Sunday, December 08, 2013

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Grant Gordon rightly criticizes the "taxpayer" frame in discussing how public policy affects citizens:
(T)here's a difference between being smart with our money and just being cheap.

Conservatives are fond of saying they wish government ran more like a business. Well, sometimes it's better business to invest in R&D, in new technology, in a new employee. You can't cut your way to success in business, and the same is true in government.

Our government needs to invest in transit and education. It's the best way to stay competitive.
It's dangerous to reduce my citizenship to a shopping trip, where I only fork out cash for things I personally benefit from. That's not how a society works. We build society through give and take, doing what is in the public interest.

Now, I get the branding genius of calling everyone "taxpayers": it means we focus on how much we pay in taxes, and for the right-wing politician, keeping the focus on taxes rather than services is the perfect linguistic Trojan horse to advance their narrow-minded fatwa against government itself.

But progressives have a responsibility to fight back. It's our job to tell the truth about taxes. It's our job to be responsible grownups, not cheapskates. And "taxpayers" creates a culture of resentment, not responsibility.

So please, don't call me a taxpayer.

I am more than my wallet.

So are you.
- Meanwhile, Andre Picard offers up a prime example of how corporate greed is driving up drug costs - as manufacturer manipulations are limiting the use of a $7 drug to combat vision loss when it prefers to sell more of a $1,575 version instead. Which, in addition to being outrageous in and of itself, should thoroughly discredit any claim that there's any value to private "research-based" manufacturing - since that "research" is exclusively oriented toward extracting as much profit as possible, rather than making more efficient products available for patients.

- PressProgress takes a look at the Cons' track record on jobs - featuring plenty of low-paying, insecure work, but no gains at all in more stable employment.

- Which offers all the more reason to doubt the Cons have the public interest in mind when they short-circuit mitigation talks and approve a new tar sands project which will cause severe and irreversible environmental damage.

- Finally, Don Lenihan questions whether commentators calling for a return to past models of the role of an MP are missing inevitable changes in that role:
Parliamentary committees could play a very significant role in the evolution of policymaking. They could provide oversight, analysis and advice in the development of both strategies and the new processes that will produce them. They could ensure these processes are transparent, accountable, inclusive and evidence-based. They could also explore how social media tools could be used to create new opportunities for large-scale engagement, especially where communities and citizens are involved.

Nevertheless, if MPs could do much good work here this is not about representing their constituents’ policy views to Ottawa. Rather, in this model, the public’s views on major issues increasingly will be gathered and discussed through the processes, not from their MPs.


  1. The Lenihan piece bothers me. On one hand, it is kind of getting at something and it's thoughtful. But basically, it seems to be saying that the whole notion of people "democratically" "electing" someone to "represent" them is a thing of the past which is no longer relevant; decisions don't need to be made by "representatives of the people", they need to be made by whatever "stakeholders" a more centralized governing body (currently that would be the PMO) deems appropriate to include in a process.

    So who voted for these "stakeholders"? It sounds all nice, but in practice this sounds an awful lot like government by the corporations to me.

  2. It can certainly be skewed in that direction, and Lenihan himself goes from limiting the included "stakeholders" to businesses and NGOs in one paragraph, to listing them next to communities and citizens in the next.

    But I do think a discussion as to the nature of the people and groups who should be included in consultations is different from one about whether increased consultation reflects a desirable model for policy development. And to the extent one reads Lenihan as proposing that MPs focus on the latter option, I see little reason to argue with him - especially since that may create a greater counterweight to arbitrary executive choices than we'd see if MPs instead stuck to chatting and voting among themselves.

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