Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Barrie McKenna thoroughly debunks the claim that "financial literacy" alone is enough to put ordinary citizens on a level playing field with the financial industry:
Looking to financial literacy to fill the void is like asking ordinary Canadians to be their own brain surgeons and airline pilots. The dizzying array of financial products, mixed with chaotic and increasingly irrational financial markets, makes the job of do-it-yourself financial planning almost impossible – no matter how literate you are. The average credit-card agreement is as intuitive as quantum physics.

The financial services industry wants it both ways. It preaches literacy and it advises government on sound policy. Mr. Flaherty’s task force is headed by Sun Life Financial Inc. chief executive officer Donald Stewart and BMO Nesbitt Burns chairman Jacques Ménard.

But literacy isn’t particularly lucrative. Armed with hundreds of millions in advertising dollars, Mr. Stewart’s and Mr. Ménard’s industry is simultaneously selling another story to consumers. Canadians are constantly bombarded with pitches to take on more debt, whether it’s right for them or not. They’re often blindly steered toward high-fee products and complex financial instruments. The accompanying disclosure statements are written by, and for, lawyers.

Central banks aren’t much help, either. Their vows to keep interest rates near zero indefinitely have made us all a generation of reluctant speculators, desperately seeking a better-than-2-per-cent return.

Financial literacy is a smokescreen.
- The CP highlights a few of the more inexplicable numbers in a detailed review of Tony Clement's G8 porkfest. David Pugliese warns that the Cons' choice to hitch a ride with another failing U.S. program - this time on satellite communications - may be the next great boondoggle in the making. And Mike de Souza catches the Cons misleading Canada about the effect of ozone monitoring cuts.

- Aaron Wherry reminds us of a time when the Cons pretended to care about Parliamentary debate.

- Finally, the Globe and Mail slams the Cons for information suppression that's more consistent with the developing world than a modern democracy.

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