Friday, January 06, 2012

Where Are The Ideas?

 Susan Riley writes this morning that Canada is in desperate need of new ideas:

We need (another) overhaul of the tax system, to remove boutique credits that add complexity at the expense of fairness; and to close loopholes that allow the wealthy to shirk their responsibility. We need to bolster public pensions, get serious about energy conservation and strategy, and get creative about health care.

Instead, we get more commentary on the horse race, who stuck it to whom, and more voter apathy.   Stephen Harper flourishes in such an environment. He came to Ottawa to stick it to a lot of people. And he has ideas:

There are rumours the Conservatives will move the retirement age to 67, for example; there is a good chance Canada will involve itself in a war against Iran, or Syria. These are not, necessarily, good ideas but they are more worthy of contemplation than, say, Senate reform.

If those ideas are adopted, the consequences are clear. It is no accident that income inequality is now rising faster in Canada than in the United States. But the NDP is focused, as it should be, on picking a new leader. And the media are focused on whether or not Bob Rae will stay on as permanent Liberal leader.

The Liberals got lost in the weeds of personal ambition and forgot the people they were supposed to represent.One hopes that the NDP will not make the same mistake. The only way to gain public support is to develop a program that people will buy.

If the Liberals are smart when they meet next week, they will focus on ideas -- not Bob Rae.


rabbit said...

"there is a good chance Canada will involve itself in a war against Iran, or Syria."

These things might happen. Who can say? But to lay such speculations at Harper's door is silly. It's better to criticize politicians for what they have done or say they will do, not what some critic guesses they will do.

Harper's record militarily is that he has:

1. Gotten Canada out of the Afghanistan war.

2. Involved Canada in a brief, successful operation in Libya which has now ended.

Kirbycairo said...

The LPC sowed the seeds of its own decline when it adopted wholesale the globalizing 'neo-liberal' economic agenda. As a result, when they found themselves in opposition, they became a rubber-stamping committee for Harper's government and then they seemed to have the gall to be surprised when they lost to the NPD. The truth is that people have to face up to the fact that the LPC did something terrible to this country - they made the globalizing 'neo-liberal' agenda mainstream and they thereby made the election of a Conservative government inevitable.

Of course, the CPC has done something even worse - they have made this a nation of haters and fearmongers, leaving the rest to loose faith in democracy.

New Ideas? No new ideas can come from people who have accepted the normalcy of corporate power, media concentration, and the existence of the super-rich. People need to go back and read the great Franz Fanon to see that we have all become infected with a psychological condition - both the oppressor and the oppressed. The new ideas are already there - they are in the minds of those who have been marginalized and smeared as leftwing crazies. It is not new ideas we need, we already have them, it is a shift in thinking that we need - a shift that will allow those heretofore marginalized ideas be seen for what they are - the only civilized future.

Remember Sartre said our historical choice is unavoidable - barbarism or socialism.

The Mound of Sound said...

The wisdom of Sue Riley. Susan and I go back to the mid-70s when we were both rookie reporters in Ottawa. She's only gotten better with the years.

Where are the ideas? Where indeed? Canadians, especially young Canadians and the generations who will follow them, will be faced with enormous challenges that are already building powerfully. What should lend itself to fresh ideas more than problems of this magnitude.

Yet we're not getting those ideas because they could only arise out of discussions that invite conclusions that are at once both obvious and threatening to our existing ways.

Take inequality, not only of wealth but of opportunity. That is the very essence of a robust, vital Middle Class that is, itself, the bulwark of a healthy, stable democracy. We can't talk about that because it necessarily demands we discuss everything from restoring universal healthcare to proper funding of advanced education. These are boxes today's sad crop of petro-pols are much too afraid to open.

The world has never experienced conditions remotely like those we have created today. We are confronted with challenges that demand ideas but we know those ideas will probably not be of our liking.

How many times have I heard people say they don't want government to deal with global warming because it might hurt the economy? What about the immeasurable future harm we are today inflicting on our young people and the generations to follow them?

There was an interesting piece in yesterday's Guardian discussing "intergenerational justice." The idea was that today's generation ought to be accountable for harm they knowingly or indifferently inflict on future generations. It's hard to grasp what our world today would look like if a force such as that existed.

The one idea no one wants to put forward is the role of posterity in ensuring the healthy continuation and future of our society. We are like meth addicts when it comes to posterity, seeing it as an unacceptable fetter on our insane craving for maximum production and maximum consumption. Like all such addictions it comes with a price, one that we act as though we can foist off on others.

Owen, until you hear our political classes talking openly and honestly about these enormous challenges of the day you can forget about any meaningful ideas.

The Mound of Sound said...

@Kirby. Interesting that you left the NDP out of your commentary. As Rick Salutin recently observed in TorStar, even the NDP has jettisoned the Left, moving instead to the centre. The NDP and the Libs, hand in hand, have been instrumental in assisting Harper achieve his fundamental objective of shifting Canada's political centre far to the Right.

I've never been a Socialist but I agree that is probably the direction we're heading, at least in the long run.

Our world is hitting a wall, a lot of walls. We're running out of stuff and we're overloaded with other stuff of the undesirable kind. When that occurs you have to shift from a consumption based economy to an allocation based system, call it rationing. That's what underlies every meaningful attempt at a global solution to carbon emissions - rationing. It's the same approach that we'll be using in many other ways before long.

What flows from this is the public acceptance of inequality. We're far more acquiescent of inequality in times of plenty. But, when allocation is required, we become a lot more egalitarian, demanding sacrifice be much more uniform. We have shown that we don't have to become communist to achieve that goal. Capitalism and Socialism can co-exist when capitalism is cleansed of corporatism and harnessed to the benefit of society. Staunch Republican Teddy Roosevelt expounded on just that in his "square deal" speech of 1910.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Kirby, that ultimately the choice is between what I would call barbarism and civilization.

The Liberal Party's failures have been multiple, as I suggested, because it has been more concerned with personal ambition than with the citizens it claims to represent.

All parties face the same tension. In the end, whether its the LPC, the CPC or the NDP, any party which promotes barbarism deserves to die.

I believe that the LPC has come to the edge of the precipice. What they do next week will determine whether they go over the edge.

Owen Gray said...

In a narrow sense, you're right, rabbit. Mr. Harper has gotten Canada out of Afghanistan and the Libyan mission -- for the moment -- looks successful.

But he also has a penchant for sabre rattling. Whether or not that serves the interests of the international community is debatable.

It's easy to talk yourself into a war. Afghanistan proves that it's much harder to get out of one.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Mound, that the problems we face are overwhelming -- and the proposed solutions are small minded.

As you suggest, there will be no real solutions until we have the courage to take the long view. We have become so wedded to the notion of "quarterly results" that thinking covering more than one calendar year has become anathema.

It still remains true, though, that the future is in our hands.

Incidently, you're absolutely right about Susan Riley. She's a gem.

Owen Gray said...

It's interesting that you mention Teddy's Roosevelt's Square Deal, Mound. He was not opposed to capitalism. But he was opposed to "malfactors of great wealth."

Kirbycairo said...

To Mound - I only left the NDP out because they have thus far never been in power and they are the only national party that has not adopted wholesale the "neo-liberal" strategy. But they too have, of course, moved to the right as well.

As for socialism - I have always believed that one can simply believe that some parts of society simply are not effective when left to capitalist corporations. Socialism needn't be confined to a total rejection to all capitalist enterprise. Having said that, I think the evidence is pretty clear for all who wish to see it, corporate ideology (particularly the globalizing trans-nationalism, which now goes almost unchecked) leads down the road to barbarism. Society must be committed to universal education, health-care, democracy, a just distribution of wealth and power, and a better collective future or we are condemning ourselves to disaster.

Owen Gray said...

I agree with you, Kirby, that society should be committed to all those things. The problem is finding a party that is truly committed them.

Money is still the mother's milk of politics -- and, therefore, universality is always under attack.