Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Frank Graves writes about the decline of Canada's middle class - and notes a parallel between the type of economy which tends to produce broad social failure, and the Cons' familiar obsession with extraction:
The other key factor is rising inequality and a failing middle class. Our evidence has shown that as economic issues have become the dominant concerns for Canadians they are — for the first time in our research — twinned at the pinnacle of public issues with blended concerns about fairness and inequality. These are not the traditional and more modest concerns we have seen about the gap between the rich and poor. The new and more potent linkage is the gap between the über rich and everyone else. Nowhere is this dynamic more evident than in what can only be described as the crisis of the middle class.

The middle class has always been by far the most popular self-defined class denomination in upper North America — one of the reasons it is such a popular political target. The 20th century ascension of the United States to the “hyperpower” status it enjoyed as little as a decade ago was largely the culmination of an unprecedented period of middle class ascendance.
In analysing why societies fail, Daron Acemoğlu has a very insightful theory that suggests the harbinger of societal failure is a shift from an ‘inclusive’ to an ‘extractive’ economy. The swelling of upper North America’s middle class in the 20th century is a shining example of a successful inclusive economy. Among other examples, Acemoğlu argues that Venice went from backwater to world powerhouse and back to a sterile urban museum-in-waiting when it shifted from an inclusive to an extractive economy. The diminution of taxes and public services and the rise of the ‘one per cent’ has been coupled with a similar shrinkage and relative decline in the North American economy — and could be a chilling harbinger of our future economic well being.
- But look on the bright side: at least our mass-murder industry is seeing massive international growth potential thanks to the Cons' choice of trade priorities.

- Andrew Pollack discusses the latest example of how prescription drug profits can fall neatly into the pure extraction category - as a drug launched in the 1950s is now being widely sold in the U.S. for $28,000 per dose.

- Finally, Wilf Day posts a thorough rebuttal to an attempt to change Fair Vote Canada's focus from higher-level proportional representation to municipal-level instant runoff voting.

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