Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Erika Shaker rightly questions why government policy toward business is based on a level of permissiveness which we'd recognize as utter madness in dealing with a child:
Sure, all parents make mistakes, and all kids have meltdowns (some of which might have, admittedly, been handled better).

But it seems to me that even the worst examples of permissive parenting pale in comparison to the way politicians and pundits coddle, make excuses, and encourage double standards for questionable (even deplorable) behaviour from corporations and their representatives.

And perhaps it’s the post-holiday sugar-and-excessive-consumerism hangover talking, but I’m tired of being held hostage by self-indulgent, narcissistic tyrants, whose endless “gimmes” and “I want that…or elses” seem so utterly pervasive that I feel as though I’m trapped at a Toys “R” Us outlet sale (whereupon, after my third coffee, I discover the washrooms are out of order).

These days it seems the capitulation-impulse is so hair-trigger that often the actual demands (“Cut your salaries in half or I’m running away to Indiana where they just approved Right-to-Work!”) aren’t even necessary. It’s the anticipation of the demands—or fear of the consequences to be suffered if the unvoiced demands aren’t met—that results in a smorgasbord of pre-emptive tax-cut-esque goodies in an attempt to avoid the surely inevitable breath-holding tantrum. (Or reneging on job commitments—am I right, U.S. Steel?)
It’s the steadfast refusal to acknowledge that bad behaviour should have consequences; that corporations are required to negotiate fairly and should not expect governments—like doting helicopter parents—to constantly remove all obstacles in the path of profit; that ultimately by allowing rules to be bent or broken with near-impunity we are setting very dangerous precedents and ensuring that the cycle of toddler-like consequence-free behaviour will continue.
- Meanwhile, the CLC highlights the temporary foreign worker program as a prime example of that tendency to grease the skids toward higher profits. Mitchell Anderson contrasts Norway's strategy of saving resource wealth for the benefit of its citizens against Alberta's willingness to pile up debt to hand money to oil barons. And Alex Andreou discusses the broken promises underlying trickle-down economics:
If one subscribes to the charitable view that neoliberal philosophy was simply naive or misguided in thinking that "trickle down" would work infinitely, then evidence that it doesn't, should be cause for concern. It is a fundamental building block of supply-side economic theory – the tool of choice these past few decades for those in charge to make adjustments. The realisation that governments have been pulling at economic levers which, for some time, have been attached to nothing, should be a wake-up call to the deepest sleepers.
It is not so much that the supply-side principle "if you build it, they will come" is no longer true. It is more that we appear to have passed a tipping point, where so much wealth has been concentrated at the top, they no longer need bother to "build" anything. In short, it has become more economically efficient to buy countries' economic policy than to create value in order to sell it on. If one can control government to favour the richest, while raising barriers for new entrants, thus increasing their share of the pie exponentially, what is the incentive to grow the pie?
We have come to measure, to an increasing extent, individuals' success by their wealth, spending power and other assorted trappings. We do the same with the economic success of governments; measure it by an aggregated data set that fails to take into account wealth distribution, educational achievement, innovation, or even the welfare and health of the population they claim to represent. We must shift this perspective. It will be the hardest, simplest thing we have ever had to do as a species.
- Justin Ling offers his ideas to reform Canada's political system in response to Kevin Page's previous op-ed. But I'd argue that Ling's second and third points can be readily improved: I'd rather see the reinstatement of general funding for parties than Ling's proposed support only for specific activities, and would think it's possible to be far more ambitious about the expansion of information and privacy laws to include both government (including ministers' offices) and political parties alike.

- Finally, the WoodGreen Community Services' skewering of celebrity culture is well worth a look (and a share):

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