Monday, September 2, 2013

Wellarc Ain’t Doin So Well

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A 17-year-old named Xavier Ménard has started his own graphic-design company. Although I don’t know him (nor speak his language) I’m very fond of this Xavier guy. This young entrepreneur is against some tough odds. For starters, he’s a small-business owner in one of the most heavily regulated, excessively taxed provinces of Canada. Canada is hard enough to do business in, let alone doing business in Quebec. But this entrepreneur is determined and I hope his graphic-design company succeeds beyond his wildest dreams.

Unfortunately it’s gotten off to a rocky start. Xavier’s company is named Wellarc. “Wellarc” is a loose combination of the French words: web, langage, logo, artistique and compagnie. Merging words like this is common in French as well as German, as readers of Ludwig von Mises are well aware of. Regardless of its origins, it’s pretty obvious that in a free society, Xavier can name his business whatever he wants. If he names it something incredibly offensive, it’s unlikely he’ll get customers. Nevertheless, it is within his right to do so.

But Quebec is pretty fascist. The Quebecois, or French-Canadians, I’ve met in Canmore (there’s a lot of them) are pretty open about the blatant corruption in their province. It’s not taboo to say that the mob controls a large portion of the provincial and municipal governments. But the kind of corruption that Xavier is up against is more subtle. It involves Bill 101, the “Charter of the French Language,” which dictates that all Quebec companies must have French names. “Wellarc,” has been targeted as sounding “too English.”

“It’s harder and harder for a company, especially in Quebec, to have a representative name, because all the French words have already been used,” said Xavier in an interview. “We said, ‘We want to sell outside Quebec, so we will build a bilingual word using French words.’ You can say Wellarc in French or in English. It sounds good in both languages.”

But the Registraire des entreprises does not agree. Apparently the controversy is over the first part of the name: “well.” Unless Xavier can afford the costs to go to court over the issue (like Walmart, Costco and Best Buy have), he’ll have to conform to the demands of bureaucrats. And he’s not the only one. Revenu Québec reports that 9% of requests to register new companies are rejected on the grounds that they violate Bill 101. That’s 12,000 rejections a year.

Xavier Ménard is not going down without a fight. He’s been on YouTube reporting on the petty tyranny of this decision.  “I’m seriously starting to find the situation just a little ridiculous,” he says, “I’m not necessarily challenging the good intentions behind Bill 101, but I find the means used a little idiotic… I’m supposed to be happy because the French language is protected against evil anglophone capitalists — like me. Really… What’s the advantage to Quebecers of being able to speak French in the workplace if they don’t even have a workplace to go to?”

Xavier understands economics. Quebec bureaucrats do not. If Quebec is going to prosper as a distinct culture – whether a part of Canada or not – then these fascists need to step out of the way and allow entrepreneurs like Xavier Ménard generate some real prosperity.

As a side note, the National Post reports that Xavier is “fiercely opposed to the PQ government, he describes himself as a right-of-centre sovereigntist. He believes sovereignty is the best way for Quebec to ensure the survival of its language and culture.” The emphasis is mine; I hope to see more of these “right-of-centre” sovereigntists become more influential Quebec politics. Are Mises’ and Rothbard’s works available in French? Anybody want to translate?

1 comment:

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