A Few Words

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On Saturday in Queen’s Park in Victoria I had the privilege of speaking with Stephane Dion for a gathering of Liberals and other innocent bystanders.

Stephane was in town to speak at the Federal Green Party Convention on political reform.

Ironically, I had spoken to the BC Provincial Green Party Convention in May.

Below are a version of my remarks entitled The New Economics and a copy of the speech Stephane gave at the Convention that he spoke to following my remarks.

I doubt there is a more thoughtful, hard-working and decent politician in Canada.

If you would like to help change Canada for the better please contact info@victorialiberal.ca or 250 896 9252.

Many thanks to Devin Demerse and all the hard working young Liberals of Victoria that made the event possible.

The New Economics

I consider it a great honour and privilege to be here today.

 

I think that the market is a theoretical place while the economy is a real place and is what geography, history, politics, culture, and personality make of the market.

 

If there is one message I hope to leave behind today it is that economics must be a ‘moral enterprise’ as much as politics claims to be.

 

Why are economic, political, social, and environmental issues framed by sustainability being asked everywhere, and being asked right now?

 

One reason might be that just as communism failed by 1989 because it was built on the flawed principle of equality of outcomes, that the current economic crisis and signs of environmental break down reminds us that capitalism built on undelivered promises of equality of opportunity, and savaging our environment, is equally flawed.

 

Don’t believe what market-centred economists tell you, that the market is like a McDonald’s hamburger, the same wherever you go, impervious to politics and culture, and where market driven outcomes are always fair.

 

Capitalism is not the problem; the problem is what we do with capitalism.

 

The consequences of the market are what we create and can be an expression of our wildest dreams or become our greatest nightmares.

 

How did this happen?

 

We are suffering from a lack of imagination because of the grip market-based economists have had on public policy for 35 years.

 

Unfortunately, market centred economists have had an exaggerated role in setting the political agenda.

 

The consequence has been a 35-year fraying of our common purpose while pushing our planet closer to the brink of catastrophe.

 

We have allowed the market to dominate our societies as our politics became ‘market-driven’, the market became uncontained and now we have the market societies, with the inequity, volatility, and environmental degradation to prove it.

 

However disruptive a new technology or trading partner might be, the brunt of the adjustment always fell on the individual while shareholders were bailed out whenever possible.

 

What’s been lost is that globalization and democracy aren’t compatible if the brunt of the adjustment falls on citizens and our planet.

 

What economists missed is how the power of new technologies set the stage for accelerated unequal outcomes and environmental damage.

 

The benefits of globalisation have been harvested by fewer and fewer people in the developed world while the rise of a middle class numbering billions of people in poor countries has created rising levels of environmental damage.

 

While developing countries pollute at an accelerating rate as they catch up with developed countries, market-centred economists have framed the environmental debate about globalisation as a zero-sum game instead of how to use smart incentives that balances a rise in global population and wealth with a shrinking carbon footprint.

 

What larger challenge do we have than managing the impact of an estimated 30% rise in global population by 2050 while about 2 billion people will adopt the richer lifestyles of present day high income countries and the exaggerated carbon impact that accompanies them?

 

The debate about capitalism as being too hot, where the market dominates, or too cold, where the state dominates, misses the truth that we must find the balance between the twin virtues of inequality of outcomes and equality of opportunity while managing the environmental fallout.

 

The trick is how to tax and regulate the economy in such way as to ensure unequal economic outcomes provide the public revenue to invest in instruments of social and environmental justice, namely equality under the law, world class public education and transportation, the science of good health available to all, and best in class environmental outcomes.

 

It is in this context that any conversation about sustainability needs to be put reinforced by the truth that it is very dangerous to leave economics to economists not only for the environment, and our society; but also as the 2007-2008 financial crisis proved, for our economy.

 

So what of Canada?

 

The fact is that Canada is geographically vast, sparsely populated, is next door to history’s most powerful country, and has spent two centuries consistently finding peaceful solutions to including a distinct language and cultural population situated in the geographic heart of the country.

 

Canada has become a sophisticated, bilingual, peaceful, open, wealthy, and increasing urban country whose growth is significantly driven by the success of the children of new Canadians competing in the global economy.

 

And Canada is one of the only developed countries that will double the size of its population by mid-century.

 

Imagine 50 million Canadians by 2050!

 

Already at current trends, by 2080 there will be more Canadians than Germans or Japanese.

 

Therefore, the biggest challenge for Canada in the 21st century is how to ensure that an immigrant fueled rise in our population is consistent with best in class justice, education, health, economic, community and environmental outcomes.

 

Neither the economy nor social justice will be served if we continue, as Robert Wright has argued, to place a ‘murderous burden’ on the planet.

 

The challenge is to design policies that will allow Canada to adjust more profitably and responsibly to the tumultuous impact of new technologies in a way that turns the evolution of the economy more and not less to our common advantage that will restore economic, social and environmental sustainability to our lives.

 

Surely part of this will depend on political reform.

Stephane Dion's remarks.

Pdf below -- P3: A Voting System for Canada by Stephane Dion

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P3_A Voting System for Canada_Stephane Dion.pdf264.87 KB
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Twin Virtues: Inequality of Outcomes & Equality of Opportunity©

Twin Virtues

Ultimately, the most successful societies find the balance between the twin virtues of inequality of outcomes and equality of opportunity.

The new politics must marry the twin virtues of unequal outcomes and equality of opportunity.

When too few get too much everybody loses.

Feminism is about women living their lives on their own terms, marshalling the resources of the society to make that possible, and men embracing this as vital to a successful society and their own liberation.

Can it be that striving for equality of opportunity however imperfect the process not only benefits the individual but also creates benefits for the society that are unintended but wonderful?

Economics must be a 'moral enterprise' as much as politics claims to be. Economic outcomes need to be framed in terms of right and wrong not just efficiency if only because these often align in surprising ways that are good for society and the economy.

My vision of Canada is that any Canadian child from a family of limited circumstance can expect to have a chance at lifetime of unlimited opportunities.

Free trade is a wonderful thing. Time and time again economists have proven that free trade creates enormous wealth for each country 'on the whole'. Historians have shown that free trade is usually associated with rising political, social and cultural liberty. The perennial problem is that free trade always creates tremendous disruption for thousands even millions of individuals often concentrated in one geography, and where the state is idle, not investing in best in class instruments of social justice, free trade can be a permanent ticket out of the middle class, down, not up.

Tax policy should be founded on the principle of generating steady tax revenues sufficient to maximise environmentally sustainable economic growth in order to fund fair government.

Public policy should be designed to decrease inequality before the law and increase equality of opportunity.

Capitalism is not the problem; the problem is what we do with capitalism.

Content is always more difficult to argue than conspiracy.

Let the state regulate and the market operate (most things).

Welfare strategies are best designed as a hand up, not as a hand out.

Political debate should not be fact free fighting.

Explanation lasts longer than eloquence.

Always favour empowerment over dependency.

The most enduring public figures are embraced for the causes they fought for and not the concept of themselves they hoped others would remember them by.

Find your voice and don't be the echo of somebody else.

It is possible to operate on two different levels: the practical, cautious and conservative; and the realm of ideas, open, free, and radical.