Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- John Myles discusses the Cons' war on evidence:
The mandatory Census was the lifeblood of almost all social and business planning. It provided key data for studying things like income inequality and poverty since both low- and high-income households were required to report. The quality of Census data and the accessibility of the data to non-government users had improved exponentially since the 1970s. As a result, its importance as a tool for monitoring the effects of government policy was on the rise. Because it collected data on such a large sample (20 percent) of Canadians, it was able to shed a light into dark corners of Canadian society that no other data source could do.

One of the most important functions of the Census was to monitor what was happening to Canadians over time. Are current governments doing a better or worse job than their predecessors? Breaking the Census series in 2011 means we can’t answer this question any longer. Transparency was the issue, and transparency lost.

But killing the mandatory census was not the only important entry point for data suppression. The 1990s were an important period of data innovation at Statistics Canada. Longitudinal studies – of children, young adults, and the labour force – were introduced. By the 2000s, Canadian researchers were just beginning to master the complex data these surveys produced on important questions such as the duration and consequences of poverty, unemployment, and the like. The longitudinal surveys are now gone, a result of budget-cutting.
- Lest we needed any explanation for the hostility, Daniel Tencer reports on Jim Stanford's findings that the Cons' actual record on jobs looks poor both on its face and in comparison to other governments around the world. And the Conference Board of Canada notes that temporary foreign workers spiked even as the number of jobless Canadians hit new highs, while Nicholas Keung reports that the Cons approved thousands of temporary foreign worker applications in positions where Canadians could plainly have been trained if employers weren't determined to drive down wages.

- Meanwhile, Michael Harris sees an inflated, cash-grabbing Mike Duffy as the definitive symbol of the Harper Cons. And the Ottawa Citizen has had enough of the Cons' publicly-funded propaganda.

- Bryce Covert finds that the rich don't feel "wealthy" if they have less than $5 million in assets. Many tears will surely be shed over the plight of the mere millionaire, particularly given the lavish lifestyle and social respect enjoyed by those struggling to make ends meed.

- Finally, Paul Hanley nicely summarizes Harald Welzer's take on consumer culture:
For pre-industrial craftsmen and their clients, the object was to create a specific object. The work was done once the product was completed and remuneration based on exactly that product.

Industrial production, on the other hand, is a system in which continuous work generates an essentially infinite series of products for the creation of surplus value, which is invested in the expansion of the product range in order to push the system's horizons toward infinity. Nothing is ever finished; the work never stops.

Work and money become the ends, the products and their production mere means.

Work becomes an unlimited, endless activity that does not have a specific, limited, product-related objective, but is dedicated to the ceaseless creation of value - consequently the never-ending production of "growth." Just as work becomes incessant, each stage in the sequence of life's events and every dollar in the bank becomes merely a preliminary to the next stage and the next dollar.

This is the root of the idea of limitless growth that is essential to furnishing the infinite universe of consumable objects.

1 comment:

  1. I hate the first line of that John Myles piece, "Ideologues don’t like evidence". It's a common claim, and a pernicious one, part of a general attitude that's been fostered that one should never reject the status quo or have positive political aims because that would be "ideology" which is a terrible thing.

    Confident and honest ideologues, whose stated ideology is their real one and who believe it represents a fairly accurate approach to reality, like evidence fine. Lying or insecure ideologues dislike evidence. That is, people who either fear their ideology is false and try to avoid finding out because they're so emotionally attached to it, or who are just lying about their ideology because their audience isn't really the group they're trying to benefit. Most right wing ideologues fit into one or, through the magic of cognitive dissonance, both of these groups.
    But many left wing ideologues do not. In any case, everyone has an ideology even if it's only an implicit one, with all the unexamined premises and internal contradictions that implies.