Nov 01 2014

On Teacher Retirement Behaviour

At my daughter’s high school this semester, two of her four teachers have chosen to retire in the middle of the term, forcing the students to be handed to another teacher.   The fact one of her other teachers is very pregnant means that by January she will have had seven teachers for four courses.  Now I won’t blame the pregnant teacher for her timing because that isn’t something that cannot be easily planned.  But for the two teachers who suddenly retired, I wonder about the contract we have with the teachers.

In Alberta, the teachers union (the Alberta Teachers Association) has negotiated a defined benefit pension plan with the government whereby teachers can received 70% of their pre-retirement income so long as they retire at either 65 or when their age plus years of service equals 85.  The first one seems ok to me – but the second one seems overly generous and the cause of these mid-term retirements.

If a teacher started working at 25 and worked for 30 years, they would meet the age plus years of service threshold as soon as they turn 55.  A teacher who started at 23 would have to work until 54 (31 years) to hit the threshold for retirement.  This is what these teachers are doing.  They hit the threshold age and they check out – even it is the middle of the term.  There is no benefit to them to keep teaching and no penalty for hanging it up mid-term.  We should revise the contract such that teachers cannot retire mid-term unless they also have medical issues.  I might even make allowances for those who have reached federal pension age of 65 – but few teachers stay that long in any event.

In the private sector, there are no age-plus-years of service pensions.  There never were.  I have an RRSP with money piling up, and a TFSA I fund with post-tax monies – but the question of when I retire is entirely based on how much I can save and whether I think it is enough to live on in my post-working life.  But teachers, and many other public sector workers are guaranteed a very healthy retirement income much earlier than those of us in the private sector.

If you look at the ATA’s pension numbers, their plan looks well funded today.  However, they did increase contribution rates to overcome the losses in the stock market from 2007-09.  Since 2009 the markets have been very good, but that is not sustainable.  Therefore, I fear that these generous pensions will once again trigger financial problems for the taxpayers in the future.  We should switch from defined benefit (which can only be guaranteed by the taxpayer) to defined contribution and individual accounts (which become the responsibility of the individual pension recipient) to manage.  And we should let teachers retire when they think they have enough money and not during the school year.

Nov 01 2014

On Cost Consciousness in Health Care

This week, my family had the misfortune to have to deal with Canada’s health care system.  It was a very mixed experience.  It began on Sunday evening, when my lovely wife tipped the pasta pot and poured boiling water over her hand and forearm.  She was scalded quite severely, and although we quickly got it under cold water, there was some blistering. She was in a lot of pain so we headed to the ER at the new South Calgary Health Centre.  It wasn’t busy at all, and we were very quickly seen by a triage nurse and rushed into treatment.  A nurse and doctor were quickly on the scene and immersed her arm in cold water and then assessed the burn.  They were friendly, helpful and showed genuine concern.  They dressed the injury with some silver-impregnated sponges to prevent infection and wrapped up her hand and arm to protect the injury.  They indicated that due to the extent and severity they wanted us to see the experts at the Burn Unit at the Foothills Hospital.

Monday, the burn unit called and we headed there to get it redressed and to assess the extent of damage and whether she might need physiotherapy to prevent scarring, particularly on the hand.  However, the service at the Burn Unit Rehabilitation section was much less pleasant.  After checking in, we had to wait some time after the appointment time, and a woman came to get us and rather grumpily called my wife’s name.   She then led us back through the rehab clinic at a very slow pace.  Once in a treatment area, she starting cutting the old dressing from my wife’s arm without even telling us who she was.  When asked if she was a nurse or was the person we had the appointment with, she rather rudely said “No, I’m Lidia and we don’t have nurses here”.  My wife looked at me with a face that said “is the janitor changing my dressing?”  We inquired further and she said she was a physiotherapist.  She cleaned my wife’s arm and then said she would get the other therapist we were scheduled to see.   That therapist showed up and did assess and redress the injury – when she placed the silver-laced sponge pad, my wife told her the ER had used more of that material to cover the wound that she was doing – she said “We don’t do that because this stuff is expensive”.  My wife asked where we could buy it if the health care system was going to be cheap.  The therapist then used some cream on my wife’s arm that she said would help it heal.

Two days later, my wife’s arm was sore and red so we went back to the South Calgary ER.  Again, it was quiet – the wait time screen said it was 1:15 to be seen, which seemed reasonable, even though the waiting room was nearly empty.   At a desk as you enter the ER waiting room there were two Alberta Health Services staff – young women dressed in scrubs who may have been nurses – but we didn’t inquire.  They seemed bored and no doing anything.  There is a lot of signage directing visitors to Triage and Admitting, so we went where we needed to be.  We asked the Triage nurse what those women were doing there and were told “that is the information desk”.   It seemed odd to us that in a quiet ER with clear signage that you would need TWO people to sit and answer questions from no one.

To close the medical story, we were quickly seen by a doctor and medical student.  They assessed the injury and thought perhaps it was an allergic reaction.  They washed the arm and gave my wife an antihistamine, and then redressed the wound.  This seemed to work nicely and she is now well on her way to healing.

In both of our visits to the South Calgary ER we were in and out in under an hour.  Best time ever in an ER.  But the Foothills burn unit was unpleasant.  You would think that in a place where many patients are suffering from severe injuries the staff would at least TRY to put on a friendly face rather than being grumpy and unpleasant.

And it is funny to me that someone in the burn unit is worried about spending money on a medical supply than might cost a few dollars while AHS spends money on TWO medical staff sitting at an information desk when there is almost no one around asking questions…  Clearly the message about money isn’t hitting at all levels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 02 2014

On the EPA CO2 Reduction Target

Today, the EPA and President Obama unveiled a plan to reduce major power plant CO2 emissions by 30% in 16 years (by 2030).  This will basically kill the coal-fired power industry, and subsequently the coal mining industry in America.

There is much discussion on the net about how foolish this is, such as:

  •  The reduction in emissions will have, even by the EPA’s prediction, a negligible impact on so-called global warming, by 2100.  Can you even measure 0.018ºC difference in atmospheric temperature?  Even more, a scientist testified before Congress on Friday 29 May 2014 dismantling the IPCC AR5 report, which is really the basis for the EPA action.
  • The economic impact will be massive.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce figures the plan could scotch $50 billion a year in GDP and prevent the creation of more than 220,000 jobs per year. The hit to household disposable income would be more than $550 billion a year.   Note how this has ALREADY happened in Germany, Spain and Ontario.  The supposed reduction in “social costs” of health issues are dubious.  Much like in Ontario where the government claimed that green energy would reduce hospitalizations for breathing disorders by greater than 100% (i.e. there weren’t that many such hospitalizations)
  • The reduction in coal-fired power generation will be offset by gas-fired and renewable energy sources.  However, renewable energy isn’t on-demand – it depends on the sun shining and the wind blowing.  And we have seen in Europe and Ontario how high prices for power have to go to justify these renewable projects.  And we see in California and elsewhere the derelict remains of windfarms that didn’t pay out…

There are a few other issues here that I haven’t seen written about today:

  • The so-called shale gas boom may not be going quite as expected.  For a couple of years now, the estimates of recoverable natural gas from shale deposits has been FALLING.  Why?  Because it turns out that shale gas deposits require A LOT of drilling to maintain product rates.  Unlike traditional natural gas deposits, shale gas is labour and capital intensive and the wells have very rapid decline curves.  Therefore, the hope that natural gas can replace coal at similar costs into the future may not actually turn out, and we could in the not too distant future have high gas prices and thus high power prices again.  That said, technological advancements such as those that led to shale gas being possible could continue (given high enough prices).
  • One option could be nuclear power, including thorium cycle reactors such as those India is developing.  However, the regulatory regime in the United States is so dysfunctional and prone to political meddling that nuclear projects are now likely to take 20 years from proposal to startup.  Horrifying when you consider that the first nuclear plant in America (Hanford, WA) was designed and built and started up in under three years (1942-44) without modern technology like computers.    However, to make nuclear power economic will require higher prices and a significant reduction in regulation that doesn’t lead to greater safety.

Obama has set out clearly where he always promised to be – a green, left-leaning socialist who doesn’t understand economics, science or good sense.  This should be a political gift to the Republicans, if only they can figure out how not to screw it up.

For Canadians, there is a great risk that Harper is pushed by the media or bureaucrats to attempt to align to the US policy.  This would be extremely foolish.  We should take this as a clear message that Keystone XL will never be approved under this US Administration, focus on other export options like Northern Gateway, TransMountain Expansion and Energy East (push these through ASAP).  We should adopt the Australian policy of avoiding economic damage due to climate legislation.  We should REFUSE to be held hostage by the socialist in the White House.

The decline of America continues….

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May 20 2014

Hard vs. Soft Science

Today over on WUWT, Steve Burnett writes eloquently and very forcefully on the ridiculous stance and attempts by those in the “soft sciences” like psychology, sociology, economics and similar fields to attempt to play equals with the hard sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, engineering).   The parts I liked the most:

In short philosophers, and sociologists of science, both soft science fields, haven’t been able to confirm the differences {between the hard and soft sciences}. They point to a lack of consensus in the hard sciences, controlled experiments and mathematical models. The analysis is about as meaningful as finding no difference between a peewee and professional basketball game because they both shoot rubberized orange balls at hoops. That is exactly the problem with the soft sciences, they can get the results they want by only evaluating the characteristics they choose.

Unfortunately soft science is spreading into the other domains. In my capstone course we had to watch the thoroughly debunked Gasland documentary. We heard about fracking fluids, well contamination and maybe just possibly earthquakes caused by the process. When I presented three studies that thoroughly destroyed the claims the professor dismissed them with a wave of his hand. We were required to take a course called energy and the environment, which is best described as green masturbation. When you present solar roads, indoor farming, renewables, and local agriculture, as a required engineering course without any sort of cost benefit analysis or numerical pretense what else can you call it?

This one drives me crazy.  My alma mater now offers a graduate program is sustainable development which is heavy on the technology and very light on the economics (or lack thereof).  These programs exist all over the place and industry is starting to absorb people who have been educated and have credentials but don’t understand that a lot of renewables are complete economic fallacies (see Germany or Ontario for consequences of overly aggressive adoption of Green Power).

Examining what makes humans, society or even the climate tick are noble endeavors. The failure to demand reproducible or falsifiable results, reject failed hypothesis, or allow for and defend work that is riddled with personal or political bias is what undermines these fields, it’s what makes them “soft”. More succinctly the problem with these fields isn’t entirely methodological, it’s cultural and it exists at every stage of training.

That sums it up pretty clearly for me.

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Apr 22 2014

On Innovation in the Oil Sands

I don’t often post on the industries in which I work, but I felt this week like I should.  Outgoing Total E&P Canada president Jean-Michel Gires said at the end of 2012:

  • We are still too many mavericks around our own ideas.
  • saying we are the best in the world and we can develop technology by ourselves and we don’t need the other ones to do so, thank you very much.
  • is too much fragmentation and not yet enough of a cluster
  • Engaging smaller innovators is a particular challenge – garage inventors can change the world, but the oil sands, which spends money by the billion, has not traditionally paid enough attention to that potential resource. They could be playing a role if they were given a chance and we could have more appetite to develop further startups

Now I work well down the ladder from Mr. Gires in the industry (I am not with an oil company), but I see some of the things he sees.   First:

  1. There are too many at various levels of organizations who are “wedded” to a given technology or idea and they throw roadblocks at anything that questions their ideas.  Even when reason and logic show that the idea doesn’t make a lot of sense or that other options have better chances of success or improved economics it is nigh impossible to change their direction
  2. The industry lives in fear of failure, at any scale.  The fact is that the oilsands business didn’t get here by being risk averse or fearing new technology.  Successful people and businesses are not those that fail the least – it is those who are least afraid to fail.  If you are 5 for 5, that doesn’t mean you are better than 7 for 10, it means you were too safe and didn’t push your organization far enough.  Just because something “sort of works” or it’s not too bad doesn’t mean you should stick with it because you are afraid the next idea won’t work at all.  Remember that every time something doesn’t work we learn from it – the next technology or execution strategy isn’t invented from whole cloth and it has vast risks of failure.  Each step taken should try to account for all the things we’ve learned don’t work so well.   The tendency to fall back on what we did last time is dangerous and prevents improvements, whether they be technical, economic or environmental.  Yes, big failures are bad and risk needs to be managed carefully at that level – but small risks need not be avoided entirely or else you miss out on the opportunity to improve.
  3. The owner organizations have been bloated with teams who are not focused on the core business of those organizations – which should be operating facilities and learning what works and doesn’t work.  They should be piloting new technologies in their facilities to find the next step change in improving the operations.  They should get out of the business of executing capital projects.  There are firms who have specialized in that for over a century.  They should get out of the business of trying to invent technology themselves.  Let the equipment vendors, universities, and garage inventors do that.  Help fund them, but stop trying to to compete with them and don’t discount them just because you’ve never heard of them or they don’t have the educational or business pedigree.  The one area the oils companies should be involved with R&D is on the subsurface because you have the asset with which to experiment.  Work with the drilling community, downhole equipment suppliers and your own subsurface professionals to identify the best ways to get the oil out of the ground.
  4. Owner organizations also need to cut bureaucracy – they are often as difficult to navigate as the government.  The procedures that these firms have put in place to solve problems have often, like government, created a mess of unintended consequences that drive up manpower demands, costs of capital projects, costs of maintenance and drive down economic returns.  It has been said by many in the industry that many of these companies make money in spite of themselves.  I laugh whenever an environmentalist talks about the conspiracy inside oil companies to make money at the expense of everything else.  They spend a huge amount of time and money on the environmental and social issues (rightfully), but if they really put their minds to it I think they could make more money…

Apr 22 2014

George Brandis – another good thing from Australia!

I’m really starting to like some of the things I’m hearing out of our cousins down-under.  First it was them calling out homeopathy for being a fiction, and now this from their attorney general, George Brandis:

‘Because’, he says, ‘if you are going to defend freedom of speech, you have to defend the right of people to say things you would devote your political life to opposing. Your good faith is tested by whether or not you would defend the right to free speech of people with whom you profoundly disagree. That’s the test.’

Hallelujah!  Finally a western politician who is willing to stand up and defend Free Speech the way it was originally envisioned by Locke, Mill, Jefferson and Voltaire.  In recent weeks there have been numerous examples of those who believe themselves to be on the “right side of history” arguing that restrictions on free speech should be imposed to prevent people from presenting or discussing views they don’t agree with.  Rather than win a debate the old fashioned way, these individuals, would rather stifle dissent and shut down debate.  Whether it be on university campuses such a Brandeis backing down from letting the great Ayaan Hirsi Ali speak because it might make some people “uncomfortable”, or people writing to the the House of Commons at Westminster asking for restrictions on unpalatable speech, it is reprehensible.

One of the comments on the site cited above scared me especially:

There is no utility in having people express views that are false in fact, nor free of consequence. The classic example is freely shouting “fire” in a theatre.

Egads – conflating yelling fire in a crowded theatre with expressing views that are “false in fact” depends on someone being the absolute arbiter of “truth”.  Reminds me of things that were done under Stalin!  Of course, most of the people expressing this view today don’t see themselves as totalitarians – because they are expressing their view out of genuine belief that you can have such limits and control on society without being totalitarian.  Unfortunately that belief is false.  The success of western civilization over the past four hundred years comes from our freedom to think, speak, print and debate.  And to figure out that sometimes we are wrong, whether it be about science, social ills, or economics.

Andrew Coyne expressed this very well in a recent National Post column:

The idea that the state should refrain, as a rule, from regulating speech, the willingness of the public to legislate restraints on the state’s ability to do so, the readiness of those in power to be so restrained, all are born of a climate of opinion that recognizes the intrinsic value of speech, even or perhaps especially where it offends.

So far as we follow the opposite impulses in our private interactions with each other, so far as we attempt not to argue with others but to intimidate them, so far as we indulge the toxic nonsense that there is a right not to be offended, we undermine that consensus, and so in turn weaken our defences — intellectual, political, legal — against the government doing likewise.

As did Mark Steyn from the Spectator:

Free speech and a dynamic, innovative society are intimately connected: a culture that can’t bear a dissenting word on race or religion or gender fluidity or carbon offsets is a society that will cease to innovate, and then stagnate, and then decline, very fast.

But I await such candor and backbone from a Canadian politician, of any stripe.

 

Apr 09 2014

Australia correctly calls homeopathy quackery

Australia’s government has published a report that correctly identifies homeopathy as quackery:

http://m.heraldsun.com.au/lifestyle/health/nhmrc-rule-homeopathic-remedies-useless-for-human-health/story-fni0diac-1226878166107

now if only Health Canada would do the same.

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Mar 22 2014

Secrecy in Schools, Followup

On Thursday evening, I met with my daughter’s Grade 10 Science teacher, and she was pleasant and did a good job explaining the exam and I now feel that this teacher is at least competent.  However, I also met with the vice-principal, and asked for further explanation of the “secret” exam policy.   I am paraphrasing, but the reason for it comes down to this:

Our teams put a lot of effort into developing unit exams, which we do to ensure that all students take the same exam.  Because of the effort, we like to use the standard exam for a whole term or even whole school year.  However, we find it necessary to “secure” the exams because once they “get out” students get their hands on them and many students are then able to have an unfair advantage.

My fundamental problem is that parents are not allowed to see these exams except for a brief meeting with a teacher.  The only route my child has to learn from her mistakes is to schedule an appointment with the same teacher and review it with her.  If she struggled to understand from the teacher in the first place, it might help if that parent could try at home.  But that is not allowed.

The reason for keeping the exam secret also bother me because it assumes that parents would “leak” the exam to other students.  That lack of trust seems problematic to me.

However, the single biggest failure in this scheme is that exams at a high school level need to be set by committee, creating significant overhead and the need for such ridiculous policies in the first place.  Any teacher competent enough to teach a high school subject should also be capable, and required, to set their own exams.  Yes, students in one class may get a different exam than another class in another term or year, but it shouldn’t matter.  Based on the curriculum topics, a competent teacher should be able to set a high school exam in no more than twice the time the students are given to write it.  In fact, I know from professors I had in University that one of the fun parts of teaching was coming up with creative exam questions.

The other topic for exams that this episode has caused me to get frustrated is the move away from exams where students must show their work or express themselves towards multiple choice exams where only the answer is evaluated.  This is a terrible way to test whether someone knows something.  Evaluating a student when demonstrating their capability but making a small error (such as dropping a 2) allows them to receive “partial marks” and for the teacher to better explain the error to the student so they can learn from their mistakes.  Multiple choice exams do not do this.

This use of “committees” to do work that can and should be done by individuals is a critical flaw in many parts of our society.  And in the schools it seems even more ill-placed.   Committee development tends to the lowest common denominator and generally removes creative ideas because consensus is more important than quality.  I see this in my job (which has nothing to do with education) and I can now see the mess it is causing in education, whether at the individual school, board or even provincial ministry level.

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Mar 17 2014

On secrecy in the schools

I recently have had some problems with the public schools in Calgary (specifically those run by the Calgary Board of Education). A few years ago, the new “discovery math” failed my eldest daughter, forcing significant investment in tutors to correct the damage caused by Alberta Education and the CBE.  This also led to my support of Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies’ petition to fix the math curriculum in Alberta.

Last year, my eldest daughter had to suffer through a science teacher who was, in my opinion, not quite competent.    I gave the teacher the benefit of the doubt, because you never know if a teenager is really grasping the concepts or giving you the whole story.  But that teacher confused such topics as valence and isotope, and when challenged on it actually giggled…  My daughter survived that class, and has moved on to high school.

Where things have not improved.   Now, she has a teacher you might be ok – but I am suspicious because her teaching method appears to involve having vague presentations and then telling the students to read the textbook and fill out a workbook.  They could do that in a correspondence course.  Further, my daughter who seems to understand the concepts and usually rates straight A’s and suddenly is getting a C.

Anyway, my latest complaint is that I asked my daughter to show me the unit exam (Grade 10 Physics) to see where she went wrong.  She said the teacher didn’t let them keep their exam.  I told her to ask for it so I could see it.  She was told that the school policy was that exams were “secure” and she couldn’t have a copy of her exam.  I then emailed the teacher and asked for a scanned copy of the exam.  I was also told that the exam was “secure” and I couldn’t have a copy.  I could however, book an appointment to come and review the exam, or they could have it available during my 10 minute parent-teacher meeting.   Lots of time to review a physics exam.

I complained, again via email,  that I couldn’t understand the “secure” exam policy.  How could a publicly funded institution keep this a secret from the parents and taxpayers.  This is when the teacher stopped talking to me.  I received a phone call from the vice-principal, who reiterated the policy and offered for me to come into the school to review the exam.   I asked for him to explain the secure exam policy, and he stated that it grew out of the provincial diploma exams, which he said “obviously” had to be kept secret.  I stated that when I wrote the diploma exams 25 years ago the previous term’s exams had been posted on bulletin boards, WITH SOLUTIONS, for the next term’s students to use as a study guide, and for past students to understand where they might have gone wrong.  He said that things had changed due to changes in policy and that they kept exams secure to prevent students who hadn’t written the exam yet from getting their hands on it.  I advised that it seemed ridiculous that I should have to submit a Freedom of Information Request with the Provincial Government to get my hands on a Grade 10 Science Exam…

Now, my experience with any organization is that if you are trying to keep something secret it usually means you have something to hide, especially if there isn’t a business secrecy or national security reason.   Public sector endeavors should almost never need to keep such mundane documents secret.  Unless they have something to hide.

I have two theories:

  1. The exams are kept secure so they can reuse the exam over and over again, minimizing the work teachers needs to do to write and mark exams.  This also allows teachers with less experience or expertise to be assigned to teach a course, knowing they don’t have to write an exam.  This may not be the case in this situation, but there are other circumstances I haven’t disclosed here (yet) that lead me to be suspicious.
  2. The exams are kept secure to prevent parents from seeing exactly how the teachers are marking exams – because it may expose the fact inexperienced teachers have been assigned.  If a teacher marks incorrectly because they don’t understand the subject matter, it is easier to cover up if you hide the evidence.

I will update this page as this develops – I will be attending my parent-teacher meeting on Thursday and plan on photographing the exam if necessary.   I also encourage others to share their experiences.

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Feb 16 2014

The Decline of Western Civilization

Recently, there have been a number of things in the news that make me think that Western Civilization is in decline.  It doesn’t take much to look at parts of Europe that are bankrupt, both morally and economically, or at the United States where cities like Detroit are bankrupt and in ruins, or states like California where regulation is driving businesses out of the state and turning the Central Valley from a breadbasket to a desert to save a small fish that is truly endangered not by a lack of water but by the introduction of sport fish (bass) which eat the tiny delta smelt…

But there are two things that really get me going, and they are related.

The first is the inability of society to get anything done in a reasonable amount of time.  The reason isn’t that things are necessarily more difficult – we have technology that specifically makes a lot of things easier.  It’s because we have added layers of regulations and requirements and checklists and consultations and approvals on top of everything we do.   The used to be said that if you built a better mousetrap the world would beat a path to your door.  The truth is that if you built a better mousetrap the world would now be asking if you have permission to devise that mousetrap, did you do the proper environmental impact assessment on killing mice, or the impact on cats who will have fewer mice to hunt?  Did you consult with the local people who might not want to kill the mice (or maybe they do, but you still have to consult with every single one of them).  My daily job causes me great frustration when I am presented with requirements written into a specification, regulation or other directive that are said to be necessary, but when questioned, those who are enforcing the “rules” don’t even know why they were written t

he way they were or what the other consequences might be.   I also get frustrated with how much time and effort is wasted on paperwork and processes that do not result in anything getting done better, faster, safer or more economically.   Often the paperwork and procedures are there to cover someone’s ass from being questioned – not really to improve anything.   To give you an example, I must give credit to Kate at SDA:

cannotgetbuilt

 

As you can see, during wartime 7 decades ago, a major infrastructure project got built in under a year.  Now, to do something arguably much easier it takes nearly a decade to get the paperwork ready to get approval to build something that will take another five years or so to complete.

This is a disaster for our society.  When you ask questions about why employment levels continue to be anemic following the Great Recession, recognize that we have created a society where it is far to hard to DO ANYTHING.  Wouldn’t it employ more people to actual build bridges and pipelines than to argue over them?

The second part of the my rant today is about one of the reasons for this, particularly in western societies.  That is the extension of individualism (which I generally like) to the bizarre extreme of believing that everyone has a valid opinion that should be considered and that every individual’s opinion should be given equal weight, and that the dislikes of individuals or a small group should trump the desires or needs of the many.  It’s like Star Trek III, only more unbelievable.

I came to this realization a few weeks ago when it was pronounced in the news that the town of Kitimat, BC was going to hold a referendum on whether or not the Northern Gateway Pipeline should be built to their port.   While I normally think that referenda are a good idea, the problem with applying them too liberally is that you get situations like this – a small group of people hold a vote on a subject that affects far more than their circle of control, even if it has negative effects on millions of other people.  Why should the voters of Kitimat, BC, have the power to kill a capital project that will have dramatic economic benefits for the people of the whole country?

This is happening all over the world, where people are fighting things they don’t understand, or refuse to understand, in the name their “rights”, but they are ignoring the rights of everyone else.  It is situations like this that create ridiculous consequences like regulations that require that industrial facilities store human waste (i.e. sewage) in double-hulled cisterns, while farmers are allowed to do so in simple single-walled septic tanks and then pump the “treated” waste into a field.   Because people don’t want to think – they want rules written to protect everyone and everything.  And people refuse to trust anyone else to do the right thing.  And especially they refuse to accept that other are acting in good faith and with generally good intentions.  We don’t want to built Keystone or Gateway to destroy the environment.  We want to supply the world with energy.  We don’t want to build bridges across rivers to destroy the environment – we do it to GET TO THE OTHER SIDE!.

Stop making everything so hard.  It doesn’t need to be.  Just let people act.

As I have stated before, Ayn Rand’s books, the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, were supposed to be warnings to society about the dangers of overarching government and regulation.  But we have gone and turned them into how-to manuals.  And look where it is leading us…

 

 

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