernier wins the CPC leadership, gets elected after a disastrous run by Trudeau’s liberals, and actually implements change. Ancap purists, I’m not talking about totally abolishing government within the first 100 days. I’ll applaud any measure to limit government intrusion, heck, I’d gladly take mesures which decentralize power to the provinces, because it’s a step in the right direct. Worst case scenario, he gives the libertarian brand more recognition, which would be welcome in a country where “libertarian” is too often mistaken or misheard as “libertine”.

I’m banking on the fact that Bernier is and always has been a libertarian, despite the fact that he has had to tow the CPC party line for a while to get to where he is. That’s the nature of the beast when it comes to large parties. I can’t be certain of my assessment, because I don’t know the guy personally. But that won’t keep me from getting a membership with the CPC to vote for him, and I think if you’re liberty minded, you should too.

Maybe in the next elections Canada will be feeling the Bern-ier. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

*The views are my own and obviously not those of the party. In any case, please do check out the Libertarian Party and considering contributing.

Le projet de loi 100 anti-Uber, point par point

May 13, 2016 § Leave a comment

Le chat est sorti du sac: après plusieurs mois d’inactions, le ministre des transports a enfin déposé à l’assemblée nationale un projet de loi pour clarifier le statut légal des services de transports comme Uber. Sans grande surprise, le projet de loi réitère “l’ancien régime” de transport par taxi réglementé par le fédéral, rendant ainsi des services alternatifs comme Über formellement illégal. Par contre, le projet accompli beaucoup plus que de simplement renforcer le régime en place: il arroge au gouvernement plusieurs autres pouvoirs en matière de transport par taxi, en modifiant certains structures en place et en instaurant d’autre. Voici donc un résumé des points saillants du projet de loi dans sa forme actuelle, avec chaque article ou alinéa pertinent  cité et commenté.

Sauf sur avis contraire, toutes les modifications affectent la Loi concernant les services de transport par taxi tel que publié sur internet en date d’aujourd’hui.  Bien que le projet de loi modifie aussi le Code de la sécurité routière et la Loi sur le ministère des transports, et d’autres lois, les changements apportés dans ceux-ci ne font qu’appuyer les dispositions de la première loi modifiée.

Article 1, Alinea 2:

2° par l’insertion, après « services offerts » de « , d’assurer une gestion de l’offre de services de transport par taxi qui tient compte des besoins de la population ».

Cette modification sur un article de préambule de la loi montre l’intention du gouvernement de continuer d’oeuvre comme seul acteur capable de determiner l’offre de transport. Rappelons que le système de gestion de l’offre sous forme de permis est ce qui a causé la présence d’Über en premier lieu.

Article 2:

L’article 2 fait des modifications massives au définitions légales de ce que comporte le transport, le covoiturage, et autres items pertinents. Nous allons l’analyser en plusieurs segments.

« 2° « intermédiaire en services de transport par taxi », toute personne qui fournit, par tout moyen, à des titulaires d’un permis de propriétaire de taxi ou à des titulaires d’un permis de chauffeur de taxi des services de publicité, de répartition de demandes de services de transport par taxi ou d’autres services de même nature;

Modifiant la même loi existante, on fait l’effort d’étendre la couverture de la définition existante d’un intermédiaire en services de transport par taxi pour, probablement pour mieux pouvoir inclure Über ou d’autres services alternatifs.

« 3° « services de transport par taxi », tout service de transport rémunéré de personnes par automobile, à l’exception des suivants:

La définition formelle de taxi est ajoutée à la loi. Sinon que préambule, il n’y a aucune allusion à une tel définition formelle dans la forme actuelle de la loi. Les exemptions qui étaient autrefois présentes à l’article 3 de cette même loi sont maintenant énumérés à même l’article 2.

a) le covoiturage effectué sur une partie ou l’ensemble d’un même parcours, à la condition que :

i. l’automobile utilisée soit un véhicule de promenade au sens de l’article 4 du Code de la sécurité routière (chapitre C-24.2);

ii. le conducteur décide de la destination finale et que la prise de passagers à bord soit accessoire à la raison pour laquelle il se déplace;

iii. le transport soit offert moyennant une contribution financière qui se limite, quel que soit le nombre de personnes à bord de l’automobile, aux frais d’utilisation de celle-ci et dont le montant total n’excède pas celui de l’indemnité accordée à un employé d’un ministère ou d’un organisme dont le personnel est nommé suivant la Loi sur la fonction publique (chapitre F-3.1.1) pour l’utilisation de son véhicule personnel;

Le dossier du covoiturage en est un qui a certes eu moins de publicité que les déboires de Über, mais qui est connexe et tout à fait important, puisqu’il constitute aussi du “transport illégal” au Québec. Les barèmes sont maintenants fixés: l’intention du conducteur et la rémunération sont les critères qui identifient la légalité ou non du covoiturage. Cette définition laisse encore trop de place aux abus de zèle de la part des policiers: l’intention est sujette à interpretation, et la limite des contributions sous-entends encore que de faire un peu d’argent pour services rendus est inacceptable. Les couts d’opération d’un véhicule pourraient être fortement débattus, et je ne me surprendrais pas de voir des défenses être faites sur les bases des coûts totaux d’opération engendrés par les chauffeurs. Un seuil absolu de contributions est aussi établi au même niveau que les indemnités pour utilisation de véhicules personnels accordés au fonctionnaires,  comme si les couts d’opération étaient uniformes.

Article 5, Alinea 2

3° par l’ajout, à la fin, de l’alinéa suivant :

« Malgré le premier alinéa, lorsque l’automobile servant au transport par taxi est mue entièrement au moyen de l’énergie électrique, la Commission des transports du Québec peut autoriser le titulaire du permis de propriétaire de taxi à posséder le nombre d’automobiles supplémentaires mues entièrement au moyen de l’énergie électrique qu’elle détermine pour s’assurer que le titulaire du permis puisse continuer d’offrir des services pendant le temps de la recharge. ».

M. Taillefer a manifestement une excellente équipe de lobbyiste. Téo pourra avoir un nombre plus grand de voitures immatriculées T que ce que ne lui permet le nombre de permis de taxi en sa possession, dans l’objectif de faire une rotation en période de charge. À noter que le soin de determiner la taille de la flotte de reserve est entièrement à la discretion de l’exploitant. Je ne voudrais pas attribuer à Téo l’intention d’abuser de leur capacité de reserve, mais il faut au moins constater que le potentiel d’abus y est.

Article 6

«5.1. Le gouvernement détermine le nombre d’agglomérations et le territoire de chacune d’elles. Le ministre rend publique cette décision sur le site Internet de son ministère.»

Ici, une addition est fait pour rendre formel le contrôle du ministère des transports sur le nombre de permis. Le contrôle effectif n’a pas changé, puisque les nombres de permis pouvant êtres attribués par la Commission des transports du Québec (CTQ) était déjà une prérogative ministérielle. À noter que l’article suivant donne aussi la prérogative au ministère de determiner ce que constitue une agglomeration, ce qui est actuellement une tâche de la CTQ. Cherche-t’on d’autres structures à abolir?

Article 8

«6.1. Un titulaire de permis de propriétaire de taxi peut offrir de transporter plusieurs personnes ayant demandé séparément une course vers une même destination ou vers plusieurs destinations à l’intérieur du même parcours, à la condition que cette course soit demandée par un moyen technologique permettant à chaque client d’accepter à l’avance le partage des frais de la course. ».

Premier référant plus explicite à des modes alternatifs de contractualiser les transports. L’imaginaire de nos législateur n’est pas totalement desséchée, puisqu’à ma connaissance, un tel système n’a pas encore été mis en oeuvre pas aucun des nouveau joueurs.

Article 10

« 10.1. Le gouvernement peut, pour chaque agglomération qu’il indique, fixer le nombre maximal de permis de propriétaire de taxi pouvant être délivrés par la Commission selon, le cas échéant, les catégories de services qu’il identifie et les conditions qu’il détermine. ».

Encore ici, la CTQ se voit confisquer une prérogative: c’est maintenant le gouvernement qui émettra par décret le nombre de permis approprié. D’autres amendements aux articles 9 et 11 complète cette modification.

Article 15

15. L’article 50 de cette loi est modifié par le remplacement de « d’appels » par « de demandes de services de transport par taxi ».

Autre modification mineur pour plus facilement inclure les services décentralisés à la Über. À noter que l’article 34 de la loi rendais déjà illégal le fait de faire du “dispatch” sans un permis approprié; elle a aussi été modifiée pour que sont interpretation puisse être plus large.

Article 19

[…]

«Le prix d’une course peut également différer des tarifs établis par la Commission, selon le moyen technologique utilisé pour effectuer la demande de service de transport par taxi, dans la mesure et aux conditions prévues par règlement du gouvernement. ».

Le but de cette disposition n’est pas claire. Un client pourra-t’il profiter de meilleurs tarifs si il utiliser une application pour commander son taxi, et inversement, cette disposition ouvre-t’elle la porte à une surcharge pour les appels au “dispatchs” téléphoniques? Pourquoi accorder à certains joueurs l’avantage de pouvoir baisser leur prix en augmentant l’efficacité avec de l’innovation quand Über s’est fait reprocher de faire justement cela? Ici encore, cette exception semble faite spécifiquement pour Téo.

Article 25

«71.1. Un agent de la paix ou un employé autorisé à cette fin par une autorité municipale ou supramunicipale chargée de l’application de la présente loi qui a des motifs raisonnables de croire qu’une personne contrevient au paragraphe 2° de l’article 117 suspend sur-le-champ, au nom de la Société, et pour une période de sept jours, le permis délivré à cette personne en vertu de l’article 61 du Code de la sécurité routière (chapitre C-24.2) l’autorisant à conduire une automobile.

Lorsque la personne n’est pas titulaire d’un permis l’autorisant à conduire une automobile ou est titulaire d’un permis délivré par une autre autorité administrative, l’agent de la paix ou l’employé autorisé suspend sur-le-champ, au nom de la Société et pour une période de sept jours, le droit de cette personne d’obtenir un permis d’apprenti-conducteur, un permis probatoire ou un permis de conduire.

Les menaces de Daoust s’avèrent vraies: des permis seront suspendus sur-le-champ pour les contrevenants. Si la loi actuelle permettait déjà une saisi du véhicule, mesure que les divers corps de police municipaux ont eu recours à outrance, ce sera maintenant le véhicule ET le permis qui sera confisqué. À noter que ces dispositions s’applique aussi au covoiturage, puisque que ce dernier rentre dans les définition d’un infraction à la loi à l’article 117.

Article 31, alinéa 5

«2.2° fixer, pour toute période qu’il détermine, des droits annuels additionnels pour l’obtention, le maintien ou le renouvellement des permis de propriétaire de taxi qu’il indique, dont le montant peut varier en fonction de chaque agglomération, des catégories de services identifiées et des conditions déterminées en vertu du paragraphe 1.1° ou du nombre de permis détenus par un même titulaire;

Si la loi actuelle fait allusion a des droits annuels, elle ne mentionne pas que le nombre de permis détenus par un même titulaire pourrait être un facteur determinant sur les frais que le dit détenteur doit assumer sur ses permis. Je pense immédiatement à un rabais qui pourrait avantager les gros joueurs, et entrainer une consolidation dans un marché où il y a déjà très peu de compétition. Encore ici, Téo est probablement un des gros joueurs qui pourraient être visé par cette disposition.

Articles 37 & 38

« 117. Commet une infraction et est passible d’une amende de 2 500 $ à 25 000 $, s’il s’agit d’une personne physique, et de 5 000 $ à 50 000 $, dans les autres cas, quiconque : 1° offre un service de transport par taxi sans être titulaire d’un permis de propriétaire de taxi;

[…]

Les amendes actuellement prévues à l’article 117 sont de 350$ à 1050$. Il va sans dire que l’augmentation est substantielle, et vise carrément à utiliser le bâton pour punir les Über de ce monde. L’article 38 du projet de loi modifie aussi les amendes pour les entreprises offrant des services de publicité et de répartition.

Conclusion

Le projet de loi en tant que tel ne rends pas Über illégal, puisque selon les lois en vigeur, les services offerts pouvaient déjà être considérés illégaux. Ce qu’accompli le projet de loi est l’ajustement sémantique de plusieurs définitions pour mieux pouvoir dénoncer les services de transport alternatifs susceptibles de ne pas se plier à la legislation existante sur les taxis, en plus de grandement augmenter les amendes  pour les infractions qui constituent du transport illégal et d’introduire la suspensions de permis en cas d’infraction. Ces dispositions rendent impossible pour Über la continuité de leurs opérations en sol Québecois. Du même coup, le gouvernement s’arroge aussi de nouveau pouvoir sur la determination du nombre de permis de taxis, et introduit des mesures qui pourrait favoriser certains joueurs comme Téo.

C’est la même vielle recette: au échecs du gouvernement, plus de gouvernement; face à l’innovation, une réaction violente des acteurs qui profitent du statu quo. Si le projet de loi passe dans sa forme actuelle, le Québec envoi un très mauvais message aux entrepreneurs et innovateurs: our way or the highway, ou dans les mots du ministre, “chez nous, ca va se passer comme ca“.

Note à Legault : La CAQ aliène son publique cible

May 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

Aux dernières élections provinciales, j’ai voté pour la CAQ pour protester les deux autres partis. Le nationalisme québécois dans sa forme institutionnalisée chez les grands partis me puent au nez, avec leur culture d’État dictée à coup de loi 101. De plus, je suis de droite, la vraie droite, pas celle des boomers qui veulent garder le beurre et l’argent du beurre; je veut, au pire, la réingénierie de l’État promise par Charest à son premier mandat, au mieux, une réduction substantielle de la taille de celle-ci, pour le plus grand bien de tous. La CAQ, n’est-ce pas l’ADQ sous un autre nom? Face aux politiciens véreux du Parti Libéral du Québec et aux lubies nationalistes et socialistes du Parti Québecois, voter pour la CAQ me semblais être la moins pire de plusieurs mauvaises décisions. Aujourd’hui, j’ai déchanter.

Pensons stratégie politique, avant que je n’embarque dans mes doléances face à la CAQ. Qui est le publique cible de la CAQ? Les gens de mauvaise foi diront : la droite jambon. Les écouteux de radio poubelle de Québec, et les réactionnaires de fonds de région, les roteux de baloney qui vénèrent la reine et les rocheuses. Décodé, on comprends que ce publique cible inclus deux genres de personnes : les fédéralistes qui ne sont pas libéraux, et les gens de droite qui ne sont pas des nationalistes de l’école Bouchard. Dans ses efforts en 2014, le nationalisme opportuniste de l’ADQ a été rayé du programme, et la campagne semblait, à mes yeux du moins, clairement viser les fédéralistes.

La logique la plus élémentaire veut que si la CAQ veut conserver sa base, elle devra continuer d’appuyer des politiques qui sont plus ou moins en ligne avec ce que son publique cible tend généralement à appuyer. Or, depuis le virage nationaliste de la CAQ en novembre dernier, c’est comme si François Legault faisait tout en son pouvoir pour s’éloigner de celle-ci; sur ses deux principaux axes de politique, la CAQ ressemble de plus en plus à un parti attrape-tout qui a comme proie les électeurs mous des deux grands partis et les gens qui ont un fetish bizarre pour les partis avec des logos typographiques.

En tant que fédéraliste de droite, je suis maintenant orphelin au provincial. Ça, je peut m’y habiter. Ce qui fait mal, ce que la famille adoptive que j’avais choisi, pensant bien faire, ne m’a pas seulement abandonnée, elle l’a fait avec un coup de pieds au cul et un crachat au visage. Le coup de pieds au cul, c’est le nationalisme renoué de Legault qui semble l’avoir imposé au parti. Le crachat, c’est son utilisation de ce nouveau nationalisme sur des enjeux qui déclenchent des soupirs et des roulement de yeux à profusion dans les cercles de droite.

Accusant Marois de chercher la chicane, Legault a prétendu pendant la dernière campagne que le souveraineté n’était PAS un enjeux pour la majorité des Québécois,  et à recentrer le débat sur des chose comme l’économie et la dette, à la grande joie de gens qui sont de l’avis que le modèle Québécois est a revoir. Face au nationalisme soft des Libéraux et à la version plus hard des Péquistes, les fédéralistes étaient conquis. Il est évident que l’argument de la nature urgente de l’état des finances publiques a aussi eu une forte influence sur les gens s’identifiant à droite. Abolir les CEGEPs? Balancer un budget, ou, Dieu nous aide, plusieurs!? Sign me up! Enfin, une alternative à l’establishment bipartisan! Quelques temps plus tard, on sorts des boules à mites le bon vieux dossier bien usé de la situation du Québec dans la fédération, et on nous explique comment le statut national est toujours un enjeux. On prends bien soins de couronner la nouvelle d’une nouveau logo bleu avec une fleur de lys, parce que NATION. Preuve qu’on peut sorter le gars du PQ, mais qu’on ne peut pas sortir le PQ du gars. Ça, c’était le coup de pied.

La phase du crachat en fait, n’est toujours pas fini. Depuis qu’il est un born-again nationaliste, Legault a fait du protectionnisme économique son cheval de bataille, déplorant la prise de contrôle par des entités étrangères de nos marchands de rêve, de marteaux, de poulet, et plus récemment de slush. À l’écouter, la Caisse de Dépôts serait actionnaire majoritaire de tout ce qui fonctionne au Québec. Le message aux investisseurs est claires: si vous réussissez ici, pas question de vous laisser partir avec les fruits de votre labeur. Drôle de message venant d’un monsieur qui n’a visiblement pas eux trop de problèmes à vendre pour 10 millions de dollars de part d’Air Transat avant son entrée en politique. A t’il demandé la permissions au gouvernement du temps? Qu’importe vraiment, puisque selon sa logique, la vente était tout à fait légitime compte tenu du fait qu’elle laissait l’entreprise aux mains de deux bon petits Canadiens-français qui ont un code postal à la bonne place.

Dans son nationalisme économique crasse, il me semble que Legault fait appel au Donald Trump en lui. Replacé le China Trumpéen par les Ontariens, ou pire, les Américains, et le discours économique est le même. Québec doesn’t win anymore! Make Québec Inc great again! Build a wall, make Ontario pay for it! Un discours qui résonne certainement avec les vieux boomers racistes qui déplorent que leurs outils bon-marchés sont maintenant fabriqués dans des “pays de races”, mais qui n’a aucun remords à acheter ses meubles en carton chez Walmart aux détriments des entreprises d’ici. Le même vieux sec qui veut payer moins d’impôt sur ses rentes et sa pension d’Hydro-Québec pour pouvoir repayer plus vite son nouveau bateau. Des étranges qui achètent NOTRE ROTISSEUR NATIONAL? Odieux. Bien entendu, pas question de remplacer le bateau par des parts de St-Hubert.

Pourtant la réponse de droite, celle qui aurait fait plaisir à la base idéologique sur les deux axes, était si simple. Pas content de l’acquisition de nos entreprises par d’autres? Faites un appel à votre courtier et achetez des actions. Mieux, organisez-vous avec d’autres pairs dégoutés par l’idée d’un quart-cuisse préparés par des anglos mal-lavés, et faites une contre-offre à ce qu’offre Cara. Vous savez ce qui vous aiderais dans le processus? Payer moins pour des béhémoths gouvernementaux comme la Caisse de Dépôts et de Placement qui croient savoir mieux gérer votre argent que vous. Un chef de la CAQ qui se lève en chambre pour rabrouer le nationalisme économique virulent de Pierre-Karl Péladeau (RIP), et qui du coup même aurais sommé le gouvernement d’arrêter de saigner à blanc les Québécois et de leur redonner leur agence économique; on en aurait parlé pendant des semaines. Quel courage! Quel vent de fraicheur!

C’était trop beau pour être vrai. Premièrement, parce que Legault est le bon vieux nationalistes qu’il a toujours été. Mais aussi parce que ce scénario présume que le Québécois moyen a un courtier, ou des placements. Cela fait bon nombre d’année que le citoyen moyen à été réduit à son statut de payeur de taxes et de consommateur, que l’on contrôle à coups de taxes et d’incitatifs selon ce que dicte la nécessité du “bien commun”, cet objectif illusoire qui existe dans le même espace-temps que le “choix de société” et le “contrat social”, choses dont raffolent tant nos politiciens.

La CAQ pour moi, c’est fini. Parions que plusieurs de gens comme moi, si peu nombreux soit-ils, auront le même reflex. Reste a voir si l’autre parti de mangeurs d’enfant à droite du centre saura se servir de cette dérape monumentale du parti de Legault pour finalement rentrer quelqu’un à l’Assemblée.

OS X Screen Lock Keyboard Shortcuts with Non-Apple Keyboard

April 26, 2016 § Leave a comment

For 3 years now, I have been using a base mid-2013 Haswell-powered Macbook Air as my primary machine. At the time, I was just entering university, and I sold my all-custom, high-dollar gaming rig to keep myself away from gaming, and in the hopes of stopping my excessive hardware-buying habit. That failed miserably, and I now run about 20Us of server gear to do what my Macbook Air cannot do. Regardless, I am still enjoying my Macbook as a “single pane of glass”-ish interface for all my computing needs: whether I’m on the go or at my desk, my desktop remains the same. Microsoft has notably been wanting to get customers to sync their systems through clouds services with recent additions to Windows, but in my limited experience, it just doesn’t work too well.

My use-case means that most of the time, I’m using my computer at a desk, with an external monitor, keyboard, and trackpad. While this is great in terms of ergonomics and productivity, it also means that normal keyboard shortcuts available on the Apple keyboard are not available, because my laptop is always tucked away with the cover closed. My setup is comprised the Air, a Belkin Thunderbolt dock, a Filco Majestouch Minila Air bluetooth mechanical keyboard, a 24 inch Samsung monitor, and an Apple Magic Trackpad.

Photo-2016-04-26-14-59-48_1477

For safety, energy savings and distraction avoidance, I like to periodically put my monitors to sleep while working on something else at my desk, or when leaving it. The built-in Windows shortcut Win+L is something I used a lot on Windows for that very reason. OS X has a similar, very well documented keyboard shortcut CMD+SHIFT+EJECT or CMD+SHIFT+POWER depending on what kind of Mac and keyboard you are using which does exactly the same thing. Achieving this shortcut on a non-Apple keyboard requires a bit of a work-around.

If you’re familiar with Windows, you’d be tempted to make a batch script that puts the displays to sleep through a command line, make a shortcut of that batch script somewhere, then assign a keyboard short to that said shortcut. This cannot be done in OS X. The process instead has two steps:

  1. Creating a “service” that exists in the background for the sole purpose of running our commands when it is invoked.
  2. Creating the actual keyboard shortcut.

The first part is done with through Automator. Launch the application, selection New Document when prompted, then  select Service as the type of document. This will bring you to the interface where we will insert the task to be executed. In our this, this is a simple terminal command, so add the Utilities > Run Shell Script action, and get your service looking something like this.

automator

Be careful to set the Service receives setting to no input. I’ve checked the Ignore this action’s input because there really shouldn’t be any interaction with the service, either on input or output; once it’s called upon, we want this action to execute and nothing else. Save it with an appropriate name, and that’s all that has to be done in Automator.

The next step is to go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts. What we want here is a shortcut to a service, so the obvious option is to select Services on the right of the window. Your new service will be found at the very bottom of the list of services, under General. From here, uncheck the service if it is checked, then click to the right of the service where you should have a subdued None. Enter your keyboard combo, and the service should be checked once it is set. I chose CTRL+CMD+SHIFT+S, since it is unlikely to be activated by mistake, used by another application, and relatively easily activate with a single hand.

shortcut

That’s it. As soon as it is activated in the System Preferences, your shortcut is active.

The command we’ve entered in our service puts the monitor to sleep, but this action is still considered by the system as a more  general “sleep” state. This means that you can control password prompting from the usual spot in System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General with the Require password option. Personally, I ask for password every time, because I’m really only using this new shortcut when I’m away from the machine. It takes a few more seconds to log in on wakeup, but I just write that off as an additional way of a distraction elimination; I’ll be much less tempted to aimlessly browse Facebook if there is a barrier to browsing in the form of a password prompt.

There is one caveat, being that some applications seem to catch keyboard interrupts without relaying them to OS X, hence blocking certain keyboard actions. In my case, having Chrome as an open app in the foreground prevents the shortcut from executing. I have not been able to find another app in which this is a problem; all the Apple preloaded software does not seem to be affected by this. CMD-TAB’ing out of whatever it is you’re using to Finder in order to run the shortcut is not too much a hassle, so I’m still pretty satisfied.

Automator is pretty powerful; as somewhat of a former Windows power user, I’m kind of surprised that I didn’t get around to scripting with it. Calendar alarms provide very cron-like functionality, but things like folder workflows can potentially make file sorting and repetitive manipulation tasks much easier. The interface is much more friendly than hand-crafting commands in a traditional shell script for the average mortal. Cool stuff.

On Electoral Reform

September 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

Version française à venir!

In the halls of the Social Sciences faculties like the one that I am just coming out of, there is lots of recurrent criticisms about the current state of democracy world-wide. Freshly imbued with the theory of how democracy should work, it is all so easy to pick out the shortcomings in its practical incarnations. Talk of a ‘democratic deficit’ is frequent, and if those students whom I have interacted with are generally very disillusioned with politics in general, their training and possibly remaining slivers of hope leads many to propose certain fixes to the problems of democracy.

One of the common irritants which warrants the invocation of ‘democratic deficit’ in Canada is our voting system. The country uses a system which is called uninominal majority voting, or more colloquially first-past-the-post, in which candidates are elected on the basis of a single round of voting wherein electors have a single vote with no possibility of somehow expressing preference; whichever candidate has the most votes in that riding wins. This creates distortions in representativity, because the relation between actual percentage of the national vote for a party and the number of seats it wins is most often completely disproportional. In certain cases, because of voter distribution and varying margins of victory in different ridings, a government can actually come to form a majority government by virtue of winning a majority of seats (and hence have total control over the legislative and executive branches of government) despite NOT having received a majority in nominal votes. This was the case in the 2011 elections, where Mr Harper’s Conservative Party assumed total domination of Parliament with just shy of 38% of nominal voter support, a number which shrinks drastically if we consider the fact that the voting population is MUCH smaller than the actual population. All said and done, a tiny minority of this country’s population has given absolute political control to the conservatives last elections. For everybody else, their ballot might as well have been spoiled.

At the Libertarian Party of Canada, we believe that individuals are the true proprietors of sovereignty, a sovereignty which need not be recognized by government because it is justified by natural rights. We believe that individuals should be free and bound only by what agreements they have freely agreed to with other parties, be they organizations or individuals. From these axioms, it isn’t hard to derive our position on the legitimacy of government in its current form. Ultimately, we’d like as little government as possible (some might even call for… wait for it… no government!), but if any form of representative government is necessary, then its only source of legitimacy can only be whatever bleak reflection of TRUE sovereignty it can garner; in a democracy, this legitimacy would come from a composition of government  that  is representative of the individuals in who’s name it devises policy. We’re a long way from there.

The fix is obvious: change the way we elect our governments. It’s a solution that inevitably comes up when invoking the problem, and one that makes sense: if  you want a government that represents its citizen, then the way politicians are put into power must integrate some sort of the proportionality. Proportional representation is seen as a long-awaited change favoured by everybody except the big three parties. But the implementation of such a scheme is easier said than done: once political will to carry on with this is secured (good luck with that), we need to make sure that the reform respects a series of requirements. Here are those which I can think of:

  1. Before we even start thinking of a new way of tallying votes, we as Canadians need to define our  ideal of democracy and government, and keep those ideals in mind while proposing solutions. We need to ask serious questions that go beyond the vote: is democracy the sum of its parts, and if not what is it? What are the true origins of political power? Piece-meal solutions to institutional problems applied over time is what led us to the arrangement of government we have now; fixing the vote piece-meal is not going to help in the long term. A holistic model of how voting fits in with our idea of democracy is absolutely necessary if we can voting to be more than choosing masters every 4 years.
  2. Reform must take into consideration the nature of political culture in our country. The most evident part of this is arguably a heavy tendency to vote tactically: do we want to kill this off? Can we? If not, how can we concile our old habits with a new way of voting? Here again, the holistic ideal of politics mentioned in the previous points can help with decision-making: do we cater to old patterns, or do we let individuals do the most with a new system they don’t know? This is just as true as citizen as it is for politicians: our collective disdain for political coalitions will inevitably need to disappear if we want functional government with proportional representation and a true plurality of political actors.
  3. Reform must take into  account the nature of our political structure, being that we are a plurinational federal state with several federated entities thirsty for more control over their political future. Quebec obviously is one of those, native peoples are the other big group, but regardless of these particular cases, it should be obvious to any Canadian that our country has great disparity in worldview, socio-economic standing and political culture between its regions. Choosing a way of running elections which would go against regional representation is a huge danger: models like national lists could potentially elect governments centered around a certain region, taking away the representation of regions who deserve it.
  4. Reform must take into account the nature of our existing institutional arrangements within the federal government and of governments below it. As I have mentioned in the introduction, the Senate has not yet been fixed, despite promises of reform. Traditionally, senates in many political systems have been either a check on parliament, or an entity which somehow represented the population by other means than what is used to form the House of Commons. Supposing we were also to reform the Senate, what place would it take alongside the House? What if it isn’t reformed? Upsetting the status quo of government could possibly inspire Senators to yield the power they have in the books but never exercise; we need to think about what that would mean for our democracy.

So what is the best way of implementing reform? To be honest, I don’t know. As will be shortly revealed on Fairvote.ca, the Libertarian Party of Canada unofficially promotes a system of Single Transferrable Vote (SVT), wherein voters can create an ordered list of candidates in a district with many seats. Counting is complicated, but the end result is a district representation more or less accurately the preferences of voters within it. While the idea is great and has important backing in academic circles, there are caveats. Namely, in a country where most Northern ridings are bigger than most European countries, pooling ridings in order to get electoral districts seems impractical for potential representatives and very harmful for regional representation. What are we to do with territories that only have one riding? Diluting their representation in the federation is unacceptable. The easy fix to that is to add members of Parliament, but most would agree that having more politicians is hardly a good idea. Stephan Dion’s P3 model proposes a similar system without answering the question of regional representation, and  coupled with larger voting districts which invites to big party voting, sets a vote threshold which is detrimental to small parties and serves only to solidify the big 3 parties’ grip on the country.

The Jenkins model could probably work best, with top-up candidates having the potential to become a reservoir for interesting independent and small-party candidates, while not growing the size of ridings to unmanageable sizes if the number of top-up candidates is kept at an acceptable level. The Law Commission of Canada’s Mixed Member Proportionality (MMP) is not very different to Jenkins,  with the primary difference being the retention of first-past-the-post voting we are already familiar with. I see these models as a system where you can vote with your head for your local MP, and vote with your heart for the party who’s ideas really reflect what you want. Impact on regions is still present, but somewhat mitigated. While not truly proportional, this system leaves a crack open for other political options, albeit only if political culture internalizes this possibility.

Karl Popper in Open Society and  its Enemies, said that all problems of politics are ultimately problems of institutions, and that the road to more free society is ultimately the institutional control of power. A pure libertarian perspective on this is that there should be no central power (read: government), and hence no need for institutional controls on it. However, I believe that in our setting where ridding ourselves of the state is impossible on the short term, institutionalized controls of these powers are in fact the best option we have to put a check on the growing beast of government. Re-engineering our democracy to better control who is in parliament is one small step towards freeing ourselves from the grasp of government, and with the help of a populace rekindle with the ideas of freedom and personal responsibility, I hope we can one day live in a world where government is small, people are free, and society is prosperous and peaceful.

The Ala Buzreba Case: What Future for Millennial Politicians?

August 21, 2015 § Leave a comment

Another election campaign, another scandal involving young candidates. In the last provincial campagne in Quebec just barely over a year ago, a candidate for the Coalition Avenir Quebec was publicly shamed for pictures posted on Facebook which showed him nude, but which were PG-13 by anyone’s standards. In the 2011 federal elections, paper candidates who sailed on party’s popularity made a brutal entry in politics; journalists and pundits had a field day going through their social media, trying to spark whatever controversy they could. This time, more than a month from the elections, it’s a young LPC candidate that is targeted over tweets she posted at age 16. It’s about time we talked about having digital natives running for office entails, because the phenomenon isn’t about to stop.

Kids say they darnest things; when they’re kids, we just tacitly accept this as a fact, knowing full well that the social pressures in favour of political correctness takes some time. Growing up is a process: life experience shows us what can and can not be said in certain settings, and those darnest thoughts become repressed, but not absent. Thankfully! I’m not psychologist, but I can hardly see how ruminating on thoughts, challenging them through experience, reasoning and debate with peers  can be anything other than good for personal development.

Sometimes, those thoughts seep out. It’s one of the pivotal moments where thoughts are challenged in the open with other human beings, a test which can reinforce or alter pre-existing thoughts and opinions. For the boomers, most of the time it seeped in the classroom or with relatives. In the case where this through was considered unconventional or undesirable, it was met with anything from a serious talk to a good spanking to fingers getting snapped by the teacher’s yardstick. I’m just guessing this was the case of course, not having been there to verify, but the hundreds of stories revolving around bodily punishment told to me by older relatives make for an impressive collection of anecdotal evidence. Millennials, for whom being a teenager also coincided with the rise of Web 2.0, had another place to voice their ideas and be exposed to reactions from their peers: the internet. An internet which never forgets, and with the advent of big data, knows pretty much anything there is to know about anybody. An internet which also encourages sharing thoughts, in one way through the means it deploys to make it possible (removing ‘barriers of entry’ to expression), and through the social pressures that ubiquitous use presents. Social media became second nature, a visible tip to the iceberg of through processes which don’t always comply with political correctness.

As Jaime Weinman from Macleans so intelligently puts it, holding someone to something they’ve said years ago is essentially denying them the right to change opinions, which really makes no sense. Add to that you’re holding someone responsible for what is essentially short bursts of teen angst, make so easily broadcast-able by internet social media, and it’s just plain ridiculous.

Politically, continuing this tradition of hawking on the young hopefuls of institutionalized politics by scrutinizing their social media can only yield bad things. If everybody with questionnable social media posts is automatically disqualified from running for office, then the only people left on the ticket will be incumbent gerontocrats who never had social media in the first place and those young people who are good enough at self-censorship to weasel their way out of being accountable for their past mistakes. Tacitly choosing politicians which SEEM to be spotless by shunning those who were essentially too transparent at certain parts of their lives is basically the equivalent of favouring secrecy, blandness and/or hypocrisy.  In a world were everyone distrusts politicians, is this really what we are looking for? Would you rather a liar with an immaculate facade, or a human being who’s traits, flaws and life experience shows through, for better or worst? Elections are already popularity contests in which the name of the game is marketing and strategy much more than substance; lets not make it worst by allowing only those who have social media consultants to be successful.

Ala Buzreba is stuck in the perfect storm. When I was sixteen, I probably called Youtube commenters horrible things, but since it was most likely stuff about video games or computers, nobody gives a shit. She commented on two of the most sensitive subjects, untouchables to the PC crowd: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and homosexuals. Instant media crucifixion. Dealing with the media attention must be difficult to a level which I can’t even grasp, but I wish she had stood up. I wish she would have explained herself as she did, but written it off, to break this idea that what you said offhand or with a hot head at 16 invalidates you from running for office for life. I also wish she would have told those journalists just how disgusted we all are of them going for such low hanging fruit, contributing to the widespread political cynicism. Even thought I think her party and her leader is part of Canada’s political culture problem, I wish she had stayed on the ticket, because she deserves her chance.

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