Thursday, June 12, 2014

Thursday Morning Links - #VoteOn Edition

This and that for your Thursday (and Ontario election day) reading...

- Joseph Heath makes the case against Tim Hudak's PCs in particular, and the shift from public to private goods in general:
(I)t’s fairly clear what the PCs are planning. They are proposing a general shift in Ontario away from consumption of public goods towards increased consumption of private goods. For example, they aren’t making any noises about privatizing things, shifting production out of the public sector into the private, but where the general profile of consumption would be the same. They are proposing that we actually produce and consume less of the sort of goods that are best produced by government: in particular, less primary education, less environment protection, less public transit, and no provincial pensions. This will be done in order to lower taxes, so that people will have more disposable income, to buy various private goods.

Now I guess it’s worth noting that the PCs have not even tried to make the case for this (nor has Coyne, really, although we did get into it a bit once). In other words, they haven’t said one thing about why they think that it would be good for us, as a society, to shift consumption away from public (or quasi-public, you know what I mean) toward private goods. And at first glance, I’m not sure what that case would be. I’ve spent a fair bit of time in middle-class suburban homes in Ontario, and when I look around there, I don’t usually say to myself “you know what these people really need?… more shit from Costco.”

So if you were to put it in the form of a debating club proposition: “be it resolved, that what the people of Ontario need is more private goods and fewer public goods” I would be more than happy to take the negative. In fact, when I hear people complaining about their various work-life/financial woes, I find that a large fraction of them can be traced back to a chronic undersupply of public goods.
(O)ne of the central characteristics of the public goods whose level of supply is being debated (primary education, reduced congestion, better air quality & other environmental goods) is that they are not subject to competitive consumption. As a result, increasing the supply of these goods stands poised to generate real, sustained increases in individual welfare. This is a point that has been made most persuasively by Robert Frank (in various place, including here, here and here). The pervasive tendency in our society will be to underestimate the severity of negative externalities (precisely because they are not priced) and to overestimate the value of market goods (because we ignore positional effects). This is sufficient to license a general presumption that, whatever the politically achievable level of government spending, it is probably too low, relative to the actual consumption preferences of citizens. Further reducing it will do absolutely nothing to solve the problems that people hope to solve with it, and is likely to produce nothing but unnecessary suffering.

So that is why a Conservative government would be bad for Ontario — because their basic plan, if implemented, would make life worse for pretty much everyone.
- And Linda McQuaig points out that Hudak's obviously-flawed math is far from the only problem with his party's plans to crush Ontario's wages and working conditions:
This folksy persona has tended to obscure two key things about Hudak that have become evident in the current campaign: He remains committed to anti-union legislation aimed at making Ontario more like Arkansas, and he’s capable of a breathtaking level of cynical dishonesty.

His claim that he will create one million jobs isn’t just based on faulty arithmetic — it’s based on nothing, really.

And yet, even after his numbers were exposed as grossly inflated (multiplied erroneously by eight), Hudak simply shrugged, trotted out platitudes (“economists never agree”) and refused to acknowledge the fraudulent nature of his jobs claim.

Hudak is extremely anti-union. He used to be up-front about this, openly advocating that Ontario adopt so-called ‘right to work’ legislation — laws found primarily in the U.S. south which are aimed at curbing unions.

By preventing companies and unions from signing contracts with an automatic dues check-off, such laws make it difficult for unions to survive, leaving workers with little clout to push wages much above the U.S. federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. (In Arkansas, the state allows a lower minimum wage of $6.25 an hour.)
It is this preposterous decision to multiple by eight which has captured most attention and caused Hudak to be ridiculed about his math.
But the whole package is riddled with ludicrous assumptions based on Zycher’s (and presumably Hudak’s) belief that by increasing “economic freedom” to the level of Arkansas and Mississippi, Ontario’s GDP per capita will grow — even though our GDP per capita is already higher than these economically “freer” states and Hudak has said he won’t introduce the anti-union laws that allegedly increase “economic freedom” anyway.
- David Reevely looks behind the surface of a "decline your vote" astroturf site, and predictably finds a right-winger trying to convince marginal voters they shouldn't bother with democracy. And Alison makes clear that it's the politicians least interested in serving the public - Hudak's PCs - who would benefit if citizens give up in the ridings targeted for voter demobilization.

- Which is naturally just fine with some of our corporate media overlords, as Jesse Brown offers an inside scoop on the owner-mandated orders to override the Globe and Mail's editorial board to hand Tim Hudak an endorsement - followed by a sad attempt to claim the endorsement actually reflected editorial judgment rather than orders from on high. But of course the real controversy is that a union representing media workers had the nerve to express its own opinion.

- In what's surely unrelated news, Canada's corporate class is corrupt even by its own account. 

- Finally, Johannes Wheeldon sets out the options available to Ontario's political parties after today's election - with a particular focus on the (seemingly likely) event that no party holds a majority. Bill Tieleman observes that strategic voting tends to benefit precisely the party one wants to stop. And for those looking for more reading material on the Ontario election, Ron Waller's blog is a great place to start - particularly in reminding us just which party actually offers an alternative to Hudak's corporatism.

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