Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Great Contradiction

Tom Walkom takes some consolation from the fact that yesterday Jim Flaherty  said the government was willing to spend some money to give the economy a boost. But, Walkom writes in this morning's Toronto Star, if Flaherty thinks a few make work projects will do the trick, he's sadly mistaken. He and his government are wedded to the prevailing economic myth of our time -- that government should get out of the economy:

Throughout much of the developed world, the elements of the welfare state that used to keep capitalism on track through the bad spells — what analysts call the economic stabilizers — have been eaten away.

In Canada, it was a Liberal federal government under Jean Chr√©tien and Paul Martin that gutted unemployment insurance and welfare. Martin was lauded at the time. But that’s because, with the economy on the rebound, the effects of his cuts were muted.

Now that the economy is in the dumps, the downside of the Martin measures has become evident. Most jobless Canadians don’t even qualify for what is now euphemistically called employment insurance.
Harper’s Conservatives are continuing in the same vein, with their scaling back of old age security, their antipathy to regulation, their attacks on trade unions, their refusal to expand the Canada Pension Plan and their determination — still undiminished — to get government out of the economy in the long run.

This brutal recession has been made more brutal because government has withdrawn from the playing field. On this day when anti-austerity strikes are breaking out across Europe, what Flaherty and his collegues fail to understand is that

capitalism on its own doesn’t work. Corporate CEOs may not want the state involved in the economy. They may hate unions. But they need both if they are to profit. That is one of the great contradictions of our era.

The Government of Canada, like so many others, refuses to see where that contradiction leads.


Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

It is never a case of whether government should be involved. It is on whose behalf is the government involved.

It appears to me that Harper is the international salesman for businesses in Canada. Am I mistaken or has Harper spend more time traveling to drum up business than any other Prime Minister. We are all paying for this subsidy for business. The certainly are getting value for their tax dollars. I do not hear businesses complaining about these subsides they get or the tax breaks they enjoy.

On another level there are those concerned about social issues such as abortion. They often do not want the government to be involved in people's until it comes to anti abortion laws.

The Mound of Sound said...

I stumbled upon an unsettling opinion piece today from Postmedia. It suggested that Trudeau, much like Obama, would likely continue policies initiated by Harper in the Conservatives' march to the centre. Worse still, Mulcair was depicted as likewise firmly fixed on the centre, having moved beyond even the centre-left.

I'm struck by this all too believable political compression where centrism becomes some overwhelming black hole capable of sustaining only technocracy.

Without a truly broad political spectrum there's no vision so fundamental to political progress and democracy. It's sort of like Musical Chairs with everyone wanting only the middle seat.

We have seen the face of technocracy (borderline theocracy) in Harper. It's a focus on administration that too readily ignores challenges and leaves the unaddressed or bypassed.

My notion of democratic government is an institution that identifies the needs and threats facing a population and makes addressing them its priority while simultaneously tending to basic administration. What we have today and what our opposition leaders appear to be shooting for is a form of half-government or even pseudo-government that leaves us all at peril and cannot even begin to serve the interests of future generations.

Anonymous said...

A while back. Friends of my son, University students were at my house. I was always amused by their conversations.

They were angry at Harper and his government, as usual. They said. We are being herded into Zones or Unions. Border talks between, Obama, Harper and Calderon of Mexico. There were also secret meetings, between the three.

The European Union is already here. There will be the, North American Union, South American Union and so on. There is to be, a huge labor pool in these Unions or Zones. Then there will be, the New World Order, or a Global Government, perched at the top.

They talked about the Bilderberg, the sale of Canadian railroads. The expansion of rail yards and ports. The NAFTA super highway.

I do remember they said. Harper gave a speech, on Global Governance for Canada. Harper had said, the New World Order has been worked on, since 1945. Harper was very much in favor of this movement.

There was Harper's speech, at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York. This was Sept 25/2007. Harper's election was rigged, so they could start implementing those plots. This will be started slowly, so as not to alarm the masses.

It is damned weird, about Harper's blatant corruption. His abuse of Canadian people. The theft and waste of our tax dollars. Harper's lies, deceit and dirty tactics. Harper's control of, police, judges, courts, Elections Canada, the media, scientists, and everything else he got his hands on.

Flaherty said. The name "Conservative" is gone. We knew Harper wasn't a Conservative, right from day one. So, what are we then?

I laughed at those students. Now, I am not too damned sure, those kids don't have it right. There are, strange things done, under the midnight sun. And, none of them make a damned bit of sense.

Lorne said...

I read the column this morning, Owen, and I thought that Walkom is quite right in his observations about the corporate mentality. However, given the short-sighted nature of the capitalist outlook, I would go further and suggest that not only does it not want government involvement in the economy, it cares not a whit for the societal havoc it wreaks by its relentless pursuit of profit at any cost.

That fact alone should give pause to the cheerleaders who tell us that all we need do is put our faith in the marketplace, and all will ultimately be well.

Owen Gray said...

You're right, Philip. The government is involved. It just picks its side -- business -- and hangs everyone else out to dry.

The concept of justice -- giving everyone his or her due -- is alien to these folks.

Owen Gray said...

It's interesting how Postmedia tries to define the political centre, Mound. For them, centrism is when all the political parties accept the corporatist agenda.

The old idea of centrism -- giving everyone a piece of the action (economically and socially) has gone by the wayside.

As I said to Philip, no one appears to be motivated by a desire for fundamental justice.

Owen Gray said...

The kids get it, Anon. They understand that the strange things are done "by the men who moil for gold."

Owen Gray said...

And we have past evidence that putting faith in unregulated markets leads to exactly where we are now, Lorne.

We're not talking about economic theory. We're talking about economic history.