The central tenet of trickle down economics is that the benefits of strong support for those at the top of the system will eventually drip down to those at the bottom. The late John Kenneth Galbraith, who grew up on a farm on the northern shore of Lake Erie, was fond of pointing out that any farm boy understood the theory for what it was.
Well, we have lived with that theory for thirty years now, and Jeffrey Simpson writes in today's Globe and Mail, that we are seeing its effects in the justice system, health care and education.
The court system offers one example. The courts are supposed to be there for people who need them to settle disputes, or for authorities to enforce the law. But the courts are plagued with huge expenses and endemic delays, as Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin keeps repeating in speeches. Judges blame lawyers, and lawyers blame judges (and everyone, of course, blames government), but the system is heavily tilted toward the conveniences of the lawyers and judges, not the people caught up in the system.
The same is true in health care. Under the Harris regime, Ontario hospitals were merged into ever larger units, on the theory that such mergers would produce greater efficiencies. The small hospital in our little town used to consistently operate in the black. Now, as a subunit of a larger organization, services it used to perform have been sucked to the center, and the super hospital consistently runs a deficit.
And, in higher education, Simpson writes
In universities, research drives professors’ time allocations. Tenure, promotion and salary depend more on research than on teaching, except in a very small minority of cases. Naturally, they pursue their own self-interest by focusing on research (which can help their teaching), so that today’s professors generally teach less, and sometimes much less, than professors did several decades ago.
The losers are the very people for whom the universities were designed: the student, especially the undergraduates who don’t figure, as do graduate students, in the research world of the professors.
Modern conservatism claims to be all about efficient use of resources. The truth is that modern conservatives have never been concerned with efficiency. They have sought to centralize resources and the levers to control them. And, after thirty years, it's clear that what they have accomplished is increased privilege for the few at the expense of the many.
Galbraith knew that it all amounted to a pile of what comes out of the back end of a cow.