Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Mariana Mazzucato argues that we need to change our conversation and our policy choices on public investment in Canada's economy:
As in many other countries, the conversation about government and public investment in Canada has for decades distorted and underplayed the role of the state as a crucial agent in shaping and creating markets.

In a country where inequality has grown as the progressive state has been dismantled, I learned that corporate tax rates have been reduced, and generous tax credits given out to promote R&D, all while Canadian corporations hoard over $600 billion in “dead money.” As I outlined in an article for the Toronto Star at the time of my first visit, and explained in an interview for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, a visionary state with the courage to direct mission-oriented investments, rather than just ‘de-risk’ the private sector, is needed to spur smart innovation-led growth. The conversation should be around the kind of broad challenges and missions that public and private actors can rally around, rather than on policies that simply increase profits in the short-term. This is particularly important in a country heavily reliant on natural resource exports (see the current oil bust) and with chronically-low business spending on R&D.
If Canada wants to shift away from oil and its extractive sector to an innovation-led economy, then bold leadership and investment in new directions are needed. ‘Green growth’ is one such potential direction. However, across the globe the countries that are leading in green transformations are precisely those where the State plays a more active role. If Canada wants to compete in this area, it will have to courageously envisage the direction of change to create and shape the new markets that could set it on a path to sustainable and inclusive growth.

As I have argued elsewhere, mission oriented investments require new evaluation tools which account for the market shaping/creating role of the public sector, not just ‘market fixing’ role– and new ideas on how to build public sector organisations that welcome the explorative uncertain process that innovation entails, rather than fearing it.
- But of course, it's also essential that public-sector investment be put toward reasonable development. And on that front, Jim Snyder, Mark Drajem and Matthew Phillips write that the Obama administration is recognizing that there's no point in pouring billions of dollars into "clean coal" which undermines its own raison d'etre, while Bruce Johnstone suggests that Saskatchewan should be asking the same types of questions.

- Jeremy Nuttall interviews Mark Blyth about the need to avoid the gratuitous austerity that's led to social and economic disaster in Europe.

- Anna Mehler Paperny offers low-income workers a chance to tell their stories about the effect of precarious work. And Robert Reich discusses how the corporate lobby's spin on work is indistinguishable from a 19th-century "worker beware" standard:
My recent column about the growth of on-demand jobs like Uber making life less predictable and secure for workers unleashed a small barrage of criticism that workers get what they’re worth in the market.

Forbes Magazine contributor, for example, writes that jobs exist only  “when both employer and employee are happy with the deal being made.” So if the new jobs are low-paying and irregular, too bad.

Much the same argument was voiced in the late nineteenth century over alleged “freedom of contract.” Any deal between employees and workers was assumed to be fine if both sides voluntarily agreed to it.

It was an era when many workers were “happy” to toil twelve-hour days in sweat shops for lack of any better alternative.

It was also a time of great wealth for a few and squalor for many. And of corruption, as the lackeys of robber barons deposited sacks of cash on the desks of pliant legislators.
(S)ince around 1980, even though the economy has doubled once again (the Great Recession notwithstanding), the wages most Americans have stagnated. And their benefits and working conditions have deteriorated.

This isn’t because most Americans are worth less. In fact, worker productivity is higher than ever.

It’s because big corporations, Wall Street, and some enormously rich individuals have gained political power to organize the market in ways that have enhanced their wealth while leaving most Americans behind.
- Finally, Michael Laxer discusses the Islamophobic dog-whistles which make up most of the Cons' excuse for constant election-year fearmongering. And Dr. Dawg comments on the Cons' broader terror agenda.

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