With government in charge…

In my latest National Post column I satirize people’s ongoing faith in government’s compassionate efficiency despite all their experience with its actual performance.

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Wish I’d said that – February 13, 2017

“A small mind is obstinate. A great mind can lead and be led.”

Alexander Cannon (incidentally Cannon seems to have been a quack and a thoroughly bad character, but as C.S. Lewis has an unattractive character observe wisely in The Horse and His Boy, about a sensible comment from someone he despised, “a costly jewel retains its value even if hidden in a dung-hill”)

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Wish I’d said that – February 8, 2017

“Don’t be afraid to speak up. Remember, whatever you say about the subject and however fallacious it might be, the same thing has already been said by some eminent economist.”

Ludwig von Mises in a seminar at New York University, as recalled by Murray Rothbard in “The Essential von Mises”

 

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The Great War Remembered – and printed

With the 100th anniversary of Canada’s great victory at Vimy Ridge fast approaching, I’m delighted to announce that the book version of my documentary The Great War Remembered is now available for purchase.

The First World War was the defining event of the 20th century, shaping the modern world in ways we still feel very strongly today. Modern technology and logistics created unprecedented slaughter, and partly as a result the long, bitter, bloody conflict undermined faith in Western civilization. But it was a necessary war and the Allies did win it, with pivotal contributions from Canada, which “found itself” in the war and especially at Vimy, not just as a nation, but as a free nation determined to defend liberty under law.

It is appropriate that we remember the costs of the war and lament the loss and the missed opportunities. But we should also remember, and celebrate, the determined spirit that stood up to aggression on behalf of a way of life well worth defending even at this terrible cost.

Order your copy today and take a timely, fresh look at an often misunderstood conflict central to the modern world.

p.s. American and international shoppers should purchase directly through Amazon.

p.p.s. We also have the Kindle version available, here.

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A Stiff Upper Neckerchief – It Happened Today, January 24, 2017

On January 24 of 1908, in what does seem a vanished era of tranquility and earnestness, Robert Baden-Powell organized the first Boy Scout troop. But those days were not as tranquil as they seem, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are still enormously popular, and the mission of forming character is not as obsolete as some might suppose.

To begin with, Baden-Powell formed the Scouts in the wake of the (Second) Boer War, which had proved far more challenging for the British army than anticipated and which concluded less than a decade and a half before the outbreak of World War One. During the conflict then-Colonel Baden-Powell became a hero for his successful conduct of the defence of Mafeking, aided by the Mafeking Cadet Corps formed by Lord Edward Cecil.

Deeply impressed by the Corps, Baden-Powell wrote Scouting for Boys, based on his earlier Aids to Scouting, a brief guide to military scouting and wilderness survival that, he noticed, was exceptionally popular with boys. A huge success, currently the fourth best-selling book of all time, its tone might seem outdated. But the spirit of self-reliance, duty and cheerfulness it inculcated clearly helped Britain and Canada win World War I.

The scouts have changed enormously since 1908, mostly in good ways. Baden-Powell’s sister Agnes created the Girl Guides just two years later (after a group of girls showed up at the first Scout Rally in 1909 in uniform and informed Baden-Powell they were the “Girl Scouts,” a commendable exhibition of initiative that evidently struck “B-P” as he is sometimes known as favourably as it does me. Agnes also created the Brownies (originally Rosebuds) for younger girls while Baden-Powell’s wife took over as president of the Girl Guides in 1920.

Among other changes, the uniform has been adapted over many decades for greater practicality as well as a not necessarily beneficial greater casualness. And at least some branches have dropped God from their pledge. But while one must I suppose move with the world, not too far or too fast. And sometimes one must stand against the world.

So it is worth reading the words of Baden-Powell, then nearly 80, at the Scouts’ 1937 World Jamboree, in the shadow of Hitler in a world in which racial prejudice was taken to be so normal one faced ostracism for not sharing it. The Scout uniform, B-P declared proudly, “hides all differences of social standing in a country and makes for equality; but, more important still, it covers differences of country and race and creed, and makes all feel that they are members with one another of the one great brotherhood”.

Surely that surprisingly modern sentiment casts a different and more favourable light on the supposedly stuffy, naïve, chauvinistic and even jingoistic “stiff upper lip” tally ho chaps ambiance of Edwardian England. Just as the scouts’ methods for promoting self-reliance and cooperation simultaneously is strikingly up-to-date for something from that vanished era.

So here’s a confession. I have never read Scouting for Boys. But I think I’m the worse for it, and intend to track down a copy.

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Common sense on carbon taxes

In my second video for Canadians for Energy East, a project of the Economic Education Association of Alberta, I explain what opponents should not say about them and what supporters should.

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