Saturday, December 22, 2012


From The Editor:

The good Lady had just returned to the Manor, having enjoyed what she termed a spectacular Christmas lunch with the Emp, Bohdan and her CFO, WDM. No fights, no carping (well, a little) and all parted in a sea of serenity. Then she disappeared.

I learned shortly thereafter that her progeny, or, as she is wont to term them, "her brats", had bundled her into a car, headed for the airport, and linked up with the Compte de Rienville and his private jet. The kids had apparently decided to give the Lady a break from hosting Christmas, enlisted the Compte's willing assistance, and took off. Not completely sure of the destination, but I do know that the Compte has holdings in the South Pacific -- Papeete to be exact.

A little note from the eldest child, Isolde, indicated a return in early January, along with the Lady's sincere wishes to her readers for a fun-filled and merry Christmas. I am happy to second such a motion.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Where We Went Wrong

I was delighted by a surprise visit by the Compte de Rienville, who dropped in to the Manor all upset, and stating a need for comfort and understanding. Providing the comfort was not a problem -- I needed some myself -- but the understanding took a bit longer.

To wit:

The Compte had actually left France in a huff, having had a number of his ideas on addressing France's fiscal problems shot down and smothered in what he termed Hollandaise sauce.

"Hollandaise sauce? Oh, that's droll." (Francois Hollande is the President of France).

But the Compte was not seeking praise. "It can't go on", he stated. "There are just too many living off an ever declining tax base. Mon Dieu, are we Greece? And the President, who acknowledges the problem, is taking caution into a kind of art form, where little if any action is forthcoming."

"Well," I put in, "M. Hollande is putting in a tax of 75% on the rich --'

"Which is, or will, cause a mass exodus, and therefore any tax revenues raised will be paltry. And the public sector unions, instead of grappling with the problem, are asking for more. As Jean val Jean states in Les Miserables, "Comment faire?"*

"I believe," I said, "that you have put your finger on the problem. The public sector unions."

Thus began a long discussion, the gist of which is as follows.

Remembering some thoughts on this subject from the late Lord Strunsky, I told the Compte that at an earlier point of time, joining the public service involved a trade-off. You agreed to a lower pay scale than that offered by the private sector, in return for stability and job security. Hence, if you lusted to be the next Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, the public service was not for you. This approach had the advantage of providing a sound, but not dramatic, public service -- a Good Thing. You don't want buccaneers with access to the public purse, while also allowing some brakes to be put on the wilder schemes of politicians that surfaced from time to time.

When, however, public servants became unionists, things changed, and not for the better, as members strove to match or exceed private sector salaries while still holding out for iron-clad job security.

 An even uglier side to this question is noted in the New York Times in an article by James Sherk: "When government unions strike, they strike against taxpayers. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (of all people) considered this 'unthinkable and intolerable'".

I mean, it is one thing to strike against the ACME Widget Corporation where, unless it is a company town, few are affected and even fewer notice. (The Compte interjected here that those with a widget fetish would certainly notice, but let's not go there). Yet when public service workers go on strike,  innocent taxpayers are held to ransom. Even schoolteachers have abandoned what was an honourable and esteemed profession, joined a union,  and now use children as hostages to fortune (theirs).

All I have to say is that when the Scots sent Edward of England back "to think again", it is high time to do something similar to public service unions.

* The Compte, of course, quotes from the original French version, literally, "What to do?" The English phrase is quite different -- "Who am I?" -- but it all works. -- Ed.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Marijuana Mystery

Of late, I have been perhaps too engrossed in the idiocy that marks municipal politics, and a mayor who, while attempting to balance the books, too often resembled a bull in a china shop. Although it must be noted that the china artifacts he smashed were Spode tea cups and Royal Doulton figurines that were made in China.

Time to take a broader view, and look at what's been going on in the world at large.

Not much better. Personal debt in Canada is still too high. The economy of Greece is still an issue, and the Euro appears on life support, with the IV drip being supplied by Germany. (Leads to the observation that what was beyond the capability of the Wehrmacht is not beyond the capability of German fiscal policy). China -- well, see comment above -- and as for the U.S., a 'fiscal cliff' looms. So all is not well, although the answer to the American cliff thingy lies in the amended Liberty Bond Act of 1917. To explore the impact of that legislation, however, would take some time, and is best left for another day.

It is not rocket science to acknowledge that the answer to the problems listed above involve a combination of higher tax revenues and less government spending on entitlements. Yet a third strategy could, I think, be profitably explored, that would go some distance to alleviating these financial conundrums.

Marijuana. Or at least, its legalization and subsequent taxation.

This is not as bizarre as it sounds. A number of American states have legalized the drug for medicinal purposes, and the state of Washington has allowed it for recreational use. If you put marijuana side by side with alcohol, the comparison is startling. Alcohol is an extremely dangerous drug, as a myriad of road deaths illustrate, to say nothing of crimes and personal violence committed while under its influence. It was, in fact prohibited for a time in America, under the Volstead Act in 1919. This didn't work --the steady growth of organized crime, with no taxes coming in whatsoever, led to its repeal in 1933.

Marijuana, however, has quite a different effect on human behaviour, producing feelings of happiness and calmness, and which might produce a more congenial and grateful electorate. And another thing. Unlike heroin or cocaine, NO ONE TO MY KNOWLEDGE HAS EVER DIED FROM AN OVERDOSE OF MARIJUANA. 

Now I know that law enforcement has a huge investment in personnel and resources involved in the so-called 'War on Drugs', but the hard drugs are still there, along with crystal meth and, for that matter, Oxycontin. So there is still a great deal of work for the cops.

What baffles me is why government is so loathe to legalize marijuana. Goodness knows the revenue is needed, and the present grow-ops and gangs currently involved in its growth and manufacture could quickly become business enterprises (also subject to taxation) and bring forward a number of interesting Initial Public Offerings, doing wonders for a number of stock exchanges as well as benefiting shareholders.

I mean, where's the down side in all this?