Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Benjamin Radcliff discusses the proven connection between progressive policies and a higher quality of life across all levels of income:
Happier people live in countries with a generous social safety net, or, more generally, countries whose governments "tax and spend" at higher rates, reflecting the greater range of services and protections offered by the state. (These findings come from analysis of data from the World Values Surveys for the 21 Western industrial democracies from 1981 to 2007 for my book "The Political Economy of Human Happiness." Similar findings have been reported in peer-reviewed journals like "Social Research" and the "Social Indicators Research.")

The relationship could not be stronger or clearer: However much it may pain conservatives to hear it, the "nanny state," as they disparagingly call it, works. Across the Western world, the quality of human life increases as the size of the state increases. It turns out that having a "nanny" makes life better for people. This is borne out by the U.N. 2013 "World Happiness Report," which found Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden the top five happiest nations.
The answer is simple and unequivocal: Happier people live in countries with a generous social safety net. Conservatives may be equally troubled to learn that labor unions have a similar effect. Not only are workers who belong to unions happier, but the overall rate of happiness for everyone -- members and nonmembers -- increases dramatically as the percentage of workers who belong to unions grows, reflecting the louder political voice that organization gives to ordinary citizens.

All this remains true when controlling for the many other things that might also affect quality of life, such as income, age, gender, marital status, or their country's culture, history, or level of economic development. Critically, "big government" and labor unions also promote happiness not merely for those toward the bottom or middle of the income distribution, but for everyone, rich and poor, men and women, conservatives and liberals.
The reasons the progressive agenda promotes happiness are complex, but stated simply, the more we supplement the cold efficiency of the market with interventions that reduce poverty, insecurity, and inequality, the more we improve quality of life for everyone.
- And in a similar vein, Carol Goar discusses the damaging effects of deprivation and scarcity, while offering a few public policy suggestions:
[Eldar Shafir] outlined to an auditorium full of academics, policy-makers and non-profit leaders how scarcity — of food, income, time, sleep, security, friendship — impairs people's judgment and locks them into patterns of behaviour that compound their misery. And he showed how simple changes in the way they organize their lives can set them on a healthier path.
With just 12 minutes onstage, Shafir couldn't elaborate on the policy implications of his research, but some are obvious:
•Blaming people for their poverty is wrong-headed. Chronic deprivation hijacks individuals' brains, reducing their ability to make good choices, cope with their constraints and extricate themselves from their condition.
•Inundating people who need help with forms to fill out, documents to gather, calculations to make and signatures to get overwhelms them and reduces their ability to manage their lives.
•Exhorting people to say no — to purchases they cannot afford, loans they cannot repay, deadlines they cannot meet or commitments they cannot keep — doesn't work. They need structures in their lives to prevent them from falling into to temptation and buffers to limit the harm when they do.
- Guy Giorno surprisingly adds his name to the list of people calling for a far more effective federal access-to-information system than the one he and the Harper government have abused over the past few years.

- Sheila Pratt reports on a push by oil barons to disband the lone tar sands monitoring agency which actually gives a voice to First Nations and environmental groups - preferring an industry-dominated structure instead.

- Which signals that there's plenty of work to be done in reversing the corporatist trend encouraged by Libs and Cons alike - and called out by Tom Mulcair in discussing the Cons' impending throne speech:
For decades, health, safety and environmental protections have been chipped away at in the name of economic progress. Both Liberal and Conservative governments have dismantled rules meant to protect the public and imposed industry self-regulation instead.
This attack on basic health, safety and environmental protections was sold to the voting public on the promise that it would pave our path to prosperity. In the greatest irony of all, it was exactly this sort of unfettered deregulation that led to the greatest global economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Here in Canada, the failure of both Liberal and Conservative governments to address the impact of climate change now threatens our economic relationship with the United States — so much so that the Obama administration is now under intense pressure to block projects like Keystone XL that would boost production from the Canadian oilsands. Rather than heed the warnings of scientists, economists and First Nations, Conservatives have instead pushed ahead with legislation to gut environmental assessments and eliminate protections for fish habitat and navigable waters.

Where governments once took a leadership role in protecting the public interest, now they protect only private interests. In doing so, they have sacrificed our long-term prosperity for their short-sighted political gain. This has to end.
- Finally, Doug Elliott comments on what the Cons' shredding of the census will do to anybody trying to analyze data in the public interest:
Elliott says that the only solution is to restore the mandatory long-term census before any future damage is done. If it isn’t restored, he says he plans to retire.

“There won’t be anything to analyze,” he says.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:15 p.m.

    The disappearance of so many communities in Canada in a national census survey outlines the danger of allowing the Harperites to play with matches. So sad.