Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Michael Harris writes that we shouldn't expect politicians to lead the way toward the action we need to combat climate change. Katie Dangerfield reports on new research showing that the economic effects of carbon pricing are modest, while ignoring climate change will have massive costs. But Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood examines how the USCMA figures to lock in a fossil-fuel economy while failing to pay even lip service to our most fundamental challenge.
- Amanda Agan and Michael Makowsky study the social effects of a higher minimum wage, including a decrease in criminal recidivism.

- The CP reports on Doug Ford's latest move to prioritize cheap intoxicants over necessary public services.

- Finally, Naomi Klein discusses Donald Trump's standing as the U.S.' most glaring example of dynastic privilege being used to suppress the hopes of anybody who doesn't share the same fortune. And Christo Aivalis comments on the ongoing relevance of Mouseland as a metaphor for Canadian politics:
The story of Mouseland—which can be seen here in animated form—described a society where mice formed the majority of the population, and yet consistently elected governments comprised of cats. Those cats—be they white cats or black cats or spotted cats—passed laws that benefitted them, often to the detriment of the mice majority.

The story turns for Douglas when a little mouse comes along with a bold idea, which is that instead of electing a government of cats, they should choose their leadership from amongst themselves. Of course, that little mouse was branded a dangerous subversive and was locked up, but as Douglas says, “you can lock up a mouse or a man but you can’t lock up an idea.”

The allegory is clearly meant to apply to Canadian society, and Douglas makes that explicit: “Now if you think it strange that mice should elect a government made up of cats, you just look at the history of Canada…and maybe you’ll see that they weren’t any stupider than we are.” For him, the story of Canadian politics was one where Liberal and Conservative cats ruled the roost while the masses of mice languished in poverty, precarity, and inequality. But when pioneering mice like J.S. Woodsworth stepped up to form the Labour Party and eventually the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, they offered a new path forward.
Mouseland is clearly a populist narrative. In our own times, many people, especially among the centrist elite, have equated populism with Trumpian far-right politics. Certainly, the right has been successful at tapping into popular discontent with the status quo, and has been able to portray wealthy leaders like Trump and Ford as regular joes. But as I’ve noted in other venues, populism is an essential component to any left wing programme which sincerely seeks to represent the masses of working-class people. Mouseland is just the sort of fable that sparks a populist understanding of politics, where the 99% of mice stop deferring to the feline elite, and start doing politics differently. Where politicians who share their life experience are elected to represent them, and in turn can pass good laws—that is—laws that are good for mice.

One of the Canadian left’s key failings over the past couple decades has been a belief that we have to move beyond class conflict as a vehicle for social, political, and economic change; that regular Canadians don’t see themselves as mice anymore, or simply see themselves as cats-in-waiting. Some of this may well be true, but the reality is that class conflict isn’t going anywhere, and the social and economic elite understand this best of all. The left in Canada needs to centre politics of the many over the few, even if that makes enemies among the people unlikely to support them in the first place. Mouseland may well just be a fable, but it is nonetheless instructive, and can be used in part to illustrate a class consciousness among the masses of people in this country, matching that class solidarity which has never dissipated among the wealthy and well-connected.

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