Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Paul Krugman draws a much-needed connection between austerity politics and Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine:
What Smith didn’t note, somewhat surprisingly, is that his argument is very close to Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine, with its argument that elites systematically exploit disasters to push through neoliberal policies even if these policies are essentially irrelevant to the sources of disaster. I have to admit that I was predisposed to dislike Klein’s book when it came out, probably out of professional turf-defending and whatever — but her thesis really helps explain a lot about what’s going on in Europe in particular.

And the lineage goes back even further. Two and a half years ago Mike Konczal reminded us of a classic 1943 (!) essay by Michal Kalecki, who suggested that business interests hate Keynesian economics because they fear that it might work — and in so doing mean that politicians would no longer have to abase themselves before businessmen in the name of preserving confidence. This is pretty close to the argument that we must have austerity, because stimulus might remove the incentive for structural reform that, you guessed it, gives businesses the confidence they need before deigning to produce recovery.

And sure enough, in my inbox this morning I see a piece more or less deploring the early signs of success for Abenomics: Abenomics is working — but it had better not work too well. Because if it works, how will we get structural reform?

So one way to see the drive for austerity is as an application of a sort of reverse Hippocratic oath: “First, do nothing to mitigate harm”. For the people must suffer if neoliberal reforms are to prosper.
- Meanwhile, Esther Hsieh writes that Norway's rejection of laissez-faire economics has resulted in the most productive economy on the planet - with social support for skilled workers (such as universal child care) and income equality serving as key drivers of that economic success. And the Canadian Institute for Health Information observes that universal public health care serves as an important form of income equalization in Canada.

- Michael Byers and Purple Library Guy each offer an assessment of the lessons to be drawn from British Columbia's election results. And Alison reminds us what Christy Clark has sounded like when she hasn't been trying to neutralize her party's penchant for environmental destruction.

- Finally, Thomas Walkom recognizes that the problems with Canada's Senate go far beyond Mike Duffy. And Michael Harris notes that the scandal surrounding Duffy includes Stephen Harper and his inner circle (no matter how much they scramble to escape accountability now):
But we do not live in a better world, we live in this one. Stephen Harper’s inclination is to make up the rules as he goes along. I for one do not see this as loyalty to his minions, but rather as a show of power. When, for example, the ethics commissioner has caught a cabinet minister or two in a breach of the rules, the PM has been known to simply dismiss the finding. The cases of Christian Paradis and Jim Flaherty come to mind.

So Harper’s initial instinct was to save Duffy. He began that process by taking the public on a mind-numbing sojourn into the rules and regulations of the Senate. He used the escape clause of the Deloitte audit, that by Senate definition, knowing where you live is a brain-twister. And he has never had a problem dismissing the ethical part of any problem if it collided with his agenda. Look what he did to Kevin Page for the high crime of outing the PM’s lie over the cost of the F-35s.

But dry-cleaning Duffy quickly turned into a sticky proposition. For one thing, this one has gone right up the nose of the public and people are gagging. And then there are those two mutually exclusive stories about how the senator’s debts were paid off.
One enduring question is this: Why did Nigel Wright bail out Mike Duffy before the sharp pencil boys from Deloitte had even finished their damning audit?

But there is an even bigger issue. If Stephen Harper doesn’t see anything wrong with his chief of staff making a $90,000 gift to a sitting Conservative senator engulfed in scandal, is there anything he wouldn’t endorse for partisan gain?

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