Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ideology and the Politics of Personality

Stephen Harper is incapable of handling the economy. Yes, he’s trying to portray himself as a leader but the basis for his ideological response is a fraud. Harper has the kind of stubborn temperament that works fine for staying the course but when flexibility of thought and consensus building is required, Harper’s very foundational ideology has no answers for the crisis that faces us.

Many pundits are saying Harper is most capable because he is an economist. What kind of economist is Harper? There are schools of thought in economic theory. He was taught in what is now called the Chicago School located at the University of Calgary. The beacon of light in this school is free trade, free market, and free enterprise fanaticism - the very same deregulated system that is at the heart of the global financial crisis.

Harper says he’ll stay the course. Canada cannot afford to stay on that course as the global system collapses around us and governments are forced to violate all of the principles of Harper’s “principled” free market conservatism. Harper’s ideology is not competent to handle the economic situation. And his stubborn adherence to it will drag us further down the path the Americans are currently on. Harper has been fortunate to have reaped the rewards of a full treasury on arrival. Now the cupboard has been spent bare and he has only his ideology to rely on.

Maybe we could recruit James K. Galbraith, son of the infamous Canadian economist John K. Galbraith, to return to Canada with some of his progressive economic theory. Galbraith argues that modern America has fallen prey to a wealthy, government-controlling "predatory class". Why would Canada follow Harper down this path? 

Galbraith is also a merciless critic of his own profession:

“Leading active members of today's economics profession, the generation presently in their 40s and 50s, have joined together into a kind of politburo for correct economic thinking. As a general rule — as one might expect from a gentleman's club — this has placed them on the wrong side of every important policy issue, and not just recently but for decades. They predict disaster where none occurs. They deny the possibility of events that then happen. They offer a "rape is like the weather" fatalism about an "inevitable" problem (pay inequality) that then starts to recede. They oppose the most basic, decent, and sensible reforms, while offering placebos instead. They are always surprised when something untoward (like a recession) actually occurs. And when finally they sense that some position cannot be sustained, they do not re-examine their ideas. Instead, they simply change the subject.”

Sound familar?

The theories on which he built his entire political career are in tatters and because of his personality, Harper is totally unprepared to deal with the situation. His stubborn adherence to failed principles will drag Canada down. Rather than being open to the advice of experts whom Harper has clearly demonstrated disdain for, Harper will hold fast and Canada will be much the worse for it.

The greatest threat facing Canada today is the disastrous fiscal policies of an ideology stubbornly adhered to. If Harper is elected, we can expect a systematic concerted effort to unravel the remaining vestiges of our institutions that represent our sovereignty as a nation.

Humanity has struggled for centuries to unshackle themselves from the subjugation of kings, popes, empires and raw capitalism. Why would Canada choose now to reverse the efforts of this struggle?

In one generation we have idly watched as America’s elected officials dismantled their nation’s industries, sending jobs and technology to foreign shores to be made on the cheap. America’s labour force has been disemboweled and by virtue of our trading relationship, Ontario and Quebec have been feeling the effects of this for the last two or three years. The readjustment we felt in the early 1990’s after implementation of the North America Free Trade Agreement will pale in comparison to the adjustments we can expect in the coming months.

Our economy will be shredded by the same ideology of unregulated corporate free enterprise, free trade and free-market fanaticism to the south. With his willfully, arrogant behaviour Stephen Harper believes in the same policies that have led the United States to teeter the whole world on the edge of disaster. We on Main Street will be left to pay the piper through loss of the social safety net, our universal health care, our resources and the institutions which make us sovereign and separate from the United States.

The world is watching and wondering - what will Canadians do on October 14th? Will we choose the free market ideology drunk on bailouts or will we choose the more reasoned, consultative, consensus building and flexible approach offered by the Stephane Dion and the Liberal team? 

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