Thursday, September 15, 2011

On public goods

New Brunswick's PC government is the latest to launch an all-out attack on public pensions. And the usual reasons look to apply, with the official press release hinting at a combination of eagerness to foment resentment against the civil service in order to ensure that benefits can be slashed to the lowest common denominator, and a desire to allow the financial sector to take a greater cut of citizens' retirement savings.

But the news also offers a nice opportunity to put forward another theory as to the effect of institutional pension investors - which might serve as another important reason why they're under a constant assault from the corporatist right.

After all, public pension funds - particularly those with a local base of operations - provide a reliable source of capital eager to take up the best opportunities available within their home province. Which means that they serve as a formidable counterweight to any threat of a capital strike: to the extent the corporate sector tries to punish a government for being insufficiently compliant with its demands by pulling out its investment in otherwise viable projects, pension funds can both offer an alternative flow of funds, and reap the rewards from abandoned business investments.

So might part of the goal of undermining public pensions be to make sure that private investors face far less risk in dictating policies to governments under threat of gratuitous punishment?

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