National Post

In Quebec, a premier surrenders to mob rule
National Post

A civilized society distributes resources in two ways. One is through the market, based on mutually beneficial exchange. The other is through the state, based on need: the only moral basis of redistribution.

But the coercive power of the state is all too easily diverted into other, less savoury schemes of redistribution: on the one hand, by lobbying, connections or outright bribes; on the other hand, by threats, whether of the lawful, pressure-group kind, or the unlawful, violence-and-mayhem kind. In either case the aim is the same: to enlist the state to extract from others what we could not persuade them to give us freely. This has nothing to do with need, and everything to do with raw power.

We have had plenty of both in Canada, and in Quebec in particular: the students are in a rich tradition of union thuggery, which is not altogether unconnected with the corruption that, it is now acknowledged, has put down deep roots in the province’s politics. And as its fiscal straits worsen, this sort of conflict can only be expected to multiply.

That is the issue. What do we want — a society in which we exchange with each other, voluntarily, and look after each other when we fall; or a society based on taking from each other, with the most ruthless or determined taking the most? Will we make these decisions at the ballot box, or in the street? By persuasion, or force? Within the law, or without it?

La gauche a souvent accusé les libertariens de vouloir « la loi de la jungle ». Ironiquement, depuis quelques semaines, elle a fait la démonstration de l’inverse…