Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On examples

The Frontier Centre for Public Policy's David Seymour tries mightily to paint Saskatchewan's success over the past couple of decades of NDP government as somehow vindicating extreme anti-government ideology. But even leaving aside the reality that Saskatchewan's success comes in large part thanks to factors such as a strong public sector which has kept life affordable for its citizens, Seymour's own chosen indicators only highlight the lack of evidence to support his claim:
This year, the Saskatchewan economy is forecast to grow in the midst of a global recession, while governments elsewhere can't seem to figure out their proper role. So, it is time to reflect upon the cause of this effect, and give credit where it is due: to the immediate past and current governments in the province.
The Fraser Institute recently and properly reflected on this trend by downgrading the United States to behind Canada on its Economic Freedom of the World index. By the same measure at the provincial level, Saskatchewan now generally ranks sixth or seventh out of 10. It ranked seventh or eighth in the early '90s.

This shift should be recognized in any honest assessment of what now defines the province's political culture. Saskatchewan has certainly proven over successive generations that haphazard interventions based on the politics of envy, utopianism or vested interests all spell economic stagnation. However, just as other governments are about to find that out for themselves, Saskatchewan's more modest approach to economic management has revealed a future for the sunshine province that is arguably brighter than ever before.
In other words, Saskatchewan has apparently moved from roughly seventh on the Fraser Institute's list of ideologically correct provinces, all the way to...roughly seventh on the Fraser Institute's list of ideologically-correct provinces, with at most a one-rank change over the course of nearly two decades. By my count, that would leave five or six provinces ahead of Saskatchewan by the Fraser Institute's standards for corporate-friendly policy who are conspicuously lacking for economic success to show for it. And it would seem highly likely that at least a few would have boosted their position by a greater margin on the Fraser Institute's list.

But Seymour is so desperate to portray Saskatchewan's progress as vindicating conservative economic thought that he happily ignores the fact that he's really only shown that a province can stand out for its economic success without turning its treasury and policy apparatus over to corporate lobbyists.

Mind you, there are plenty of lessons which other provinces should be looking to take from Saskatchewan's progress. But since those won't be found in Seymour's column, we'll have to settle for these two messages: that the strategies which the Fraser Institute would claim to lead to prosperity bear no particular correlation to the ones which can actually bring about that result, and that facts are still no object when it comes to the right-wing noise machine's attempts to push its ideology on Canadians.

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