Economics

  • What's Being Demolished?

    "Given the state of Quebec's bridges, roads and other infrastructure, I was under the impression construction workers have been on strike for the past 40 years," the comment writer wrote under a news story when the strike began June 17. No wonder the government-mandated construction holiday each July is a two-week source of jubilation for Quebecers who can finally move around their communities without being waylaid by traffic snarl-ups or getting clonked on the head as they pick their way through the war zones at the perimeters of building sites.

    A clever web commenter put Quebec's current construction strike in perfect perspective.

    "Given the state of Quebec's bridges, roads and other infrastructure, I was under the impression construction workers have been on strike for the past 40 years," ...

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  • Can Ethics be Taught?

    But if trust in our economic system cannot be created by legislation and regulation, then how is it created? As the conversation continued, the role of other institutions came into focus. The role of business schools in teaching ethics was especially highlighted. But again, the contradiction quickly became evident.

    Last week, Cardus sponsored a conversation involving Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney, Rotman School of Business Dean Roger Martin and Convivium Editor Father Raymond de Souza on the subject of "Banking, Trust, and the Culture of Capitalism." All ...

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  • A Quiet Battle in an Echo-ocracy

    "Help is needed to support a young girl who was recently rescued from human traffickers. She was bought and sold into the sex trade for nine years. Now she is free. She needs food, clothing, shelter, medicine, counseling, and rehabilitation. We would also like to provide her, when she is ready, funds for education courses to help her restore her life.

    As Ottawa's echo-ocracy worked itself into stage five incoherence over a backbench MP's motion on sex-selection abortion, the following words quietly appeared on another MP's website:

    "Help is needed to support a young girl who was recently ...

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  • Rescuing the Indebted and Imprudent

    In Canada, personal debt as a percentage of income has risen from 50% in 1970 to over 165% today. Governments have fared no better. Debt to GDP ratios within the OECD countries has skyrocketed from 40% in 1970 to over 110% in 2012. These levels of debt are unprecedented during times of peace and purported prosperity! When you pile on the unfunded liabilities or promises governments have made (for example, in the United States), the ratio of debt to GDP explodes beyond 300%.

    During the last four decades the developed world has enjoyed the biggest debt binge in history. The "Pepsi" generation that brought us Woodstock, psychedelic drugs, hard rock, and a desire for peace, love, and freedom has in the end shackled itself to the s...

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  • Candid Discussions Worth Having

    "Cardus is hosting an event with Mark Carney?" We look forward to both events advancing Cardus's mission of renewing social architecture.

    "Cardus is hosting an event with Conrad Black?"

    "Cardus is hosting an event with Mark Carney?"

    "Yes," we are delighted to answer our interlocutors. Many Cardus followers last week received invitations to two forthcoming events in the Hill Fami...

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  • Disruptive Innovation or Passing Oddities?

    A 2011 report by McKinsey & Company identifies three key themes in mobile banking: convenience, digital commerce, and disruptive entry into new markets. The convenience theme follows a sustaining innovation path where existing activities (paying bills and reviewing balances) and customer service strategies are made more convenient by using mobile devices.

    Clay Christensen's insight that companies may do somewhat well refining what they know but fail to take advantage of disruptive innovation appears to be as true today as it was when he first published his work more than 16 years ago. For some time now I've ...

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  • Religion and Realism in Canadian Foreign Policy

    That is not a quote about Stephen Harper. That is a quote from Denis Stairs referring to Canada's golden boy of foreign policy, Lester B. Pearson. Yes, that Lester Pearson; the same one that won a Nobel Peace prize back in '57. NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair suggests that CIDA's partnering with religious organizations, specifically Christian ones, contributes to a Canadian foreign policy marked by "more religion, less nutrition." Today he went even further, suggesting that religious relief and development organizations were "completely against" Canadian values. He says: "We don't understand how the Conservatives can ... subsidize a group in Uganda whose views are identical to those of the Ugandan government."

    "The manse, it seems, was a formative force in External Affairs as powerful as academia."

    That is not a quote about Stephen Harper. That is a quote from Denis Stairs referring to Canada...

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  • When Yoga Chases out the Blue Collars

    Almost everything he says, of course, turns out to have the predictable burble and sulphur of the primeval class-warrior. You can tell and smell it from three blocks away. There's no normal need to move in for exact identification. "The (condo) boom is gobbling up land almost as fast as it sucks up mortgage debt.

    Jim Stanford sports an economist's badge on his white-collar shirt front, yet works for the Canadian Auto Workers. This combination gets him punditry gigs on CBC and in the Globe and Mail.

    Almos...

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  • What Parliament Thinks but Cannot Say

    As it happens, I have never thanked God for Jeffrey Simpson, unless Heaven groups the venerable Globe and Mail columnist in the same category as dry toast for breakfast or warm milk for insomnia. In our current issue of Convivium magazine, my colleague Father Raymond de Souza playfully chides Simpson for a very silly late 2012 column on politics and religion, but does grant that the Globe's long-time Ottawa writer is both respected by, and important to, the capital's ruling elite.

    As a new year's commitment, I have obliged myself to thank God for a minimum one new thing that happens each week.

    As it happens, I have never thanked God for Jeffrey Simpson, unless Heaven groups the venerable Globe and Mail columnist in the ...

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  • Stealth Fighter Fever

    First, it is a chance for Public Minister Rona Ambrose to showcase procurement done right. The fighter procurement process has been the responsibility of Minister Ambrose since last spring, following Ferguson's audit. Her handling, together with that of veteran senior bureaucrat Tom Ring, of the government's much-lauded ship-building contract process in the fall of 2011 has branded her as the key person to turn this procurement process around.

    Me thinks he doth protest too much. Pundits furiously tweeted at Andrew MacDougall in the Prime Minister's Office on Thursday night, as the government scrambled to ...

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  • Wishing for a Secret Agenda

    Have a closer look at what the leaked documents say. We see the Prime Minister's intended plan to diversity trade to emerging markets. This has been true since even before the collapse of Keystone, and what Fen Hampson at Carleton University called the Americans' "silly season", also known as an election.

    For Christmas this year, I'm wishing for a secret agenda—the kind everyone kept promising me was coming, only to disappoint me over and over. Now, we have "leaked" documents...

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  • Day-After Musings

    * * *

    It takes more than a day for partisan emotion to adjust to reality. For the 49% of Americans who voted Republican yesterday, today is a combination of disappointment, anger, and fear. The divide in America is real and stark. Gender, ethnicity, and urbanizat...

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  • The Devil's Advocate

    Herds of peaceably grazing policy wonks have been left shaking their heads in dismay as the marauding presidential campaigns have rampaged through their turf, leaving a trail of wrong-headed assumptions, non sequiturs and outright falsehoods strewn behind them....But are election races a useful platform for debating ideas? Preston Manning suggests they’re not, arguing that parties especially are not really good at generating or debating ideas. They are the marketing arm of ideas that have been distilled for public consumption. In the eternal words of Monty Python’s monastic order of the holy hand grenade, "skip a bit, brother."

    Even economists are exhausted from presidential prognostications this week. Writing for his blog, Dan Drezner says our financial caste, normally simplistic-prediction happy addicts, are rousing in a cranky stu...

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  • Malthus, Darwin, Rand, and Social Conservatives

    I fear that social conservatives are falling into an ideological abyss that has somehow attached itself to an 18th century evolutionary idea: the doctrine of the survival of the fittest, which began with Malthus. According to Jacques Barzun, who wrote Darwin, Marx, Wagner: Critique of a Heritage in 1940, Malthus taught that one need not worry about overpopulation.

    We have recently heard the views of Mitt Romney in a newly released video where he says that 47% of the American population think of themselves as victims, entitled to government care like food, housing, and shelter. And he claims this same 47% of the popul...

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  • What's left to be progressive about?

    Words such as "moderate," which in their dictionary meaning imply a sense of temperance and conservatism, are now popularly used by people who have sought and continue to seek institutional change that in historical terms can only be considered radical in nature. Similarly, the term "progressive" has become fashionable, particularly in terms of politics.

    There is much to be said for the command of language and how it can translate into a language of command over the public square.

    Words such as "moderate," which in their dictionary meaning imply a sense of temperance and conservatism, are now popular...

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  • The Chickens are Restless

    The task force of Ontario Provincial Police surrounded the house of my sister's neighbours, lights blinking, sirens wailing, scouring barns and residence, terrifying the locals, cuffing the father while wife and children wailed, turning over every table, chair, and bookshelf in the house in search of nefarious goods.

    ...

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  • The Olympics: A Religious Conundrum

    The London 2012 Olympics may prove to be the venue not just for competition between the world's greatest athletes, but also for an even more interesting contest: an epic church/state battle. The Occupy movement has gone fairly silent since it seemingly petered out in March, but it has by no means gone away. Instead, it is making preparations for major protest activities in London. Occupy Olympics will draw attention to the extraordinary expense of the games to Londoners, to Great Britain, and to the many British people who have suffered dramatically from the austerity measures. They will also complain about the extravagant amounts of money that have been poured into the Olympics by controversial corporate donors such as Dow Chemicals, and about Olympic merchandise made by child labour.

    ...

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  • Wisdom Cries Out in the Streets

    But despite the cognitive and visual dissonance, the young lady above—whether consciously or not, and even fractionally—does exhibit wisdom on the streets. And, insofar as she is participating in that great mob of disaffected Quebec youth, there might be more wisdom in these street protests than one might imagine at first glance.

    [caption id="attachment_1210" align="alignleft" width="500" caption="Photo: Peter Stockland"] ...

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  • From Sea to Sea

    Father Raymond J. de Souza finds Quebec students going forward to the past.

    Marching Backwards

    Given sufficient patience, it would be possible to float down the St. Lawrence River from my home on Wolfe Island to the Island of Montreal. This spring, though, the short trip by train in early May seemed like a passage to ...

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  • The Third Option

    As Canadians, it's important we dampen the fires of mean spirited panic at this shift in trade strategy. It is neither new nor radical. In 1972, Mitchell Sharp—Trudeau's Secretary of State for External Affairs—proposed what has famously been called his Third Option. The impulse at that time was to weaken Canadian cultural and economic dependence on the United States in the interest of safeguarding Canadian identity.

    Canada is nervous about depending on America. No surprise there, we live in a time when America is nervous about depending on America, so why shouldn't its foreign allies feel the same? The United States doesn't do itself any favours, mind you, when—as two ...

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  • Social Liberal, Fiscal Conservative

    He sought, however, to clarify. "To be clearer," he said, "I'm a fiscal conservative and a social liberal—I think that's where most people are at. Social conservatives frighten me."

    Over coffee the other day with a former colleague, he emphasized that his politics were conservative, but progressive. I pointed out that, really, that was hard to argue with. After all, we're all in favor of progress, aren't we, and the debate needs to be ...

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  • Plus ca change

    Citing former Laval University professor and labour relations specialist Rejean Breton, Martineau renders Quebecers as infantile, self-obsessed fantasists suckling upon the Nanny State. Martineau himself uses equally harsh vocabulary. He notes students will be massing to again disrupt Montreal's city centre this afternoon just as the Charbonneau commission begins hearings on construction industry corruption.

    On today's 100th day of protests by Quebec students, Journal de Montreal columnist Richard Martineau offers a scabrous depiction of his province.

    Citing for...

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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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  • The Problem with the Zero Interest Rate Policy

    The US Federal Reserve, the most important and influential central bank, has made its objective clear: keep short-term interest rates at this near-zero level through late 2014. If this goal is fulfilled, the total period of time in which the major economies in the world have operated at a near zero rate policy will have lasted six years. This is an unprecedented, extraordinary, and dangerous policy on the part of central banks.

    The major central banks around the world began to cut interest rates in 2007 in response to the impending financial crisis. Interest rates throughout the developed world were lowered from approximately 5% in August 2007 to effectively zero by December 2008....

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