Iron fist

Downtown Toronto is now cop heaven. Twenty five of them standing on the not very wide northwest corner of Wellington and Bay at 9 p.m. With reinforcements at the ready on the southwest corner in case anything happens. Cops in cars, on foot, packs of them on bikes and down at Harbourfront a couple of behelmed security doughboys rolling at a sedate 3 mph on their ATVs, looking like RoboCop meets LawnBoy. Security fences around hotels and running the length of blocks around the bank towers. This is presumably what the Gaza Strip looks like, with the difference that this nonsense is all sanctioned and not censured, by the international community.

Anyone who doesn’t feel at least a twinge of distaste at the sight of a security perimeter is probably not a democrat at heart. It might be an overstatement to call law enforcement a necessary evil, but it’s at least a necessary something-not-so-good. Which means unnecessary security is objectionable. And that is exactly what the G20 lockdown is. It’s the state flexing its metallic muscles to no purpose whatever, except possibly to provoke the leftist rabble. If the lefties do get wound up at the sight of this steroidal display, well, it’s hard to blame them. In fact, maybe it's time for a libertarian wing of the International Order of Street Chaotists; they could have a black flag with Milton Friedman in silhouette.

And the cost. $1 billion for this celebration of the coercive power of the state. Add in the economic loss from shutting down the core of Canada’s biggest city for a week (offset by the positive value of a G20 gabfest, that is, zero). The Harper government levered itself into power in 2006 in part on account of the Sponsorship Scandal, which involved about the loss of $100m of public money; the summit is wasting more than this by an order of magnitude.

Canada should never hold an event like this again. Even better would be to stop attending them and just drop out of the G8 and G20. It wouldn’t make a damn bit of difference to anyone, except for Harper and Flaherty not getting their picture taken with a bunch of other organization men and that the hapless Canadian taxpayer would save a few bucks.