Smart Picks -- Purple Finger, Global Social, Woe Japan, McGuinty Leading, US Bonds

61% of registered Iraq voters voted in the country's national election on Sunday some while dodging bomb blasts and many in the face of the threat of violence. That is a greater percentage than registered Canadian voters that voted in Canada's last federal election (58%). Among the 18 countries listed in How Australia Compares (pg. 44) Canada ranks in the bottom quartile of voter participation on average between 1991-2007. Australia ranks number one since 1945 because voting is a legal requirement of citizenship. Hmmm?

With the Washington Consensus shattered and the market on the run are we on the verge of a new socialism that will end up in the same place as East Germany? Which road McGuinity's Ontario or the Prime Minister's Canada? More woeful news about Japan and why US bonds are not shortful.

Iraq's march to a functioning democracy took another important step on Sunday with national elections.

It takes a cynical mind not to share in the achievement of Iraq's national elections. Bombs and missiles, al Qaeda threats and war fatigue failed to deter millions of Iraqis of all sects and regions from exercising a right that is rare in the Arab world. Even the U.N.'s man in Baghdad called the vote "a triumph." http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704869304575109613619617840.html?mod=rss_opinion_main

The New York Times agrees.

Final results from Iraq’s parliamentary election may not be available for days, but this much we can already say for sure: Iraq’s citizens once again showed tremendous courage and determination, defying bombs and a flawed pre-election process to cast their ballots. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/09/opinion/09tue1.html?ref=todayspaper

American freedom.

DURING the Iraqi parliamentary elections on Sunday, this city’s main thoroughfares presented an almost overwhelming visual mosaic of politics. From the Karada neighborhood in the south to the Adhamiya district in the north, from poor Sadr City to rich Mansour, posters for the capital province’s 1,300 candidates hung from almost every tree and lamppost. Billboards crowded medians and roundabouts, promising Change, Justice, Unity, Jobs, Security and more. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/09/opinion/09bull.html?ref=todayspaper

Which got me thinking about Canada's sub-60% turnout in the last federal election.

The voter turnout in 2008 dropped to the lowest percentage of registered voters ever recorded for a national election in Canada. http://www.sfu.ca/~aheard/elections/historical-turnout.html

 

There is mandatory voting in other countries. Time to make it a condition of citizenship?

Most democratic governments consider participating in national elections a right of citizenship. Some consider that participation at elections is also a citizen's civic responsibility. In some countries, where voting is considered a duty, voting at elections has been made compulsory and has been regulated in the national constitutions and electoral laws. Some countries go as far as to impose sanctions on non-voters. http://www.idea.int/vt/compulsory_voting.cfm

Is the world about to take a left hand turn? Remember that the state builds schools, feeds the poor, but also can do that as well as other things badly with little room for an alternative. A dangerous path.

The late Michael Foot would periodically claim, always wrongly, that the time was ripe for socialism. Ironically, it may now be. Even as the long withdrawing roar of the left still sounds, it becomes more likely that some part of the British politician’s hope may be realised – though perhaps too late. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4b33ffea-2aef-11df-886b-00144feabdc0.html

The news out of Japan just keeps piling up in the not good pile.

9/11 nutter.

YUKIHISA FUJITA is an influential member of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan. As chief of the DPJ's international department and head of the Research Committee on Foreign Affairs in the upper house of Japan's parliament, to which he was elected in 2007, he is a Brahmin in the foreign policy establishment of Washington's most important East Asian ally. He also seems to think that America's rendering of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, is a gigantic hoax. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/07/AR2010030702354.html

Japan's fiscal time bomb.

If you listen to American, European, or even Chinese leaders, Japan is the economic future no one wants. In selling massive stimulus packages and bank bailouts, Western leaders told their people, “We must do this or we will end up like Japan, mired in recession and deflation for a decade or more.”  http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/rogoff66/English

Thoughtful article on the differing choices being offered by a Liberal Premier in Ontario and a Conservative Prime Minister in Ottawa.

In many ways, Stephen Harper and Dalton McGuinty have spent the past year moving in lockstep. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/mcguinty-stakes-out-campaign-territory-with-promise-rich-throne-speech/article1494281/

Parents are voting with their feet (and kids).

Full-day kindergarten spots are being snapped up across Greater Toronto, with demand particularly high in a few communities, school boards report. http://www.parentcentral.ca/parent/education/earlylearning/article/776832--registration-for-full-day-kindergarten-off-to-a-good-start

US bonds not so bad (for all the wrong reasons).

Should traders and investors short the US Treasury market? The bearish case is straightforward. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f53c0380-2ac6-11df-b7d7-00144feabdc0.html

 Finally, a nice parody of Hollywood trailers.

A Trailer for Every Academy Award Winning Movie Ever http://www.cracked.com/video_18156_a-trailer-every-academy-award-winning-movie-ever.html

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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, marshaling 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.

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.