Friday, September 02, 2011

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Carol Goar asks whether the Harper Cons learned anything whatsoever from a recession which they first deemed impossible, then minimized before acting only under political duress:
We have less manoeuvring room today than we did three years ago. Our budget is $30 billion in deficit, our employment insurance account has a $10.4 billion shortfall and we have the highest level of household debt in our history.

If Canada falls back into a recession — or if we’re already in one that hasn’t shown up in the statistics — millions of families will have no cushion.

It didn’t have to be this way. Our government had the time, had the money (it poured $39.9 billion into economic stimulus) and had the incentive to tackle these problems. Yet it brushed off calls from business, labour, the opposition parties and the unemployed to fix Canada’s broken economic stabilizers.
But sadly, the answer was already an emphatic "no" - and the EI system is only one of the many ways in which the Cons seem more interested in shredding safety nets than strengthening them.

- Andrew Coyne nicely sums up Jack Layton's last election campaign:
Much of the preposterousness of politics stems from the participants’ lunatic enlargement of the stakes, the “this is war” mentality with which they justify to themselves each appalling act. How childish these games must seem, when you are fighting for your life.

In (Layton's) last campaign, it all seemed to merge: the message of concern for the less fortunate, his personal bravery in the face of his own misfortune, the courtly, happy-warrior tone—in some ways a traditional protest campaign, but without a hint of anger. The whole was combined in the image of that cane: symbol of frailty, brandished in cheerful defiance.

Well, is that so unusual? All over this country there are thousands of people confronting cancer in their own lives, with no less courage or dignity. Layton was an admirable but not extraordinary man in life: is his death any more extraordinary? Only in this respect: that he was required to act it out on the public stage. We watched, like the ancients, and learned what it is to be a man.
- And John Geddes writes about the real Jack:
If he was a born politician, Layton didn’t rely solely on instinct. He prepared. It was Ignatieff who risked many unscripted outings during the last election—and failed miserably. Layton, like Harper, stuck mostly to reading speeches from a teleprompter at well-orchestrated rallies. His signature moments were not improvised. “Bon Jack” didn’t just happen to be in a Montreal sports bar, raising a beer mug to the cameras, for the first game of the Canadiens’ Stanley Cup playoff run—a turning point in the NDP’s Quebec campaign. “Every trick in the book about getting media,” former deputy leader of the Ontario NDP Marilyn Churley once said, “I learned from Jack Layton.”

Layton’s canny, self-conscious side must be reconciled now with the frequently expressed public sentiment that he was the rare, genuine article. The two perspectives aren’t really contradictory. Layton had been smiling and campaigning for one cause or another since boyhood. That was him. He didn’t have to reinvent himself for politics. In that respect, even when he was reading a stump speech for the 20th time, or hitting his marks for a staged photo-op, Canadians were seeing the real man.
- Finally, Frances Woolley considers the difficulties facing economists who start considering actual human behaviour as reason to challenge the assumption of perfectly rational and informed decision-making that underpins standard economic theory.

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