The World is Passing Me By

Dr. Fred Lazar
July 27, 2021

I used to joke that the older I got, the less I understood. However, I have discovered during the past few years that this is no longer a joke. While I have many examples to demonstrate this, let me refer to just four.

Once my wife and I got our second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and the Canadian Government changed the absurd quarantine rules, we booked a flight to California to visit our children whom we haven’t seen face-to-face in over 19 months. The three-day hotel quarantine requirement that kept us from travelling never did make any sense. It only was introduced in February of this year, and most likely to appease the majority of Canadians who were envious of a few other Canadians who had the audacity to go south for a vacation. I never realized that most Canadians were selfish and jealous.

If the rule did not make sense before February, why was it implemented at all? Many Canadians who travelled south discovered that if they flew to a US border city and took a taxi to the nearest border and walked across, they would be exempt from the three-day hotel quarantine rule, which applied only to travellers who arrived in Canada by air. So, other than for political reasons, why was this rule implemented in the first place?

Of course, there is also the absurdity that the US-Canada border has been shut since March 2020 for non-essential travel. But this rule seems to apply only to travel by land and sea, not to travel by air. Again, why was this rule ever implemented?

Now to travel to the US, we were informed by the airline that we needed to take a Covid test three days prior to our flight and of course have a negative result. The test cost each of us $200. I only mention the price because the tests we were required to take in the US three days before our return flight cost us nothing, and the test we had to take when we arrived at the airport also cost us nothing. Why did we have to pay for the test in Canada? Did the cost cross-subsidize the test when we arrived back? Were contributions made to the Liberal Party in power? Or was this just intended to deter travel?

The pre-departure test supposedly is mandated by the CDC in the US. We were asked for our results before we were allowed through security. Interestingly, the US customs and immigration agent at the airport made no such request. Why? Are Canadian airports bearing the costs for checking test results on behalf of the US? If so, why?

In the US we had to get another test three days prior to our departure back to Canada. The stress of hoping the results would be available in time was enormous. The long-term health consequences of being subject to this stress far outweigh the minimal risks we faced from Covid since we had both vaccines. Did the Canadian Government make any allowances for the possibility that the test results might not be available in time? Walgreen did not provide any test results over the weekend. CVS did. But neither chain seemed to be aware of the Canadian Government requirement. Why hasn’t the Canadian Government made companies who provide these tests aware of the rules? Oh yes, I forgot that I am talking about the current Canadian Government, and they do not seem to be capable of doing anything right.


Upon our return, we had to wait about 40 minutes to disembark since the immigration hall was overflowing. The airline allowed only 50 passengers off at a time. I felt sorry for the other passengers who likely had to wait an hour or more after us.

When we got to the immigration hall, it was indeed overflowing — another 40-minute ordeal to get through. Why weren’t there more agents to handle the crowds? The government knows the number of passengers arriving each hour. Once we got our bags, we had to pick up kits to do the tests at home, with the guidance online of professionals. How much did all of this cost? Not that I am complaining, but why was there no charge?

Supposedly, my wife and I had to self-isolate until we got the test results, one to three days. However, we did not do the tests until the following day and our samples were not picked up until the next day — two days after we arrived. The earliest we could expect results would have been four days after we arrived. Why put fully vaccinated travellers to all of this expense, stress and trouble? Unfortunately, I believe it is because most Canadians are stupid and want to discourage travel, and the government is only too happy to oblige, especially with an election coming soon.

A second example: diligently following the self-isolation guidelines after my trip, I went to my university, two days after I returned and before my test was picked up. This was my first trip in about one year. I had to check if there was any mail. I had to arrange well in advance to get into a couple of buildings. I went through the university process, required by my provincial government — even more incompetent than the federal government — and got approval. When I arrived at the scheduled time, I expected to have to go through some security screening process to make sure that I had a legitimate appointment. There was no one to be seen. I walked into the two buildings. Why did I need to go through any screening process?

But it was distressing to see an almost empty campus. My university has 45,000 students, and few were visible. We have been operating online since March 2020. So, why do universities continue to invest hundreds, if not billions, of dollars in new buildings? Why do we need so many universities if we can teach students online? Why not create three tiers of universities, each one with very few operating facilities?

For example, there can be the elite tier — Harvard, MIT, or Oxford for example. Everyone can enroll and pay exorbitant fees per course. But the passing rate at the elite tier might only be 20 per cent. Students would take their chances.

There would be a middle tier — University of Toronto, University of Michigan, UCLA, etc. Everyone could enroll and pay less exorbitant fees, though the passing rate might be 50 per cent. Then there would be the third tier, with lower fees and a higher passing rate. Across North America, we would only need a handful of schools. All the others could be shut down. Hence, why do we need all these schools and infrastructure when the pandemic has shown that students can be exploited with online classes?

Next there is climate change. I am just beginning to do some serious research on this subject, but already I am confused. Why was the name for this movement changed from global warming to climate change, since climate change — whatever this means — depends on global warming? For that matter, what does climate change mean?

Generally, theories predict certain expected outcomes. Then researchers test to see if the outcomes materialize in order to support the theory. But what are the predictions of climate change? How many more hurricanes and of what intensity should we expect each year over the next decade or two? How many more forest fires and intensity of fires should we expect? And so on. Without predictions that can be tested, climate change is a tautology – everything is climate change, and nothing is climate change.

According to the UN climate change panel, the goal is to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This begs several questions.

  • What is the starting point — the pre-industrial time?
  • What was the average global temperature in pre-industrial times?
  • How do we know?
  • What might have happened to global temperatures in the absence of industrialization?

To answer the last question, we would need thousands of years of data on global temperatures; data that we do not have. Why does this matter? Because if we do not know what might have happened, how do we know whether current temperatures are above or below the long-term trend? Maybe industrialization has reduced global temperatures.

How accurate were the original predictions of the global warming models — those developed 20 or 30 years ago? If the predictions were wrong, then why?

How do we measure the volume of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere? Is there a direct, continuous relation between global temperatures and the volume of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, or is it a step function relation?

How do we measure temperatures around the world on a daily basis? Do we have observations for every city, town, village and remote location? Does it matter if we do not? I could go on…

Finally, out of curiosity, I looked up how many small countries exist — countries that were members of the UN and had populations of less than 15 million. Why that number — just an arbitrary cut-off, and this is less than Canada’s current population.

As an undergrad and grad student in Economics, I was taught the benefits of free trade and access to large markets. The European Union was created for two reasons. One was to create a domestic market equal in size to that of the US so that European companies could become more competitive. The other, which unfortunately is unlikely to happen, was to create a political union to prevent future wars among the member countries. Obviously, there are benefits for larger countries/regions. This, of course, raises the question: is there an optimal size for a country? I would suggest that India and China are too large to govern. But what is too small?

To my amazement, there are 121 countries with populations less than 15 million, and there are 38 with populations of less than one million. The smallest country is Nauru with a population of 11,000. Why do these countries exist?

Not all are poor. Fifteen have income per capita greater than Canada and there are some that have income per capita in excess of US$100,000 — Luxembourg (population 600,000), Monaco (population 39,000), and Liechtenstein (population 38,000). Other than as elite gated communities and possible tax havens, why do these three countries exist?

Many of the small countries have been created during the past 30 years, as a result of the break-up of larger countries; for example, South Sudan, Czech Republic, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Belarus, Serbia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Slovakia, Croatia, Moldova, Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Slovenia, and Montenegro. Tribalism probably explains the creation of these countries, few of which are bastions of freedom and democracy. Is tribalism a good reason for a country to exist? South Sudan ranks as the least free of all countries in the world. Are any of the small countries that broke away from the USSR truly better off? In terms of human rights, freedom and income, none appear to be.

In Canada, the province of Quebec has been threatening to separate from the rest of the country for the past 45 years. Scotland has been making the same threats in the UK.

Someone recently spoke of the need to create a Pan-Africa movement to bring civility and prosperity to the continent, there are at least 27 small countries in Africa. Unless one can determine why they exist, trying to create a Pan-African movement will prove futile. While there is great potential for the continent of Africa, tribalism and kleptocracy and “civil” wars will prevent the continent from realizing the potential.  

Then there is the Caribbean and Central America. Again, I do not understand why the 17 small countries exist as separate entities? Other than sharing in the spoils of the drug trade, and driving many of their people out of the countries to try to get into the US, should Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador exist? Why isn’t there is a single country in Central America? The same can be asked for the Caribbean.

All of these small countries have the same voting rights in the UN. Does this make any sense?

As the GATT expanded membership, negotiating a new round of the GATT became more difficult and time consuming. We are now in year 20 of the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations, with no end in sight. Multilateralism has been replaced by bilateralism and regionalism. Are these good trends?

So, we shut down the world to deal with a health crisis that we did not understand. Nor did we consider the long-term economic, social and health consequences of the draconian measures introduced. We are threatened with draconian measures to deal with a crisis that might not even be a crisis.

We demonstrated that students do not have to actually come to a lecture hall to learn anything in a university. I learned this a long time ago, when as an undergrad I attended fewer than 50 per cent of my lectures. In my sophomore year, when the entire grade in all courses was based on the final exam, I attended only 10 per cent of my lectures, and I still did very well.

The only thing I remember from my high school chemistry course is that the more surface areas that exist, the greater the probability of a chemical reaction. Does this mean that with more countries, there is a greater chance for a war? Does the creation of more countries help the people and promote democracy?

What am I missing?


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