Sunday, April 24, 2011


Like most Canadians, Professor McKinley found it easy to put aside ideological differences when someone needed help. The fellow in front of him certainly looked like he did.

But, it was strange to see a medium-height man with sandy hair and wide light-brown eyes plop a piece of metal worth more than 140,000 loonies on his desk without any ceremony. So, McKinley spent some time asking this man who he was and how he had gotten here.

It was easy to confirm that this fellow was in fact Morris Gurr, a survivalist who had taken it upon himself to try to “educate” the professor on the “real” meaning of Franz Oppenheimer. Since he hadn’t been presumptuous about it, McKinley had been tickled by his attempts.

Thanks to the professor’s training in literature and post-structuralist theory, long after it had been shot down as “political correctness” and thus lost its controversial edge, he was used to seeing the anarchist narrative being justified by invoking the work of the social democrat Oppenheimer. Instead of arguing with Gurr, the professor had strung him along out of interest in the neo-Oppenheimerite narrative. As he expected, it was based in the work of that Frank Chodorov and Albert Nock. Needless to say, anarchist Austrianism was laced in too. Mr. Gurr had fit the profile.

McKinley cut off the present discussion as soon as it became clear that this fellow was the same Morris he had corresponded with. Funny: he had pictured the man as taller and thin, not pudgy. But, the haunted look and overage tough-kid demeanour fit. A lot of then acted like they’d be shocked if someone did them a good turn. Sadly, too many of them turned suspicious. Oddly, they fit the profile of the disenfranchised even if they were typically well above proletarian income-wise.

Now, to business. “It sounds like you’re making a refugee claim.” I might as well let him know up front. “Sad to say, the Government of Canada doesn’t recognize refugee claims from the United States.” He was tempted to add “Tory-ridden” to “Canada” as a lightener, but Gurr’s expression suggested he wouldn’t get it. “Had you been a draft-dodger, I could put you in a safe house quickly – but you’re not.

“I’m afraid that there isn’t enough of a constituency in these parts to make a test case for you.”

Saying those all-Canadian words unlocked part of his brain. Now in his working memory were several names of fellow Canadian goldbugs who shared this runaway’s ideology. They became Professor McKinley’s friends once he had steered them clear from politics and towards their doomsayer lens. They loved talking about the “End Of The World As We Know It,” and the good professor let them because he was fascinated by their narrative. As a result, they counted him as a real friend despite political differences.

To the point, he was sure, where he could draw on it. “If you don’t mind living on the run, I could send a few messages” – with secure Blackberry, of course – “and see if anyone can bunk you up.”

Shifting a bit on his feet, Morris thanked him but added that he wasn’t here for charity. While doing so he looked more the castaway.

“The reason why I stopped by is to make a trade with you. That bar’s my life savings. I bought it on the CRIMEX.” That moniker was the nick for the NYMEX/COMEX commodity exchange, on which 100 oz. gold bars were traded. “Got it at spot for only a delivery fee and gas for pickup.” Having heard stories about drivers being rousted by the border guards, he had abandoned his car at the bus depot in his home town. He had used his credit card, but he had a plan to abandon it too.

Gurr now looked hesitant; it seemed to Prof. McKinley that the man was waiting be reached out to and patted on the back. “Would it be worth your while to trade this bar for ninety-nine Maple Leafs?”

Now, McKinley’s Canadian was up. “No, I’m not going to do that. I’ll give you one hundred ounces for it. We’ll make a fair trade.”

That got Gurr squirming almost as if he had been called on the carpet. “Sir, I don’t want to put you out any –“

“Good God, man! Why do you make it so hard for someone to do you a good turn?”

As a professor, it confirmed one of McKinley’s intuitions about Ayn Rand fans: many of them were unconsciously self-sacrificial, with their fanaticism covering it up. Not knowing how to be selfish in Rand’s way, they took refuge in parroting her political conclusions. The sad part was, many of them were raised to see their self-interest as aligned with the welfare state. As a result, they had next to no idea how they would thrive in their laissez-faire Utopia. Through their parroting, they hoped to absorb the magic secret that was beyond their reach. Many of them, he was sure, had fantasies about starting off in a stretch of raw land and building up a farm or something by their own two hands.

As a man, he was saddened and frustrated. Here was a fellow that was really deserving of charity, one who might well rate formal asylum some day. Should the Bush national security state keep growing as it had, should the aggressive post-Bush cop-bullies keep tasering and truncheoning the innocent, these poor fellows would be the new wave of draft dodgers.

“What I’m offering you is no more than what one human being offers another in trouble. From what you’ve told me, you’re already got enough trouble as it is. Why add to it when you need all the help you can get?”

The sadness and frustration mixed as he saw Morris flinch as if he had been rebuked. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to – I don’t know what I meant. Thank you.” Now acting almost obsequious, Morris thanked him again. It was clear that this independent self-starting man was unused to being helped to the point that real helped startled him.

Now standing up, McKinley decided that the only way to clam up his charge was to take charge. “I have my coins in a safe-deposit box. You can take your bar and we can make the exchange in the safe-deposit room. I’ll vouch for you, so the bank will let us both in.”

As he expected, Morris shook off his funk. “Thank you.” This time, the obsequiousness was gone. In its place was the confidence to ask for something else.

“If you don’t mind, could you put me in touch with someone in Vancouver?”

“Sure. I do know someone there who’s up your alley.”

“Thanks, Professor. It’s much appreciated.” Now, the man no longer looked hunted.

Gurr didn’t get antsy at the bank, where he got 90 one-ounce Maple Leafs and 20 one-half ouncers for his 100-oz. bar. McKinley’s attempt to lighten the mood, by saying he would save on transaction costs, was unnecessary and uncomprehended. Gurr merely informed him that he would have to get it assayed if he wanted to sell it on the futures exchange. “Still, it’s a good-delivery bar and an assay should be straightforward. Just don’t bang it up and you’ll be fine.”

The professor’s “gold friend” in Vancouver did answer, and did assent to having Gurr in for a “visit.” A solid employee at a libertarian-oriented think tank, she had a spacious one-bedroom apartment with a comfortable couch. She had heard of Morris Gurr and immediately recognized the significance of him being rousted.

Before they left the safety deposit box back, Gurr put a half-ounce coin back in and turned to ask the professor something. Perplexed, McKinley said “I though we already settled the matter.”

“No, I’m not trying to go back on the deal. I wanted to sell you a half-ounce piece for cash money.”

McKinley’s eyes and cheeks lit up. “Oh, now I see.

“Well, this one I’m going to charge you for,” he said agreeably. His refugee now looked like a man with a plan. “Once we finish here, I’ll pull out seven hundred dollars from the ATM. Bank fees; they kill you up here.”

Morris just smiled back. “Sounds like a deal.”

The ATM dispensed twenties, and McKinley’s charge now had a whole mittful of bright green bills with Queen Elizabeth’s picture on them. He extended his hand, and Professor McKinley shook it.

“Thanks, Professor. You don’t know how much this means to me.”

As he left, Morris Gurr planned out his next steps. First, he had to find a public library and locate the towns with bus stations in this province. Then, he would have to take the public bus to an Internet café and rent a car from it. From there, he would drive up to the town he chose and abandon the car in the woods about ten miles out. He could hike the ten miles in one stretch if need be. Since he was normally sedentary, he guessed the cops would assume he took off in the woods. He melting his credit card with a lighter, so as to blot out any information that a thief could use, would add to the illusion. He didn’t have time to grab some camping gear and make it look as if he were going out on a camping jaunt. Besides, he doing so didn’t quite square with a desperate man on the run.

A printed-out online map would get him the address of the bus station. From there, he’d buy a ticket to Vancouver for cash. The Maple Leafs, he could use to dicker with his new host Hester. Hester of Vancouver.

The professor found out the rest of the story through a vid-call from an American police officer. Calling because he had a lead from Gurr’s credit-card records, he asked if the professor had seen the fugitive.

“What has he done?” Long habituated to Canadian norms, Professor McKinley hid his distaste for American cops and responded as if they were Canadian.

“He’s a drug dealer.” Then followed a description of what Morris Gurr looked like, which matched what McKinley had seen. Also supplied was the rented car, abandoned near a town ninety kilometres away from the professor’s own location. The cop made it clear that Gurr had definitely been in the city.

Again, McKinley’s habituation hid his real thoughts. He knew very well that Morris Gurr was as far away from illegal drugs as he himself was from Friedmanite economics. Now, he unambiguously considered his rescue work to be a good deed – and the cop on the screen to be something other than a good man. So, he threw out the baited hook: “Did he assault a police officer?”

The cop didn’t bite. “Not yet, sir, but he is considered armed and dangerous. He’s a domestic terrorist type.”

That left McKinley off a different kind of hook.

“Armed and dangerous, you say?” Receiving confirmation, he stated:

“I can say unambiguously that I’ve encountered no-one matching that description.”

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