Thursday, May 09, 2013

You Can't Believe A Word

Andrew Coyne has an interesting take on the National Research Council's new mandate. The NRC was originally established to do the kind of research which business could not and should not do:

Hence it is well-established economic principle that basic research is the sort of thing governments should fund. By the same token, however, government should not be in the business of funding applied research, that is research directed to commercial uses. Not only is this unnecessary — business can perfectly well fund this sort of thing on its own — but it inevitably tilts the pitch in favour of certain activities over others: some technologies, innovations, products, firms and industries will be funded, at the expense of the rest.

The Harper government likes to claim that it is devoted to "free markets." But, Coyne writes, that claim is patently false:

After so many previous episodes — the auto industry bailouts; the proliferation of subsidies and tax breaks to other favoured industries, even including the venture capital industry; the extension of regional development subsidies to every part of the country; to say nothing of its highly discretionary foreign investment policy, jawboning of banks, etc. etc. etc. — it should by now be clear to everyone: This can no longer be described as mere political posturing. It accurately reflects the government’s current thinking on the economy. We have to stop talking about the Harper government having “abandoned its principles”. Whatever might once have been the case, these are its principles.

This is a government which believes in market intervention -- not in favour of ordinary citizens, but in favour of business:

It is simply wrong to refer to the Harper government as “free market” in orientation. Its economic policy is, and has been for some time, heavily interventionist — perhaps the most interventionist of any government since Trudeau’s.

Stephen Harper claimed he was in favour of accountability -- then shut down all avenues to it. He claimed he was fiscally responsible then ran up the biggest deficit in Canadian history. He claims that markets should be allowed to function freely, but insists that they function according to his rules.

Coyne's point is simple: You can't believe a word he tells you. He's a fraud.


Danneau said...

Re: governing for business, not for the people:
Let us remember that business is also people, meaning that Harper, like so many others, governs in the name of rewarding a certain narrow constituency, and not only with present gifts, but also with a system which channels political and economic activity in such a way as to perpetuate control of the system of gifts. Harper is a tool, willing enough, who aspires to be the Wizard behind, as well as in front of the curtain.

Owen Gray said...

Harper is, indeed, a willing servant of a narrow constituency, Danneau.

He does not define his job as referee between competing interests. He believes his task is to further the interests of that narrow constituency.

And that is precisely why he needs to go back to Calgary rather than stay in Ottawa.

Lorne said...

With a powerful friend like Harper, Owen, why should businesses do anything other than sit on their over $600 billion in cash when the government will do all the heavy lifting of research and development for them?

Anonymous said...

I think the purpose of this exercise in commercializing the NRC is to divert more public funds to the fossil fuel and extraction industries - the real constituency of the Reformists. No doubt we will see many 'scientific' research projects involving bitumen and mining, all paid for with public funds.

Owen Gray said...

They've got it made, Lorne. And with continued corporate tax cuts, the costs for services rendered keeps going down.

Owen Gray said...

The Harperian world revolves around bitumen, Anon. Harper's mission is to promote it -- at all costs.

He and his caucus believe the NRC should support that mission.

Dana said...

I wonder what it would take for Canadians to hang Harper upside down from a lamp post.

Probably as much as it took for the Italians to do the same to Mussolini.

Sad about the country we'd lose though.

Owen Gray said...

Perhaps the wheels are beginning to come off the bus, Dana. I read that the Catholic Bishops in the Maritimes are criticizing his "reform" of EI.

His Senate appointments are beginning to look even more sleezy than they did two months ago.

And his numbers are sinking.