Saturday, April 03, 2010

Compare and contrast

Doug Saunders on the important lessons being re-learned by most of the world in the wake of the financial meltdown:
Last time everything was ruined and trust had fallen apart, after the horrific experience of the Great Depression and the wars, we gave up on a strictly economical, cost-benefit calculation model of government and turned to the larger, more important questions. It became a time of high seriousness, a turn to the state.

“The urgent question was not how to celebrate a magnificent victory and get back to business as usual,” he writes, “but how on earth to ensure that the experience of the years 1914-1945 would never be repeated.”

People were frightened of the economy: It had done terrible things to them. There was, by 1945, what John Maynard Keynes called a “universal craving for security.” This craving, Mr. Judt notes, led some people, even those not conquered by Stalin, to put far too much trust in the dangerous logic of planned economies. In the capitalist world, this widespread fear was “addressed by the provision of public services and social safety nets incorporated into postwar systems of governance from Washington to Prague.”

We didn't just use government to get us out of a trap. It, and its social-safety-net mechanisms and welfare-state provisions, became the backbone of the greatest stretch of innovation, entrepreneurship and employment that capitalism has ever seen. It was only when those mechanisms began to be winnowed down that capitalism became dangerously wobbly.

“Today,” he writes, “it is as though the 20th century never happened.”

We will have to relearn it.
Only governments can address the huge problems of a global economy that is increasingly only beneficial to those with elaborate educations. Only governments can keep the deep troughs of economic downturn from becoming recursive cascades of ruin – but they can also turn the peaks into periods of shared prosperity for entire communities, something we've forgotten. “The task of the state,” he writes, “is not just to pick up the pieces when an under-regulated economy bursts. It's also to contain the effects of immoderate gains.”
The Star-Phoenix on the course being taken by Canada alone due to the Harper Cons:
One suspects the loneliest jobs in Ottawa these days involve being either technical experts or program overseers responsible for advising the government on adopting best practices.

Over the past four years, the Harper government has mocked, ignored or fired almost everyone it has in place to provide guidance on the most complex issues that Canada needs to address.
(Christian Paradis) expects commercial interests to pick up the responsibility for producing isotopes, while the government cuts the role played by such agencies and ministries as Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada, Western Economic Diversification, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Industry Canada and Natural Resources -- all of which will lose more than 40 per cent of their funding beginning in next year's budget, according to a study by the Globe and Mail.

This government's plan to get out of deficit seems to be to get out of governing. Only the Corrections ministry is expected to see a significant increase in government involvement, growing to $3.128 billion from its current $2.267 billion -- a 36 per cent increase -- by the 2012-14 budget year.

Although innovation and support for research were a crucial aspect of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's speech from the throne, that research apparently had better fit into a tough on crime agenda if it's to receive any government support.

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