Crawl Across the Ocean

Thursday, November 27, 2008

About Those Bad Ideas

I alluded to the other bad ideas the Conservatives came up with today, aside from anti-democratic campaign finance reform. For a good take on some of these ideas, see Andrew Steele here and here.

hat tip Greg.

One wonders what the Conservatives would do differently if they were trying to damage the country on purpose.


The Deaf Arguing With the Deaf

Here's a quote from Ian Welsh, posting at POGGE, "when a reformer rushes up and says, "there's a fence down the middle of the road, that maskes no sense! We need to tear it down!" a real conservative's reply is "tell me why the fence was put up in the first place and I might let you take it down."

So the Conservatives are, amongst other bad, possibly even worse ideas, proposing to abolish the mechanism set in place by Jean Chretien as part of his campaign finance reform, by which parties are provided with public funding based on the number of votes they received in the last election.

And I've read any number of opinions one way or the other on whether this is good or bad (most falling in line with partisan affiliation), but so far I've yet to see anyone even address the reason why that funding is there in the first place.

And perhaps my memory is faulty, because I haven't seen anyone else mention this despite reading lots of opinions, but wasn't the purpose of public financing of political parties in Canada to avoid the undue influence wielded (in systems where the only source of money is capped individual donations) by groups that could mobilize a large list of small donors around single issues (e.g. a company that tells employees to donate a certain way or an interest group that donates a certain way based on one issue, etc.)

I mean, maybe people disagree that this is a potential problem, maybe they think that using the internet for direct appeals to individual voters can override this concern, but shouldn't people who support abolishing the money that goes to parties based on the number of votes they get at least weigh this concern against the benefits (of which there appear to be none other than people (most of whom, Coyne excepted, feel no concern about tax breaks for individual donations) feeling icky about public financing of political parties for some undefined reason.

Maybe it's always been this way, and I just notice it more now, but it seems like so often we're having discussions about things and completely missing the most basic points about the topic involved. All these people who follow politics are debating whether or not to get rid of the fence and nobody seems to recall or care why it was put there in the first place.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Actually, No

This is just a follow-up to my post below, where I was noting how we like to make up stories about the economy to pretend we understand what is happening. Just after I posted that, I read this in the Globe, "In actual terms, it was the worst performance for auto makers since January, 1991, amid the recession caused by the first Gulf War."

The author Greg Keenan, just mentions in passing, as if it was commonly accepted, that the early 90's recession was caused by the Gulf War, as if if only there had been no Gulf War there would have been no recession.

Meanwhile Wikipedia suggests it was initially caused by the Savings and Loans crisis, and also posits that the recession lasted longer in Canada because of the threat of Quebec separatism.

Meanwhile, here you can see the start of an academic paper that presents a "reasonably comprehensive list of possible causes drawn from all schools of thought".

There are 8 in total, none of which refers to the Gulf War as a (direct) cause.

Or here is a paper from the Federal Reserve Bank in the U.S. which is honest enough to conclude by suggesting a point of inquiry for someone else to go figure out what happened because they're not entirely sure. Although it does helpfully note that the economy had been weakening well before the Gulf War started.

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Conference Board of Canada's Credibility is Dropping Faster than the Markets...

Which is bad since it was a penny stock to start with...

I was going to write a post making fun of the Conference Board of Canada for their fantasyland projection that Canada would have GDP growth of 2.2% next year and that there would be no recession.

Alas, I waited a whole week and now they have revised their forecast! Apparently, it was just in this past week that the conference board figured something might be amiss with the economy. Even Stephen Harper noticed sooner than that!

Luckily for me, their forecast is still very mockable, predicting 1.5% GDP growth next year, and no recession. Of course, if they keep revising their forecast every week, the one they make with one week left in the year next year should be reasonably accurate, although I wouldn't bet on it, with their track record.

I know, I know, various institutions, think tanks and government agencies have never proven themselves capable of doing any better with their macroeconomic forecasts than you could do by simply predicting next year's numbers will look like last year's numbers, but I guess it's just part of human nature to want to believe that we are in control and understand what's going on and can forecast these things. But when you make big revisions to your forecast one week after you make it, it kind of dents the illusion a little bit...

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