One of life’s great ironies in the Western world is the number of people who fervently declare the great success and capability of capitalist enterprise, and then turn around to lament the gross inefficiencies of government. The staunchly conservative among us love to trumpet this apparent contrast. Then again, the liberals among us have their similar contrast, decrying the ruthlessness and greed of business, and pointing to the sober diligence of government regulatory agencies. Both sides love to contrast the business world with the government system, for each their own purposes.
In fact, the irony of this is that these two systems are two sides of the same coin. Governments are plagued by inefficiency precisely because they are run in ways that resemble capitalist enterprise. Sure, in government the currency is different—politicians earn seats in government, and they sell influence—but they run as a business all the same. Let me paint the picture in more vivid colour.Continue Reading
About a month ago, Switzerland made international news by holding a referendum on whether or not to give all Swiss citizens a basic income of about $2800 a month. Although the date for the vote still hasn’t been set (as far as I can tell), it certainly raised quite a buzz as analysts tried to frame the pros and cons of a proposal that, quite frankly, is not a new idea at all. Here’s a good summary of some of the arguments and research on the issue.
At its heart, a “basic income” proposal is a system in which each resident of a particular country or region receives a sum of money unconditionally by the government. Unlike many systems of welfare, such money comes with no strings attached, and no means testing to ensure that one needs such assistance. This means that it cuts out much of the bureaucracy involved with welfare benefits: no more case workers ensuring that people are indeed looking for work; no more food stamps that force individuals to spend money on food rather than on other items that may be equally necessary. The system, at least in one sense, is inherently fair, in that everyone in the country receives the same amount: rich or poor, every person gets the basic income from the government.Continue Reading
Reposted from Mar. 22, 2011.
During my own investigations into economic and political systems, I came across the idea of worker co-operatives. These are businesses which are collectively owned by their workers and democratically managed. When I first learned about these, I was stunned at how brilliant of an idea it seemed to be. It was something of a hybrid between a corporation and a partnership. As I investigated other issues, I kept coming back time and time again to this alluring concept that had never been taught to me in my classes on business or economics. It seemed to be an excellent idea, worthy of my support. And in the end, I based some of my own ideas on politics and economics around this concept. So in order to do what I can to support these co-ops, I want to spend a little bit of time talking about the benefits this form of business can have. I’ve divided the benefits into three main areas (though there is some overlap): economic, personal/social, and ethical. But first, let me describe in a little more detail what a worker co-op is.Continue Reading
The current political rhetoric in the United States (and other countries, to a lesser extent) is all about government regulations vs. the free market. Republican candidates have been spending much time making promises about budget cuts, removal of regulations, and untying the hands of “job creators.” Government regulation is said to be “inefficient” and an impedance to the progress of the country. The rhetoric here in Canada over the past few years has been similar, focusing on “stimulating the economy” and creating jobs.
Amongst all this language about business and economies, it is important to clarify the goals or end-state that one wishes for society to achieve. Certainly, people have different ideas about what society should be like, but in general I think it is fairly uncontroversial to state that society should benefit the people within it. I would submit that a good goal for society to have is to be just and equitable, and to work toward the well-being of its citizens. It is only after we set this goal that we can start to clarify whether government regulations and policies are truly a good thing. Do they achieve this goal?Continue Reading
One of the common themes that arises when discussing politics is the issue of religion within political discourse and legislation. For every person who argues for the separation of church and state, there’s another who decries the removal of prayer from schools. There is a lot of debate over the level of influence that religion should have within the political realm—whether the government should be strictly secular or not. But I would like to argue that secularism is a cause that everyone—religious folks included—should support.Continue Reading
With a Canadian election coming up on May 2nd, it’s important to take a look at just what the various political parties stand for. I’ve spent the past week or so reading over the official party platforms for the major national parties. (I’ll admit, I only got about half-way through the Green Party platform. It’s not my fault that it’s so ridiculously long.) In the process of reading them, I condensed their various “promises” or proposed actions to create a list of what each party says they will do.Continue Reading
I’m a data nerd. I accept that. I love taking a look at numbers and seeing what they tell me. But like any good data analysis, it’s best to have a purpose for doing it. So today I’d like to discuss a bit of analysis that I did regarding income and inequality, a topic which I think has some clear importance for people around the world.Continue Reading