Crawl Across the Ocean

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Much Ablog About Nothing

I try to vary my topics here at CAtO, but I can't deny that some stories just seem to push my blogging buttons, so to speak. Still, making a strenuous effort, I am not going to blog about today's front page National Post story, "Canada 'adrift': CEOs. Political 'vacuum' threatens nation's standard of living" -

- other than perhaps pointing out that when the article warns of "skyrocketing government spending -- up 20% on a per-capita basis over the past five years", and the CEO's say, "The country's fiscal base remains strong, but is threatened by runaway spending growth,", a balanced approach might have contrasted this whining with the fact that CEO compensation increased by roughly 100% last year.

If this pace of increase was to be sustained for 5 years (and as the Globe article notes, "Compensation experts say the surge in total payouts is likely the beginning of a string of banner years for top executives"), this would compound to a 3100% gain over 5 years.

Which kind of puts public spending increasing by 20% over 5 years (roughly 3.7%/year, which is probably less than nominal GDP growth over the same period) into perspective.

Also, when the CEOs put out a plan for Canada which says that, "Governments should ensure their activities contribute to future economic growth, rather than redistributing wealth for current consumption." they should perhaps pick their words more clearly or people will think they are suggesting an end to progressive taxation and all welfare programs, which might seem a little heartless and selfish coming from people who make millions of dollars a year.

But I'm not going to blog about that. The other thing I would normally blog about but am going to ignore because I've already said too much on this topic recently, is the stupidity of the Conservatives. In case you haven't heard, faced with the prospect of same-sex marriage legislation passing, here was the crybaby Conservative reaction (hat tip Gen X at 40):
"Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says the government's same-sex legislation will make it through the House of Commons only because of support from the Bloc Quebecois, and that, says Harper, means the legislation "lacks legitimacy." BQ Leader Gilles Duceppe immediately pounced on Harper's remarks, saying his party has as much legitimacy as the Conservatives. On his way into question period on Monday, Harper told reporters that the majority of federalist MPs will vote against the bill that extends the right to marry to gays and lesbians. He warned that the Liberals will face a backlash from voters outside Quebec over the bill. "It makes it an issue of Quebec versus Canada. Most Canadians have a skeptical view of Pequistes breaking up the country," said Conservative deputy leader Peter MacKay."

I'm assuming you don't need me to point out how dumb it is to write off the elected representatives of almost an entire province as illegitimate so there's no need to blog about this either.

What I will blog about today, is the book, 'The Efficient Society' by Joseph Heath.

First, some background. Over the past Christmas holiday I read a book called 'The Rebel Sell' by Andrew Potter and Joseph Heath. I posted my review here and in the comments Andrew Spicer suggested I might like Heath's earlier work, 'The Efficient Society'.

Andrew recently reviewed the Rebel Sell and concluded that the two books were worth reading as a pair. It's too late for me to do it in the proper order, but nonetheless I got a copy of The Efficient Society from the excellent Vancouver public library (I'm coming to think of it as the free version of Amazon with a better backcatalogue) last week and even found enough free time to read it.

The central premise of the book is that Canada is an efficient society because, when faced with decisions over whether economic functions should be carried about by government or by the market, we go with whatever works best (most efficiently) in that situation - as opposed to just putting personal freedom / fear of government ahead of efficiency (the 'American' approach) or putting collective thinking / fear of the private sector ahead of efficiency (the 'French' approach).

I'm not going to write a review here, beyond saying that I think anyone interested in understanding the proper role of government in Canada (and the world) should get hold of a copy and read it for themselves (it's an easy, not particularly long read and even just reading the first few chapters will give you a pretty good sense of the book as a whole).

What I am going to do, in my next few posts, is to highlight and discuss a few of the concepts in the book I found most interesting, starting with the contrast between a society motivated by improving/maintaining the virtue of its citizens and a society motivated by improving efficiency.

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  • Re: the National Post story - you really should write more letters to the editor. Consider it a public service.

    Look forward to your upcoming posts!

    By Blogger Simon, at 11:34 AM  

  • For a while now I've been considering changing my format somewhat to write a lot more letters and post those, rather than just writing into the ether, so to speak.

    I figure this would probably be a much more effcetive strategy, if my goal is to actually effect people's opinions / actions.

    The trouble is that letters need to be reasonably serious, polite and to the point, so they somewhat preclude obscure pop culture references, hidden puns, long digressions, unfair generalizations, endless afterthoughts in parentheses and all the other stuff which makes writing blog posts enjoyable for me.

    I guess we'll see.

    By Blogger Declan, at 1:40 PM  

  • grr, I hate it when I mix up 'effect' and 'affect'.

    By Blogger Declan, at 1:41 PM  

  • I'm sure the National Post will provide you with enough fodder to enable you to send the occasional (serious) letter AND post frequently on the blog (long digressions and all).

    Besides, you could always write fun posts about any given serious letter that you actually sent by chopping it up into quotes and adding blog commentary about what you really wanted to say!

    By Blogger Simon, at 4:06 PM  

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