Crawl Across the Ocean

Monday, July 13, 2009

You Are Here

From a recent interview with Stephen Harper,

"Reguly: Do you regret cutting the GST now?

Harper: No, not at all.

Reguly: No?

Harper: No, it's ... First of all, I believe cutting all taxes is good policy, okay? I... I'm of the school that... You know, there's two schools in economics on this, one is that there are some good taxes and the other is that no taxes are good taxes. I'm in the latter category. I don't believe any taxes are good taxes. It's important to remember when we cut the full two points of the GST, the budget was still in surplus. Anyone who says we put the budget in deficit by cutting the GST is wrong. I also think cutting the GST had some important effects. I think it's important to say why it was a good policy, besides fulfilling an electoral commitment to cut the GST, um... besides being a tax cut which as I say is good in and of itself.


Reguly: Good."

Apparently, there are two schools of economic thought. One believes that we are better off with some sort of government. The other is explicitly anarchist. Our PM has declared himself an anarchist. The charitable interpretation is that he was simply trying to say that all taxes are the same in their appropriateness but of course this a) doesn't really match what he said very well and b) is almost equally as stupid.

I'm not really posting too much on the politics these days, but I wanted to note this one down just as a marker of where we are now in our discourse on the role of government and the need to pay for it, just how far gone into childish ideology and delusion we really are when our Prime Minister says such things seriously and the only response from our media is 'good'.

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  • stevie said it all in one sentence:

    I don't believe any taxes are good taxes.

    Just how in hell does he expect to pay for any government at all? Charitable donations from corporate boards?

    What a sad commentary on elected officials . . . .

    By Blogger West End Bob, at 8:34 PM  

  • You have obviously not studied public finance in university. What they teach you is that virtually all taxes skew incentives and distort individual decisions, which leads to a departure from the social optimum. So Harper is in principle correct.

    Of course, that begs the question how do you pay for public goods and services? You are going to have to levy some kind of tax. True enough.

    But given the mishmash of taxes we pay, I defy anyone to show that the current tax regime is either efficient or fair. I'd say any tax cut is a good tax cut.

    By Blogger Steve Stinson, at 6:18 AM  

  • Maybe an example would help, Steve.

    Let's say that the interview went as follows:

    "Reguly: Do you think that it is a good thing to have something scare you?

    Harper: No, not at all.

    Reguly: No?

    Harper: No, it's ... First of all, I believe that being scared is a bad thing, so any act that makes you do something that scares you is bad, because being scared is bad.

    Therefore, any reduction in people being scared is a good thing."

    Reguly: Good."

    What is missing here, is the notion of courage, which means taking an action where the bad side of being scared is justified by some positive result. Simply trying to avoid ever being scared negates any possibility of exhibiting courage.

    This in an exact analogue to Harper's one-sided commitment to cutting taxes, without explaining what taxes do and what benefits they create and why we need them.

    One of the things that differentiates an adult from a child and thus marks maturity, is the ability to recognize that sometimes bad things are linked with good things and you can't get one without the other.

    If you want to have energy the next day, you need to get to sleep at a reasonable time.

    If you want to do OK in school, you need to study


    What Harper shows in his quote is that on the one topic which is arguably most important to a prime minister - the role of government in society - he remains a child.

    Much as a child will lie in bed and wish for a fantasy world where every day is the weekend, or it is always summer, Harper lives in fantasy-land where we can have government but not pay for it.

    Fundamentally, its this childishness which is why right wing governments always lead to fiscal irresponsibility - because the proponents are literally irresponsible.

    By Blogger Declan, at 5:48 PM  

  • Declan, I'm not sure what you mean by an example.

    In the original interview, I suspect Harper is not talking absolutes, but at the margin. So, in his mind, it would be better to cut taxes (not eliminate them as the anarchist you make him out to be might suggest) than to add another tax so the government could, say, bailout GM.

    By Blogger Steve Stinson, at 6:23 PM  

  • You're right, I meant to say 'metaphor', not 'example'.

    As for Harper talking at the margin, it sure doesn't read that way.

    "I believe cutting all taxes is good policy, okay?"

    "I don't believe any taxes are good taxes."

    "a tax cut which as I say is good in and of itself."

    I won't even get into the blatant dishonesty of him claim in the same section of the interview about how cutting the gst was done to sustain consumer spending which is important during a downturn, when in reality all of the gst cut planning and implementation was done at the top of an historic bubble driven by unsustainably *high* levels of consumer spending.

    By Blogger Declan, at 11:30 PM  

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