Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Thomas Walkom writes that yesterday's minor tinkering aside, the goal of the Cons' temporary foreign worker program is still to drive down Canadian wages. And Miles Corak argues that the resulting distortion of employment markets shouldn't be any more acceptable to a libertarian than a progressive:
Flooding the market with workers from elsewhere, year in and year out – even during a major recession – is not about an acute labour shortage. It is nothing more than a wage subsidy to low-paying firms, a subsidy that stunts the reallocation of goods, capital, and labour that is the basis for efficient markets.

Not only that, but by blunting the rise in wages that market forces are calling for, the Temporary Worker Program is exacerbating the inequality of earnings in the lower half of the income distribution.

It will continue to displace Canadian workers silently if not directly, despite government assurances, for the simple reason that it artificially keeps wages low, and spoils the magic of the market.

The entire program amounts to a needless intervention that creates both inefficiency and inequity. Perhaps libertarians can see that more clearly than politicians. The whole thing should simply be scrapped.
- Doctors for Fair Taxation make the case for Ontario to balance its budget through more progressive taxes rather than through massive cuts. And Andrew Jackson again debunks the Fraser Institute's anti-tax hysteria by pointing out that it's based on falsely counting corporate taxes, user fees and any other public revenue as household-level taxes - while deliberately omitting any income for anybody but individuals in order to present artificially high rates.

- Tim Naumetz reports on the Cons' power grab to take control over the CBC. Lauren Strapagiel collects a few of the Twitter responses as to what #harperscbc would look like.

- Finally, Joseph Heath pens a defence of sociology (and criminology in particular) against the Cons' attacks:
The common-sense conservative disdain for sociology is long-standing. After delivering a swingeing 25-per-cent budget cut to Ontario universities in the 1990s, then premier Mike Harris specifically fingered “sociology” as one of the useless disciplines that the universities might consider cutting.

As a liberal intellectual, whenever I encounter this sort of hatred, I naturally ask myself, “What are the root causes?” What did sociologists ever do to them? Why isn’t “society” something that conservatives consider worthy of study?

In this case the root cause is not hard to find. It comes from an accident of intellectual history, which is that criminology developed as a subspecialty of sociology. The people who conservatives actually hate are criminologists. They hate criminologists because criminologists are pretty much unified in the conviction our common-sense ideas about crime, both with respect to its causes and its remedy, are wrong.
(M)ost of us have a huge bias in the way that we think about punishment, which affects our judgment in everything we do, from raising kids to managing people at work, and, of course, to thinking about crime. The only way to correct this, and to figure out what actually works, is to collect data and look at long-term trends.
This is why people who read books and study statistics are much more likely to support programs that appear to coddle criminals (what conservatives like to call “hugs for thugs” programs). It’s because social scientists actually know something important about how the world works, and in this case reality does have a liberal bias.

Hostility to expertise in all of its forms is the closest thing that Canadian conservatives have to a unifying ideology. Criminologists, however, rankle them just a little bit more than others, because their expertise happens to touch on an area that many conservatives feel strongly about. Recent changes in Canadian criminal justice have served no productive purpose, other than promoting punishment for the sake of punishment and vengeance for the sake of vengeance. This may make some people feel better, but it does nothing to prevent crime. Criminologists are the ones with the data to prove this, so it’s no wonder they’re unpopular with the government.

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