Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Nanos Poll: 9.3-pt Conservative Lead

I hope everyone had a wonderful holidays, and while it seems Parliament won't be working for another two months, that doesn't mean the rest of us will stop working. Nanos has a "new" poll out. It is "new" because it was taken between December 10 and December 13 - more than two weeks ago. That puts the poll right smack dab in the middle of an EKOS and Angus-Reid poll, both of which were actually quite different. The results:The Conservatives are up (from the November 7-10 Nanos poll) 1.5 points nationally to 39.5%, while the Liberals are up 1.4 points to 30.2%. The NDP is up 0.8 to 18.7%, a very good result for them, while the Bloc is down 1.6 points to 7.7% and the Greens are down 1.9 points to 4%.

Really, all three parties major national parties can be happy with those numbers.

The Conservatives have a big lead in British Columbia, picking up 8 points to reach 43.2%. They are also up four points in the "Prairies", but are down three points in Ontario and have lost the lead there. They are up two in Quebec, and at 23.8% are riding high. They are down six in Atlantic Canada and have lost the lead, but the sample size in that region is tiny.

The Liberals picked up four points in Ontario and are leading (yes, leading) with 38.5%. They are also up three points in Quebec and are at 29.5%, very good, but down seven in Atlantic Canada. Very bad.

The NDP makes an unbelievable (literally) 14-point gain in Atlantic Canada, and lead with 35.6%.

The Bloc drops four points to 32.4% in Quebec.

But this poll looks very different from the EKOS and Angus-Reid polls taken at the same time. Let's look at how they compare at the national level, with Nanos first, EKOS second, and Angus-Reid third:

Conservatives - 39.5% / 35.9% / 36.0%
Liberals - 30.2% / 26.7% / 29.0%
New Democrats - 18.7% / 17.0% / 16.0%
Bloc Quebecois - 7.7% / 9.2% / 11.0%
Greens - 4.0% / 11.2% / 6.0%

AR and EKOS agreed on the Conservatives, but Nanos has them almost four points higher. The Liberal results have a variation of 3.5 points, while the NDP ranges from 16% to 18.7%. The Greens poll either at 4% or at nearly three times that much.

Perhaps, instead, we should look at relative change. How has the Nanos numbers changed from November to December as compared with changes to EKOS and Angus-Reid? Thankfully, EKOS and Angus-Reid both came out with polls taken at a similar time to Nanos back in November. So let's compare the growth or loss between November and December (Nanos first, then EKOS, then AR).

Conservatives - +1.5 / -0.7 / -2.0
Liberals - +1.4 / +0.1 / +6.0
New Democrats - +0.8 / +0.2 / -1.0
Bloc Quebecois - -1.6 / +0.4 / 0.0
Greens - -1.9 / 0.0 / -4.0

So, one of the biggest disparities between these three polls is in the Conservative numbers. Nanos has them showing considerable growth. Angus-Reid has them showing considerable loss. EKOS also has them down, but just a bit.

What they do agree on is Liberal growth, though EKOS and Nanos has them growing more modestly than Angus-Reid.

The NDP's numbers haven't changed enough to really come to a conclusion, and the Bloc's national numbers are meaningless. For the Greens, this shows they are showing losses between November and December.

Now, let's look at Ontario. First, the raw December numbers (same order):

Conservatives - 37.4% / 38.9% / 41.0%
Liberals - 38.5% / 31.1% / 34.0%
New Democrats - 16.6% / 17.2% / 17.0%
Greens - 7.5% / 12.7% / 7.0%

The Tory and NDP results are relatively close, but the Liberals ones are not. Clearly the Conservatives are around 38% to 39% and the NDP is at around 17%, but where the Liberals are - anyone's guess. The average result is 34.5%.

How about the change since November?

Conservatives - -2.3 / -0.3 / -2.0
Liberals - +3.3 / -2.7 / +5.0
New Democrats - -2.3 / +1.7 / +2.0
Greens - +1.4 / +1.1 / -6.0

So, the Conservatives seem to be sinking. Nanos and AR would argue the Liberals are growing quickly, but EKOS disagrees. It is difficult to pin point what is happening the NDP and Green numbers.

Quebec's raw December numbers:

Bloc Quebecois - 32.4% / 39.8% / 42.0%
Liberals - 29.5% / 22.7% / 25.0%
Conservatives - 23.8% / 16.9% / 17.0%
New Democrats - 12.1% / 10.1% / 8.0%
Greens - 2.3% / 10.4% / 5.0%

Nanos is at odds with the other pollsters for every party, while EKOS and Angus-Reid are much closer together.

Here are the changes since November:

Bloc Quebecois - -3.2 / +4.2 / 0.0
Liberals - +2.3 / +1.4 / +6.0
Conservatives - +1.6 / -4.8 / -2.0
New Democrats - +1.1 / -0.6 / -6.0
Greens - -1.6 / -0.2 / -2.0

So the Bloc is either showing growth or loss. Angus-Reid doesn't provide us with a useful third set of data, since they show no change. The Liberals, however, seem to be on the rise but the Tories are sinking for two of the three pollsters.

Comparing polls in this way shows how much of an inexact science it is. In this context, it is almost impossible to take anything concrete from individual polling results. The best picture we get comes from looking at all of them together.

Happy New Year!

54 comments:

  1. I realize that the provincial sample sizes are all below 300 and are essentially useless. That said, this Nanos is a very good poll for the Liberals in the country's 3 largest battlegrounds:

    BC - 28%, which is about a 50% increase from their 2008 vote of 19% and they would recover all of their 2008 losses and more.

    ON - In the lead with 39%, which would result in seat gains.

    QC - At 30% and just 2% below the BQ. Again seat gains.

    The Libs haven't had much to crow about lately.

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  2. Hmmmm, I need to crunch the numbers a bit, but somewhere, somehow this will be excellent news for the Conservatives.

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  3. Oh, and happy new year etc to one and all...

    ...and when I say 'all' I mean those of you who vote Conservative...the rest of you can look forward to a year of funding cuts, program cancellations, smears and jeers.

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  4. I would argue that funding cuts are good news for everyone. Less government spending is a universal good.

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  5. I find this poll quite interesting. The performance of the Greens in Nanos polls is well documented: they do terribly, likely as a result of there being no prompting.

    Is the same becoming true of the Bloc?

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  6. --- "Less government spending is a universal good."

    Not if you're a beneficiary of government spending, which almost all of us are.

    --- "Is the same becoming true of the Bloc?"

    Unlikely. People in Quebec know the Bloc very well - most of them have a Bloc MP as their MP.

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  7. I like the result, but I can't help but remain skeptical. It's too good to be true.

    However, Nanos is known to be an excellent pollster, and its hard to dispute the numbers (except for Atlantic Canada, which I dispute). What's more, this was really before the nitty-gritty of the detainee issue came up, and now the prorogation.

    I'm very, very interested in seeing the next set of numbers. They're either going to have a huge explosion of Opposition support, or it'll be static. I'm anxious to know.

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. Only if you're a net beneficiary of government spending, which most of us are not.

    Almost no one benefits more from government spending than they pay in taxes and fees. Homeless people, maybe. The mentally ill. Prisoners. Everyone else pays more into the system than they get out of it.

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  10. That's difficult to prove, and probably wrong.

    What monetary value do we get from the military? It is difficult to put a price tag on that.

    And how many of us would be spending our saved tax dollars on road maintenance and the care of municipal parks? What monetary value do we get from having usable roads and green spaces?

    If I don't have children, my tax dollars pay for schools. But I make that back in better property values, and in having educated younger people around me.

    Again, we are almost all net beneficiaries of government spending. Thus, "less government spending" is not a universal good.

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  11. You're assuming the government's provision of services is perfectly efficient and they never provide any servies people don't want or dont use, and that there's no excess capacity.

    That's nonsense.

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  12. Ira,

    You're assuming that private enterprise is perfectly efficient and will cover all of those that are currently helped out by government assistance. That's nonsense.

    The fact is that while the private world is fairly helpful, it does not have the same priorities, nor does it fill the same niche, as public services. It isn't to say that private business cannot help out, but the state is needed in many, many cases, and there is simply no way around it, unless you're willing to risk the lives of those dependent.

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  13. I wasn't saying that at all. I was describing the efficiency of government services, not comparing them to private services.

    Private services have the advantage of being voluntary, which is why I prefer them. If private services are inefficient, or have excess capacity, it's because the consumers want them to have excess capacity, or the consumers are accepting of the inefficiency. Government services aren't bound by the consumers at all.

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  14. I prefer government services not being bound by consumers. There are just some things that can't be left to the whims of the consumer society.

    However, I don't think government services are that inefficient. The problem that occurs, though, is it becomes overloaded when people are either trying to abuse the system, or they simply don't understand it. Some governments simply throw money at a problem, and that doesn't help. And Lord, the bureaucracy sometimes...

    But, it only takes some streamlining and effective management to clear up those issues. It's the same thing that would occur at a private company; make the process slimmer, and you'll watch everything flow faster.

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  15. Except the government enterprises have no incentive to be efficient.

    The purpose of bureaucracy is to grow.

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  16. --- "You're assuming the government's provision of services is perfectly efficient and they never provide any servies people don't want or dont use, and that there's no excess capacity."

    No, I'm not.

    Consider the military. The security and deterrent they provide is quite likely worth several times their operating budget.

    The roads and rails in the country make our economy possible. While I may not use a federal highway in Saskatchewan, goods I consume might.

    There are many indirect ways, in addition to the many direct ways, that government spending aids us.

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  17. But with many of those programs, if the government didn't spend the money someone else would (because someone benefits from it).

    Comparing the world with those government services to some imaginary world where those services don't exist is specious. Only those services that wouldn't otherwise exist at all can be valued at what we get out of them. For all others we need to calculate the difference in value between the government service and the private service that would otherwise fill that niche, and then compare the costs of those two services.

    Your straw men are not compelling.

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  18. You are assuming that the private sector would do as well or better with some of the services offered by the government. That is highly unlikely.

    You still haven't addressed my own point about the Canadian military.

    One place where the private sector would fail is where there is no market. There are regions of the country where there are so few people that the costs of a private company providing services for those areas would be exorbitant.

    We also have plenty of examples where government is more efficient than the private sector. And there is value in and of itself of a government providing equal services for all citizens as compared to private companies providing services for customers only.

    I have not created strawmen. However, you have yet to back up any of your points. And you are assuming a perfect free market, which is obviously unrealistic.

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  19. "The purpose of bureaucracy is to grow."

    I disagree, Ira. Remember that the bureaucracy is beholding to its political masters, and those masters sometimes have no wish to expand beyond what is needed. If there is no political will behind expansion, it won't happen.

    But you should clarify what you mean, as well. Are you talking about bureaucracy growing outside of its bounds, or growing inside? Because, if its the latter, you're essentially saying more health advisers in relation to a larger population is a bad thing, and I wouldn't call that bad, just needed.

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  20. Private services have the advantage of being voluntary, which is why I prefer them. If private services are inefficient, or have excess capacity, it's because the consumers want them to have excess capacity, or the consumers are accepting of the inefficiency. Government services aren't bound by the consumers at all.
    Unfortunately, privatizing can fail to yield the normal benefits of private businesses. Look at the DriveTest scandal. They were on strike for 12 weeks. They had zero incentive to settle because they were given a monopoly when the government driver examination system was privatized. If it had been truly privatized, those 300,000 people needing exams would have gone to the competing "TestDrive" corporation and Drivetest would have had a huge incentive to settle. It is the worst of both worlds, an unaccountable monopoly.

    Government services are directed by the bureaucracy which eventually ends up with an elected Minister. They can be threatened with removal in the next election. On the other hand, I can't vote out the 407's senior management for being highway robbers, again the worst of both worlds, an unaccountable monopoly.

    Often the "inefficiency" comes from the fact the government cannot pick and choose who it accepts as customers, for example in health care, while an insurance based system (such as the US) just lets the bad customers die, unless they are multimillionaires.

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  21. Have Alberta and Saskitoba ceased to be part of our great Dominion? They have gone missing from the graphic of the Nanos results. I suppose that big blue tower might be a little intimidating to some!

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  22. Nanos puts Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba together, which I can't use.

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  23. Well, Eric, I suppose that leaving out the graphic of a block of seats comprising twice as many as the total for the Maritime provinces makes good sense if the goal is to go on pretending that the Liberal party has a future in Canadian politics. It would no doubt be more convenient if they didn't exist at all!

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  24. Re: The military - I don't dispute that the military provides tremendous benefit. but would it provide a lesser benefit if it were private? And even if we accept that the military is something the government alone should do, if we set that aside there are still a great many government services that don't need to be government services.

    Re: Remote areas - Is there sufficient benefit to the rest of us to provide services to those areas? You're presupposing that all people need to be served equally, regardless of where they choose (or happen) to live. That seems entirely baseless. I'd rather the government offered a program to relocate people (voluntarily) to areas where the services they needed were more readily available.

    And I think that would be a lot cheaper. Living in a remote area is either undesirable or a luxury. Either way, poor people have no reasonable claim to it.

    Re: "there is value in and of itself of a government providing equal services for all citizens" - That's a value judgement I'm not willing to make. Again, it seems baseless. It needs to be supported in order to be a compelling point.

    Re: Bureaucracy - I don't think bureaucracy is beholden to its political masters. I don't even think it has political masters. It's largely shielded from them by long-term labour agreements. Preston Manning famously declared that if he became Prime Minister he would have immediately fired 30,000 civil servants. But that would have been impossible.

    There are three groups of people who have an interest in how government runs. Bureaucrats want more bureaucracy. Politicans want to be re-elected. Only the voters, of the three groups, actually have an interest in the government operating well (and they might disagree amongst themselves about what "well" is).

    Re: liberal supporter: You're entirely correct that government-protected monopolies are bad. Those are arguably an extension of government, and thus not truly private. This is why I think it's important to draw a distinction between capitalism (the private ownership of the means of production) and a free market, where voluntary exchange can take place unfettered by regulation. Capitalism can go very wrong, but a free market is always a good thing.

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  25. --- "but a free market is always a good thing."

    If you're going to discuss religion, take it elsewhere.

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  26. A free market is just voluntary exchange. People get to do what the want, and they don't have to do what they don't want. They get to make informed decisions based on how they perceive their own best interests.

    And, voluntary exchange produces wealth, just by being voluntary.

    Imagine you were at a big office Christmas party, and each attendee had to bring a gift. Now imagine that those gifts were distributed randomly among the participants. You'd probably get something in which you had little interest. Overall, certainly, people wouldn't be overly thrilled with random gifts.

    But now let them trade those gifts. By trading something you don't particularly want for something else, the value of your gift (the gift you possess, which is now a different gift) goes up. By trading, you created wealth.

    How could trading ever be a bad thing?

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  27. Your "free market" seems only to exist in an alternate dimension where simplified undergrad economics hold true. To believe all consumers make "informed decisions" regarding their contributions into the economy is to disregard everything that makes the economy so difficult to predict in the first place.

    Imagine your Christmas party once again, but instead one person received a gift no one wants. Said person, in response, tries to convince others that his gift is useful in the long term. One person will agree, and then the equilibrium of trade is broken. The cycle continues until some have gifts that they don't want, but believing that they will like it eventually.

    You assume that all humans are perfectly rational; it may shock you that not everyone is a paragon of ideal reason. A real economy contains artificial generation of wealth and subsequent loss of capital due to investment in bubbles. Government spending might upset equilibrium, but it offers stability in return.

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  28. So anon... you are advocating that we who know what we are getting into in a deal. Should set aside a quite alot of our earnings so that we can protect the people who are uninformed for a multitude of reasons from lack of interest to lack of intelligence. If they aren't willing to do the work to learn about what they want... why should I be charged with doing that work for them??

    Sounds alot the same as getting everyone to vote no matter their level of competence/involvement in the issues surrounding the election.

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  29. J. Kenneth Yurchuk03 January, 2010 15:32

    Wealth is created by adding value to a raw material. You add value to raw ore by refining it, and more value to refined ore by smelting it, and more value to the smelted metal by machining it into a product that can be purchased by an end consumer.

    Each process along the chain adds value and creates wealth.

    The same process applies to ideas.

    Money is merely a place holder for added value wealth.

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  30. J. Kenneth Yurchuk03 January, 2010 15:36

    The "market" does add value as well as it makes the consumable available to the customer, but is only the final step in adding value.

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  31. All those numbers show is that the majority of the country is left of centre.

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  32. Eric - Excellent analysis in regards to the benefit of government. People always get 'confused' because they don't see $-signs when they drive down paved streets, have a criminal go through the legal system, have the coast-guard pluck people from a cap-sized boat, sleep safely at night thanks the military, or have a fire-truck pull up to their house within minutes of calling 9-1-1.

    This seems to confuse people for some reason. They either are willfully ignorant or simply forget that you can't put a price-tag on just about everything the government does for you.

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  33. The beginning of the end for Stelmach:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/two-calgary-area-tories-leave-stelmach-government-for-upstart-party/article

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  34. Happy New Year to all and to Eric especially.

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  35. This argument that what government does could be better done by the private sector is a specious one. Sure some of what government does could be better done by the private sector. Most of what the government does is best done by government.

    We only need to look at the US where they have private prisons, private military and so on to see that private enterprise doesn't always do the job. Look at Blackwater, the mercenary military firm hired to a lot of the grunt work in Iraq. They messed up big time. As for the assertion that we shouldn't provide Canadians with some basic levels of service no matter where they live it makes for two classes of citizens. What's being advocated is a society where people are left to fend for themselves with no safety net. For me at least that's not a nation I want to live in.

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  36. No, Anon, I'm not requiring complete knowledge or perfect rationality at all. Bounded rationality will do fine.

    All I require is voluntarism. I don't need every single person to improve their position through trade. I need the overall value to go up, which it does. That's wealth creation.

    I would further argue that the economy is actually impossible to predict. That's the problem. People are trying to use mathematical models to predict the behaviour of a great many distinct individuals as if they're all the same. That's crazy. Instead, let's give each of them the ability to make his own decisions. Let's make the playing field fair and then let people act for themselves and make their own decisions.

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  37. I think that's the system they've been implementing in Somalia.

    The lack of government spending and intervention in that country is refreshing.

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  38. Actually Eric, Somalia is highly regulated by non-governmental actors, chiefly islamic militants.

    And the bribery, corruption, and extortion probably create very high tax rates.

    I think a better example of what Ira is talking is wikipedia, or the stock market, or the new it term "crowdsourcing".


    If you invent a product, how to determine its worth ?

    How to know if you're being ripped off? If the government sets prices you have the opinions of a select few, very little data.

    Unleash the markets and countless citizens chime in with their portfolio, the experts, the day traders - everybody.

    Price discovery is a central feature of free markets that governments are HORRIBLE at.

    Under the Soviet system either suppliers or producers would be chronically ripped off, recieving less than fair value for goods.

    And innovation ? Forget about it !


    Ira is right. Markets are a universal good since they are essentially the collected wisdom of mankind which is as good as it gets.

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  39. --- "Actually Eric, Somalia is highly regulated by non-governmental actors, chiefly islamic militants. And the bribery, corruption, and extortion probably create very high tax rates."

    The free market at work!

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  40. Poll Alert!

    http://www.cbc.ca/politics/insidepolitics/Microsoft%20Word%20-%20HD-CP%20Proroguing%20Press%20Release.pdf

    Is there any way to calculate the support of various political parties from this data ?

    Specifically by comparing the overall population support for prorogation with individual party support ? (The math is a little complex for me)

    The sample size is small but one assumes the data is census weighted so its our most recent snapshot of political support in the country.

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  41. I don't think national results can be calculated from these numbers, but I think this question was asked at the same time as the last Harris-Decima poll, the results of which were only available in incomplete media reports.

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  42. "The free market at work!"

    All that was evidence that there is no free market in the country.

    In fact, lack of free markets is what typically hinders development in poor countries.

    The obvious problem is a lack of security. Markets, contracts, trade, and the rule of law cannot be sustained in the face of terrible violence.


    You could, at this point, claim that violence is just more reason for a government run military.

    Of course, the question is paid for by whom ?

    The UN? Tribal clans (a classic American style militia, volunteer community army that exists without gov't and still provides services) ?


    If you're essentially going to argue that Ira is being simplistic and unrealistic it would be best not to provide examples that are overly reductive yourself.

    Also, its a bit of a red herring to tag free markets or Capitalism or small gov't as responsible or example of gov't in various third world countries.

    Everytime the Liberals asked for universal childcare one would imagine them mighty angry if people yelled out "Cuba!!!" as if doing so could replace a sensible arguement.

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  43. I've debated libertarianism enough elsewhere. It's tiresome because libertarians argue from theory rather than practice. It's like debating with Communists. In theory, in a perfect world, it might work well. In practice, it's ridiculous.

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  44. If I recall Ira's original statement it was

    A) Less government spending is good
    B) We don't get our money's worth

    It wasn't until later that she was talking about what could be called Libertarian ideas. For the first part of that conversation you seemed to be debating a straw man based around the idea that Ira said

    A) No government spending is good
    B) We get nothing of value from the gov't.


    Probably an honest mistake on your part.

    Its just a little frustrating for non-Libertarians who agree with the first set of statements but disagree with the second set.

    Everytime we suggest the gov't tighten its belt by reducing spending we get hit with "that money is for teachers, cops, and the military !!"

    When what we're really interested in is taking away money for political parties, for industry subsidies, for the CBC, and other programs we see as wasteful or not worth the expense.

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  45. Shadow=Jesse. Welcome back!

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  46. "I don't think national results can be calculated from these numbers"

    Don't they form an equation ?

    The value of right decision for the Conservatives (68) multiplied by their party standing (X with a value somewhere between .25 and .5, no more than 2 decimals) + the same thing for the four other parties with a different variable = the amount of people who support it overall (43).

    Wouldn't a graphing calculator or computer program spit out a list of all possible values for the 5 variables ?


    Or am I just imagining insane math that doesn't exist ? ?

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  47. Pollsters tend to leave a lot of numbers on the cutting room floor when they make these kinds of graphs. So you never know what exactly you have.

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  48. Everything Conservatives say or do is wonderful with ponies on top.

    Harper is my saviour.

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  49. Eric wrote:

    "I've debated libertarianism enough elsewhere. It's tiresome because libertarians argue from theory rather than practice."

    Come now Eric, that's rather disingenuous isn't it?

    Theory is important for any system of political values. If you are going to claim a right to use coercive force against me to do things against my will, you had better be able to back it up with a coherent moral theory of where that justification and authority come from.

    Although in at least some economic matters comparisons can be made in terms of better outcomes, in many areas freedom is a principle that must be defended on principle and not merely on utilitarian grounds.

    At its core, that is all libertarianism is -- reducing the capacity of the state to interfere with our freedom.

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  50. Government is not an impediment to freedom, and in fact ensures our freedom more than if it did not exist. There is, of course, a balance to work out. We have to give up some freedoms in order to ensure other, greater freedoms. The system in place in the Western world has nicely achieved that balance.

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  51. Eric wrote,

    "Government is not an impediment to freedom, and in fact ensures our freedom more than if it did not exist."

    Even if one grants the second clause in that sentence, that does not mean the first clause is true.

    Government can indeed provide a valuable service in protecting our natural right to be free of molestation from others -- whether preventing enslavement by an aggressive foreign power to being assualted or robbed by a neighbour.

    But a fairly small percentage of government activity is spent on those types of activities. In almost every other sphere of action, government is very much an impediment to our freedom.

    "have to give up some freedoms in order to ensure other, greater freedoms."

    If you mean I have to give up the freedom to murder someone, then I agree.

    But if you are claiming that your "freedom" to have your tv viewing preferences subsidized, and I have to give up the freedom to enjoy the fruits of my own labour then your contention that your claimed "freedom" is a "greater" freedom seems quiet dubious, to say the least.

    "The system in place in the Western world has nicely achieved that balance."

    That's a faith statement, not an argument based on a coherent philosophy of rights.

    You earlier posted, "If you're going to discuss religion, take it elsewhere." Well, Eric, your position is no less religion than the one you protested.

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  52. --- "Even if one grants the second clause in that sentence, that does not mean the first clause is true."

    Perhaps not necessarily. Some governments are significant impediments to freedom. Others are not.

    --- "But a fairly small percentage of government activity is spent on those types of activities. In almost every other sphere of action, government is very much an impediment to our freedom."

    Depends on how you define freedom, I suppose.

    --- "But if you are claiming that your "freedom" to have your tv viewing preferences subsidized, and I have to give up the freedom to enjoy the fruits of my own labour then your contention that your claimed "freedom" is a "greater" freedom seems quiet dubious, to say the least."

    You forget that your ability to earn as a result of your labour is heavily dependent on the security and civilised society that government provides. That security and orderly society does not come free. If you were to enjoy all the fruits of your labour without giving any back to the government that provides a safe environment for you to labour in, that would not be fair.

    --- "That's a faith statement, not an argument based on a coherent philosophy of rights."

    That's a pretty arrogant thing to say. What makes your philosophy of rights more coherent than mine?

    --- "Well, Eric, your position is no less religion than the one you protested."

    Hardly. I don't believe in dogmatic economic principles.

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  53. Eric wrote:

    "You forget that your ability to earn as a result of your labour is heavily dependent on the security and civilised society that government provides."

    Not at all. Of course my ability to lead a prosperous life is heavily dependent upon security -- by which I mean things like police and courts to restrain some of the worst of the violations of my natural rights that might occur in a state of anarchy.

    But my ability to earn is not at all enhanced by my being forced to subsidize your tv viewing preferences, my prosperity is not enhanced because the government bans marijuana and prostitution or a myriad other voluntary acts that do not directly harm the natural rights of others.

    "--- "That's a faith statement, not an argument based on a coherent philosophy of rights." That's a pretty arrogant thing to say. What makes your philosophy of rights more coherent than mine? "

    Not arrogant at all -- simply a statement of fact. You claimed that "the Western world has nicely achieved that balance".

    By what standard? What coherent yardstick do you use to make that claim? Simply making the claim that we have a nice balance right now is nothing more than a faith statement, based on, it seems, little more than your hunch that what we have feels right to you.

    Merely making an appeal for "balance" is not a coherent philosophy, because perceptions of balance have no objective measures at all. One person's balance is another's imbalance; perceptions of 'balance' can change radically over time. So by what standard do we ever press for change?

    The Libertarian philosophy has coherence because it asserts that natural rights are exactly that -- rights. They are not privileges that can arbitrarily stripped away.

    In brief, my natural right is to freedom in my behaviour -- my life, my body and my possessions are mine to do with as I will. The Libertarian assertion is that everyone has those rights, so the limits on my freedom arise if I violate someone else's rights.

    This leads to very clear guideposts, on almost all issues, of what sorts of government activity are moral -- which laws lead to justice and which to injustice.
    - putting a murder in jail -- good (the perpetrator has violated the rights of others and so has lost his claim to the same)
    - forcing a perpetrator to provide restitution after vandalizing private property -- good

    On the other other hand virtually all subsidies are bad and almost all banning of voluntary arrangements is bad. After all, I have no right to hold a gun to my neighbour's head and force him to do things or turn over his money. So why should I be able to do exactly that by using 'government' as a proxy?

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