Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The True Measure Of A Just Society

Justin Trudeau has made it clear that he's working for the middle class. Ed Broadbent writes that Trudeau should be working much harder to raise the prospects of the poor:

There was a time when reformers looked elsewhere. They said the real test for a progressive government is how it treats the poor. Winning an election by appeals to the middle class is one thing. But continuing with that emphasis while almost five million Canadians are in poverty is a betrayal of the democratic goal of equality. It’s a particular betrayal of poor Canadian children who have been promised equality of opportunity.

 It was Broadbent who, in 1989, championed a resolution to reduce child poverty:

Back in 1989, three federal parties worked together to propose and pass a motion that I, as the leader of the federal NDP, moved to eliminate child poverty within a decade. We all thought that, with the right mix of policies at both the federal and provincial levels, this timeline was possible.

But, since then, the rate of child poverty has gone up -- from 15.8 per cent to 17.4 per cent. Now is the time to change that trajectory:

The government now has a chance to change directions. It is due to announce a Canadian poverty-reduction strategy within weeks. We should demand a pan-Canadian strategy to address the needs of the millions of Canadians living in poverty. And, unlike what happened in 1989, this should include specific benchmarks and timelines for child poverty so that subsequent governments can be held accountable. There should be an annual report to Parliament on its implementation.
The elements of a national strategy are clear. The attack on poverty, and eradication of child poverty specifically, must include concrete action on affordable housing, pharmacare, child care, tax reform, the minimum wage and precarious work.

The Scandinavian countries have done it. And we can, too. The true measure of a just society is how well we treat the so called least among us.

Image: Castanet


Toby said...

Owen, as Mound and others keep saying, we can't tackle one problem on its own in isolation. Sorting our child poverty will eventually lead to more children. It always does. Humans are like any other species in that we expand our population to meet the available food supply. So, while we tackle child poverty we are also going to have to tackle the awful situation so many women find themselves in. We will have to find a means to redistribute wealth as automation kills jobs. We are going to have to seriously deal with environmental degradation. We have to create a new and better economic system that serves us all with something left over for desperate people on the run. We will seriously have to deal with drug problems, legal and otherwise, as present approaches aren't working. Etc. It's a long list.

Owen Gray said...

All quite true, Toby. We face multiple problems and they are interconnected. We can't solve them one at a time. That realization should be at the heart of any strategy we adopt.

the salamander said...

.. the planet is overpopulated .. sorry to say
we cannot sustain such numbers..
I'll say no more on that

I don't see our precious evangelicals
emptying their pockets or wallets
or moving boat people or environmental refugees
into their basements as my sister & husband did in the way back when
Long on lecturing - short on actual 'helping hands'
or generosity.. are the posturing poliical pricks

'Elect us and we'll become nice people..'
But until then we will be total A-Hole dicks
holding somebody's feet to the fire
(which sounds like torture) no ?

Political Parties are the walking corrupted dead
so tired, so conflicted, such sellouts, so captured, incompetant
For gawds sake never let them near aircraft or airports
there would be mid air crashes every day, no fuel,
no maintainance records, no fire suppression, no drills

But.. we let them buy pipelines or pick our fighter aircraft
or pretend to refurbish our navy or coast guard patrol craft

We let them dictate inland waters legislation or species protection
We actually let them muzzle scientists and biologists
while investing in foreign mining interests
registered in Canada, who tell South American! indigenous
to get off their own lands ! Hit the road jack

We rant (well, some of us) about Palestine being creamed by Israel
who gets how many billion US $ annually?
but its OK for South American Big Energy or Mining interests to do the same

It just disgusts me.. its pitiful & criminal

Watch out for those blowgun darts in the dark
they may be tipped in something archaic n nasty
Hope that aint surprising

In North America it may get as nasty'
You think First Nations don't know bow n arrow ?
Dream on.. and every game trail there is ?

Military sleeping in their tanks..?
They gonna pee or take a dump in the tanks too ?
I don't see washroom cabability in the military specs

Owen Gray said...

Poor people -- if they're angry enough -- can be dangerous people, sal. If we refuse to recognize them, they'll insist that they be recognized.

The Mound of Sound said...

I've become convinced that the precursor to resolving our problem of child poverty and a number of associated social ills ultimately depends on adopting a new form of economics, 'steady state' or 'whole Earth' economics. We have to break from the perpetual, exponential growth paradigm that even the current management still pursue.

It's rarely mentioned but Adam Smith, in his 1776 classic, "The Wealth of Nations," predicted that exponential growth could only work for a finite period. He estimated 200 years. Bear in mind that Smith had no perception of the Industrial Revolution and the evolution of fossil energy. Yet, given that mankind had grown the economy and population and longevity during the 20th century to the point where we first strayed into environmental overshoot in the early 70s, Smith's forecast was astonishingly accurate.

Instead of leveling off in the early 70s, population, longevity and consumption (both overall and per capita) skyrocketed to where we are today. An environment that was capable, albeit just barely, of sustainably supporting a global population of 3 billion in the early 70s has now degraded and could support no more than 2 billion even as our overall numbers have already exceeded 7.5 billion.

Canada, of course, isn't China or India or even the United States. We still have a relatively small population and a huge land mass with adequate resources. What that means is that we can transition to a steady state economy without first triggering a societal collapse.

The steady state model restricts the size of the economy so that it is a subset of the environment. It achieves a fixed level of population that, like the size of the economy, is sustainable. Through reproductive technologies, births are roughly matched to deaths. Because the economy is limited, its products must be equitably distributed, along the lines of a guaranteed minimum income for everyone and more for those who demonstrate a merit-based entitlement. Two good introductory sources are Prugh's "Natural Capital and Human Economic Survival" and Herman Daly's "Beyond Growth." This isn't the stuff of cranks. It is the evolved thinking of several prominent economists.

I have no confidence that we will have the collective wisdom to go down this path. I merely point it out because, in Canada, we still have the option.

The Mound of Sound said...

One other point. It concerns the New Democrats. We had a premier, Glen Clark, who ran the province from 1996-1999. Afterward it emerged that the New Dems really didn't care much about BC's poor. Their focus was on the trades, and the blue collar vote. Poverty got short shrift just as it had under successive Social Credit governments.

Poor people don't turn out at the polls. Like the youth vote, that's their political undoing. Old farts like us do turn out. The pols know it. That's why they cater to us.

Owen Gray said...

If we old farts understand the "sustainable model" -- which strikes me as a variation of the kind of economy E. F. Schumacher was advocating for in his book, "Small is Beautiful" -- we still might turn the tide, Mound. Unfortunately, I'm not sure anyone reads Schumacher anymore.