Business

  • Death and Getting Better

    The Globe and Mail announced earlier this spring after consultations with union representatives that some of its employees were going to be given the opportunity/asked to take unpaid furloughs for the summer to help the company manage costs and avoid permanent staff reductions. Given that the size of a newspaper is generally dictated by the volume of advertising purchased for it and that summer months constitute weak advertising and readership volumes, this appears to be a sensible solution. Unless of course you are a 35-year-old newsroom employee with a family to support who has been asked to take two months of unpaid leave. In that case, you may wish to spend those two months retraining or otherwise preparing yourself for the post-print journalism era.

    Recent events continue to confirm that media in Canada is undergoing a fundamental transformation away from dominant legacy platforms into an era of diversity and competition that should and could enrich the culture.

    The Globe and Mail announc...

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  • Melt, baby, melt

    Even people who haven't read, never mind bought, a newspaper for years would agree it's not a pretty sight. Most would also agree that the looming disappearance of substantial local daily newspapers is a sad and serious thing. Simultaneously, dabbing at their tears, they rush to embrace the abundant forms of e-content commonly blamed for rendering print publications irrelevant.

    Standing outside the newspaper industry looking in is like watching a plastic bag tossed into a fire pit. It is unable to so much as burst into multi-colored flame. It will just shrink and shrivel until it eventually melts away.

    Even people who haven...

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  • Government Policies Drive Wealth Inequalities

    The source of this disparity is certainly not risk-taking capitalism. Competition amongst market participants, which delivers to customers the products and services they want at the most cost-effective prices, benefits everyone. How can self-sacrificing business people focused on the long term be anything but a boon to the economy, and to the pocket books of all productive citizens? No, the disparity is not caused by the savers and investors in our economy, the ones who create and provide the real capital and the long-term wealth creation.

    A reoccurring concern throughout much of the developed world is the growing gap between the rich and poor, the so-called 1% versus the 99%. While many "solutions" are proffered, almost all ignore the two most important economic contributors to this growing ...

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  • Wiebo's War

    Wiebo Ludwig, a Christian Reformed minister from Ontario, may not have shared MacIntyre's nascent Aristotelian-Thomism, but he more than shared his feelings of unease. Unlike MacIntyre, more in fact like Wendell Berry, Wiebo retreated with his family and others to the remote tundra of northern Alberta. There they forestalled the powers of a modern age, clinging to their blue Psalters, and to a more rural, agrarian way of life. "Our true religion" writes Wendell Berry, "is a sort of autistic industrialism." Wiebo's work was the recovery of another, true religion.

    At the end of After Virtue, after a long argument about the cultural state of modern society, Alisdair MacIntyre says we are waiting for a new—albeit very different—kind of St. Benedict. Modernity and its institutions have ushered in a new dark age f...

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  • Conrad Black deserves trumpets

    It's a pity. He deserves them. And more. Much, much more. Yes, Conrad Black was forced by former Prime Minister Jean Chretien's virulent act of vindictiveness to relinquish his Canadian citizenship more than a decade ago. Yes, he was obliged to become a British citizen in order to accept the honour of being named to the House of Lords.

    Doubtless Conrad Black would prefer to forego the brass band and welcoming speeches on the tarmac when he comes back to Canada, a free man, in a few days.

    It's a pity. He deserves them. And more. Much, much more.

    What he does not deserve is ni...

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  • What's a Soul Worth?

    What role should markets play in public life and personal relations? How can we decide which goods should be bought and sold, and which should be governed by nonmarket values? Where should money's writ not run?What it doesn't note is that the former editor of Comment magazine, Gideon Strauss, made this exact same argument seven years ago:

    A market economy is a tool—a valuable and effective tool—for organizing productive activity. A market society is a way of life in which market values seep into every aspect of human endeavor. It's a place where social relations are made over in the...

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  • Time to Stop Doubling Down on Short-termism

    Simply stated, none of these jurisdictions have a hope of ever paying down even a portion of their accumulated liabilities, with non-debased money. They are each so strapped with debt and entitlement that none of them can currently service their interest (despite rates being close to zero), without borrowing more money or resorting to the printing press.

    Over the past four decades, the developed economies have gone on the biggest debt bender in history. The current level of global indebtedness, coupled with the massive unfunded government entitlement promises, are conservatively valued at over six times (6x...

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  • Making this up as we go along

    I am uncertain as to whether the living are then asked to verify their credentials to disprove the false report that they are dead but am quite certain "the source" of the original report is never asked to verify proof of death. If that was the case, after all, the report would never have taken place because there is was never any truth to it. Worse, otherwise perfectly sane journalists and commentators quote other unsourced media as their source, somehow thinking that if they deflect the sourcing they can avoid responsibility should the "facts" prove to be false. For example, Menzies News might report "Twitter is reporting" or "online sources (likely Facebook) are reporting" that blah, blah, blah. Apparently the modern journo thinks that if he/she is merely passing along someone else's false information ("I'm not sayin'; I'm just sayin' Twitter's sayin') there is no degradation to their reputation.

    The great tension in journalism has always been between the dueling commercial needs to be first and to be accurate. In the current on-demand world, the balance has shifted decidedly to the former, which has led to bizarre situations in which well-known peo...

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  • Condemnations, contradictions, and rich ironies

    Some see the plant's closure as just another example of blood-sucking foreign companies who come into Canada, ignore our unions, buy our plants, and leave the workers, the provinces, and the country to clean up the mess. Ken Lewenza, the head of the union representing the workers at the EMD plant, suggests that the closure "open[s] a door for multinational corporations to feel confident they can do whatever they want, to destroy communities and the lives of people and get away with it." A commodities boom has driven the Canadian dollar from a 62¢ U.S.

    The talk about last month's move of the Electro-Motive Diesel plant from London (Ontario) to the United States reveals much about the way we treat economics in Ontario and in Canada.

    Some see the plant's closure as just another example of blood-sucki...

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  • Straying from our triangles

    My post should have acknowledged that some of the big boys of print aren't going down without a fight, either. When I say oversized I mean 9x11 format, 156-page colour saturated magazine bling. When I say sumptuous, I mean a book that begins with a spread opener Rolex advertisement and finishes with a back cover for Patek Philipe. And when I say style, culture, and travel, I mean the entire universe of subject matter that can be shoehorned into those very wide headings.

    I blogged here recently about the way small magazines are challenging the pusillanimous acquiescence of mainstream media before the Internet onslaught.

    My post should have acknowledg...

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  • Ignoring a Key Reason for the Decline of Unions

    A discussion paper released by the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the Communications Energy and Paper Workers (CEP) suggests that unions are "fac[ing] an enormous and historic moment of truth." While Canadian unions are known for their overuse of hyperbole, the list of problems they themselves provide suggests the problem is genuine.

    Canada's unions are in trouble, but what is to be done?

    A discussion paper released by the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the Communications Energy and Paper Worke...

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  • The great issue of our day

    The great issue of our day is whether we can order our world with flourishing institutions apart from government and markets. This is the key question behind the very taxing challenge facing the Houe of Commons Standing Committee on Finance today. As tax tools go, Canada's charitable tax credit is one of the most successful ever implemented.

    Presented (3:00 pm EST) February 14, 2012, to the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, Pre-Budget Consultations.

    The great issue of our day is whether we can order our world with flourishing institutions apart from gov...

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  • The Virtue of Small Charities

    the top 1% account for 59% of revenues received; 42% of the charities have revenues of less than $30,000 and collectively account for just 1% of revenues; 40% of charities have no paid staff 37% have just 1-5 employees 64% of charities operate in local communities with local mandates Last week Cardus submitted a brief to the House of Commons Finance Committee regarding tax incentives for charitable giving.

    Of Canada's 161,000 incorporated non-profit and voluntary organizations . . .

    the top 1% account for 59% of revenues received; 42% of the charities have revenues of less than $30,000 and collectively account for just 1% of revenues;...

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  • Helping the Humanities Out of its Funk

    One recurring theme is that universities are too specialized. "Too specialized," in this case, is code-word for either incomprehensibility or marginal futility. Think, for instance, of an English prof who spends fifteen years of his life plumbing the depths of meaning in the fact that Emily Dickinson's corsets were made with narwhal bones rather than with genteel pilot whale bones.

    There is a lot of talk these days about the sorry state of universities, and even more talk about the even sorrier state of humanities within those universities.

    One recurring theme is that universities are too specialized. "Too specialized," in this...

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  • What does debt do to us?

    Paul Krugman is in favour of accruing national debt for the sake of stimulating a stalled economy. He implies that economic growth is stalled due to a lack of demand among various sectors of the economy, and that government spending—enabled by government borrowing—is what is needed to kick-start the American economic engine.

    There is an ongoing discussion, between various economists on the left and right in the United States, on how to understand debt.

    Paul Krugman is in favour of accruing national debt for the sake of stimulating a stalled economy. He implies that econo...

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  • Hidden Costs of Prosperity

    Mr. Crowley proposes a planned disintegration of North American borders in favour of integration of economies. To wit:

    Brian Lee Crowley's piece in yesterday's Financial Post is the most provocative piece I have read in some time. It not only contains one of the most open challenges to Can...

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  • To Share is Human?

    Clothing company Patagonia, for instance, has included a section on their website in which the environmental impact of their operations is highlighted. From the article:

    A Fast Company article this week (HT: Milton Friesen) highlighted how the standards are changing for companies in sharing what...

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  • The book industry is fine

    So is the print industry slowly dying and transitioning towards the internet? When one looks into the numbers a little deeper, a different story emerges. While overall print sales fell, the numbers were skewed towards those pesky paperbacks. Adult mass market paperback sales fell 30 percent compared to a fall for hardcovers of only 11 percent.

    Much has been made about the death of print media, from newspapers losing print readership to bookstores struggling with book sales. The rhetoric has slowly turned to doom and gloom as publishers and newspaper giants talk of a coming print media apocalypse....

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  • There's No Place Like This

    In addition to all of those events, there is the annual flurry of ads from provincial governments urging Canadians to visit their province. Ontario's got the "There's no place like this" moniker, New Brunswick goes straight for the snowbird jugular by advertising the "Warmest Saltwater Beaches in Canada," while British Columbia opts for the spiritual, suggesting that BC is Super, Natural.

    It's summer time. Yes, that's right; in a week or so, summer will officially be here, and Canadians will perform a few of their annual rituals: the annual shift in complaints about the weather from it being too cold to too hot; barbeques fired up in earnest...

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  • Intern Nation

    It's the season of interns, and with it the debasing hazing rituals (Cardus' is doing the President's expense reports). Those undergrads who haven't retreated to dignified manual labour to pay tuition bills for the summer, are working to pad their résumé and bolster their experience with now-legion internship opportunities.

     

    It's the seas...

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  • A liberal arts trade school?

    One of the most important resources that a garden makes available for use, is the gardener's own body. A garden gives the body the dignity of working in its own support. It is a way of rejoining the human race.   

    I hate to begin a blog post with a quote from Wendell Berry—lest I disturb the fragile peace at the Cardus dinner table—but I'm going to do it anyway. Berry offers this nugget:

    One of the mos...

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