It is too much about the money: the rule and ethics of business is gradually displacing the rule and ethics of law in a democratic society. We confuse ‘cents’ for ‘sense’ and the former has redefined virtue in modern human societies.
- The disproportionate emphasis on money is creating a three-tiered society of owners/ultra-wealthy-managers/professionals –labour/everyone else, with labour itself divided into three tiers: the lower middle class, the working poor, and the destitute.
As time goes on:
- Technological advances could render the labour class less relevant to production; the services labour provides, less valued; and the income labour is able to generate, less significant. In a society where wealth is the highest aspiration, labour will lose political power in proportion to the diminishing returns it receives from production. It will experience a decreasing role in the politics of nations and in the direction societies evolve.
- Wealth will continue to influence the politics of nations, and the direction societies evolve in. As time goes on, Canada’s, and the world’s wealth, will concentrate in fewer hands. Money is power. Increasing political power is commensurate with increasing wealth. The upper centile’s share of power and influence in Canadian society, such as it is now, will increase alongside its increasing share of our nation’s wealth.
- Wealth tends to concentrate because an individual is able to spend only so much money on living. The wealthier members of society are obliged to invest whatever they have extra in some savings or investment vehicle. If their wealth is large enough to permit them to live wholly off of the returns on their investment portfolios, what is left over, they will invest. The value of their assets will grow, year after year. The return from their investments will likewise grow, year after year.
- Wealth is finite; and the income from wealth is finite. The value of each, relative to the previous year, is nominal growth. The value of one’s assets, compared to the previous year, and expressed as a percentage, is the rate of return (r). The value of the national economy, compared to the previous year, expressed as a percentage, is the rate of economic growth (g). If the value of the nation is increasing at a slower rate than the value of an individual’s assets is increasing, the individual will posses a greater share of the nation’s value than they did the year before. This is Piketty’s r > g scenario, in a nutshell.[i] Every year, as r continues to be greater than g, even if only by a little, then the bite taken by to investors is growing faster than the apple is growing. After investors take their bite out of the apple, there is less of the apple remaining to be shared by everyone else than the year before. Simple.
- As time goes on, a decreasing portion of Canada’s wealth and national income is left to be shared among a group of people whose numbers are, at the same time, increasing. Population growth will broaden and deepen the misery of poverty, as a diminishing portion of our nation’s wealth is shared among an increasing number of people. This will force an increasing number of people to fall below the sustenance level. As more people freefall into poverty, the demand upon our social institutions will increase.
- A greater number of people will become irrelevant to production, because they are not being educated or retrained by the government, and they cannot afford to pay for schooling on their own. Rather than properly invest in education, governments and businesses recruit overseas. The Conservative’s Foreign Temporary Workers Act is stark evidence of their priorities. Businesses do not want to make the required investments in training because it costs money; the federal Conservatives do not want to invest adequately in training because it costs money. Both the Conservatives and the provincial Liberals spend more to pay the interest on the debt than they allocate to education and training. Paying interest on the debt only serves to maintain the status quo; providing educational opportunities to all Canadians, especially unemployed Canadians (young and old) provides society with a viable future.
- As poverty increases, so does the social and human dysfunction poverty gives birth to. The dysfunction obliges societies to increase their police presence in order to maintain the peace. It also means mentally-dysfunctional people are walking around, oftentimes homeless, feeling isolated, and left to fend for themselves. These poor souls need 24-hour professional care, and a place they can feel safe and comfortable in. Everyone needs to feel they belong (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – Level 3), and a place where they feel safe(Maslow’s -Level 2).
- The law will evolve to increasingly reflect the morality and aspirations associated with business. A current example is Bill C-51[ii], which seeks to remove any legal differentiation between nonviolent, unlawful dissent and terrorism. It specifically mentions interference with economic activity. It provides expanded powers for security services to spy on Canadians, with the same lack of respect for privacy (and for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) that businesses often have for their employees. Businesses rationalize their privacy invasions by pointing out the employees’ time, utilities, workspace, and output, is the property of the employer. The employee agrees to this by accepting a wage – or so goes the rationale. But citizens are not the property of society; they are the society.
- It is also accepted for employers to bend the truth when they talk to their employees; it is accepted that they will reveal only what is convenient for them to reveal, even if this means withholding information that would greatly assist the employee in making a sound decision for themselves; but when employees are caught lying, or withholding information from their employers, they are almost always fired, because, the owners say, ‘the trust relationship is broken.’ We even see this happening between governments and citizens, especially with respect to the federal Conservatives, and, to a lesser extent (I hope) with respect to the Liberals of Ontario and Quebec. Citizens have come to expect, and often accept, the convenient truth from our governments; and getting used to the idea that they will have to figure out, and live, the inconvenient truth. The Federal Conservatives, if to no one else, are 100 per cent true to themselves: election time or no, they utter only the convenient ‘truth,’ and deny everything else, as if in denying reality, reality will cease to be.
The business evolutionary cycle is one of growth-maturation-decline. This is a natural cycle which also applies to human individuals and the societies they form. Unless an organization is able to renew itself, it will not remain relevant to the market over time, since the market itself is constantly evolving. Amazon, Indigo, Starbuck’s, and others, seem to do this very well. Societies must also evolve, because the world is constantly changing. In today’s world, because of globalization, nations must learn to participate in a new world order without compromising that which makes them unique in the world. If morality continues to be predicated on money, the evolution of the world social order will parallel that of the national social order which is likewise predicated on money. The inequality within and among nations will continue to widen.
- Societies(families, communities, nations) renew themselves through ‘continuous improvement,’ a term I admit to have first encountered, ironically enough, in a business Naturally, the individuals which makeup society must also engage in continuous improvement. Societies must be all-inclusive, because individual members of society will weaken and atrophy if they are not properly nourished and regularly utilized; as the cells and sub-systems of the body will. Nourishment must not only be material, it must be spiritual also, and in equal measure. We cannot, for example, have people living their lives in a state of anxiety, especially over how to provide for their families. All children must grow up in a safe and loving environment; and free of care. I believe much anxiety is wrought by the constant barrage of bad news on TV, and the dangers of a woefully under-policed, and unregulated Internet.
- It is only by virtue of the unfettered collaboration of the various sub-systems within society, and the unrestricted circulation of its resources throughout, that a society can maintain its vitality. It is the same for the human body. If the body’s circulatory system became out of balance, such that most of the blood flowed to the upper half of the body and very little to the bottom half, what do you suppose would happen as the blood continued to back-up and accumulate in the upper half? What happens to the body when its blood does not properly circulate, happens to societies when its resources accumulate at the top and do not properly circulate.
- It is the failure of governments to recognize this process that is primarily responsible for the downfall of every human civilization in history. Nations weakened and failed; empires weakened and failed, because their cores, for the most part drew wealth from the peripheries, while providing too little in return. Their circulatory systems – comprised of resources and ideas – were out of balance. It was this which destroyed them.
- The ‘have’ nations, because of their economic and technical advantages over the ‘have-not’ nations, are able to exact a greater share of the ‘have-nots’ wealth. They can do this because the have-nots are not able to tap their own wealth, and they are willing to exchange a disproportionate share of their country’s wealth for the technology that will permit them to do so. When we are talking about non-renewable resources, this especially becomes a devil’s bargain: the wealth extracted today is gone forever and will not be available to for future generations. This is a force of imbalance in the global circulatory system.
- The bipolar world of East and West is in its final throes: each half is now obliged to defer to a new world-order, or all bets for survival are off. There may or may not be an intervening, and massively destructive war between them if they do not defer; at the least, the world’s existing disparity and misery will continue to deepen. If war does happen, the human losses will be astronomical. Casualties will be heaviest among the lower socio-economic strata.
- The natural cycle of growth-maturation-decline appears to be operating on a macro level also. Civilizations come and go, but as each age passes, the human race becomes more technologically knowledgeable. Since the mechanism (but not the impetus) of societal changeover is often war, and because humankind’s pervasiveness and destructive capacity is now global in scale, the next changeover could easily end in the annihilation of the old order and the new one.
- This cycle can be managed peacefully, and to great effect, though I cannot think of a single example of our having done so in our six-millennium ‘civilized’ history. To do things right, we must first rise above our base natures. We have not achieved what is possible for us to achieve because, as individuals and societies, our actions have, for the most part, been motivated by ego. Ego is but one half of the dichotomous condition of all living things. An extreme example of a wholly egoic process manifests in the behaviour of cancer tumours. Tumours can be visualized as ‘societies’ of dysfunctional cells that grow and consume to the point where they destroy the host they are wholly dependent upon for existence. Once the host is dead, so are they. Cancer tumours never think that far ahead.
- Because we place economic opportunity above all else, and because we often (especially after the modern shift to the right in our politics) allow concern for economic growth to trump proper consideration of human and environmental factors, we are behaving very much like cancers do, and we will share their fate, albeit with one salient difference: we cannot destroy our host, our dear Earth Mother; only her ability to support us. Nature will survive whatever we do to her. She is resilient and will make a comeback – without us, if need be; but that is a choice we make for ourselves. We all need to make a living and raise our children – this is true, no matter what species you belong to. We cannot do otherwise; but we must discover another way to do it so that our environment, and other species, are not destroyed in the process. If we destroy these things, we will not have a leg left to stand on. Humankind has shown itself capable of inflicting the greatest damage upon our Earth. It is also shown itself capable to help heal it. Even if we simply ceased to damage her further, she would, in time, heal herself. I know there are people who understand our situation fully, because I hear them speaking on the TV, in the newspapers, and in the cafés.
- Many individuals in our history have said, ‘the more we collaborate; the more we will share wealth, opportunity, knowledge, and happiness, with one another, and the better off we will all’ The upper half of the Canadian ‘body’ may still benefit from a richer ‘blood supply,’ but not to the extent where the upper half becomes fat, unhealthy, and flaccid, and the lower half weak, diseased, and atrophied. Society’s legs must remain strong and not burdened by an upper portion that is excessively top-heavy. The legs must not be permitted to atrophy and weaken. The legs must deliver the upper half wherever it needs to go; the upper half must ensure that its legs get the proper amount of attention. Each half must maintain the utmost respect and sensitivity to the needs and aspirations of the other.
- We must act, now. The world has become too small, the human population too large, the damage to the environment too extensive, for us to delay any longer. If we continue on our current trajectory, there may well be war between East and West in less than a decade. There may even be class wars within societies. The police state will try to provide protection from, and to contain, intra-societal violence for as long as possible, but if we do not fix what is causing the cancer, the cancer will triumph, eventually.
We can learn many valuable lessons from the family society. People do not form families for love of money and power. Families are not motivated into existence by profit-making, and they would not do violence, be it physical, emotional, economic, environmental, or social, to acquire what belongs to the family next door. If profit were the primary motive for having families, they would quickly fall apart because children are a great expense and provide no monetary value to the family unit. On that basis, people would stop having children, just like corporations would stop adding employees when there is no value to the bottom line in doing so.
- The pursuit of money cannot replace the pursuit of happiness as the primary focus of societies. Money is a means to achieve happiness; not an end in itself. Sadly, our Conservatives see money as an end in itself. Their policies exhibit a singularity of purpose: to spend just enough money, and no more, on just enough people, and no more, in order to retain power.
- Sad to say, this approach works. It works because it appeals to our egos. Ego can appreciate the benefits of a car costing 100K over one which costs only 50K; but it cannot appreciate the benefits that that 50K would purchase for a young family whose parents are lacking work, are far, far greater; or how much greater the benefits that 50K would purchase, if it were invested in the community, or even better, used to employ those unemployed parents in addressing the needs of their community.
- Most of us are sorry for street people; we feel grief every time we hear that a teenager has committed suicide, and angry that a young family must struggle to keep their children sheltered, fed, and clothed. We might be angry at our governments for underfunding education – obliging schools to fundraise for themselves – creating a disparity of means between schools serving poorer neighbourhoods and those serving wealthier neighbourhoods. We deplore the conditions that First Nations children are growing up in.Virtually everyone would prefer the independence and sense of accomplishment which comes of working and earning a living, rather than having to make their way through life cap-in-hand. Social engagement must begin with, but by no means end with, engagement in the workforce. Community, national, and global engagement, aka, engagement in the human community, must follow. These are the steps necessary for each of us to reach the pinnacle of our human existence, to really be what each one of us has it within ourselves to be.
- We want to trust our governments to do the right thing for our fellow Canadians, but we do not want to pay for it. Rather than be taxed to make this country a better place(assuming governments get with the program, and start spending tax dollars properly, rather than politically)[iii], we prefer donating to charities. The trouble is, our donations do not amount to anywhere near that which is necessary to provide for those who have desperate need. Our donations are spread among, and managed by, a multitude of organizations – each with their own administrative overhead, and this is not an efficient way to deal with a pervasive, structural, social problem. Many people desperate for the means to obtain a living simply slip through the cracks – never to be heard from again.
How governments are abetting the creation of a ‘money-morality’ society: If the government provides tax-cuts, they are directed at those groups the government expects to vote in the greatest numbers; pensioners, for example. They must structure the cuts in order to get the most ‘bang for the buck.’ What a way to earn the great responsibility of governing in an democracy: “If you are the type that votes, we are going to buy your vote.”
- If this results in people not having proper food, shelter, and clothing for themselves and their loved ones, or a job that will permit them to make a living, their situation will become desperate, and they will succumb to doing the things desperate people do in order to cope – that is only natural, and we should all know it by now. The greater the number of people living in desperation, the greater the number of people who will act out in a way that is socially and personally detrimental. Rapidly expanding police budgets are how Canada is currently dealing with what is an ongoing, structural social problem. These costs will soon be augmented by an expanded security services presence, inside and outside of Canada, should the Conservatives form the next government; and these costs will take money away from programs which could be set up to prevent people and families from falling into such desperate circumstances.
- No governments dare give utterance to ‘that-which-shall-not-be-named,’ especially during election time. The word is more fear inspiring to politicians than ‘Voldemort’ is to the denizens of Hogwart’s. It is an especially vile little three-letter word; but if you attach the letters c-u-t to it, it can pave the road to electoral success. There isn’t a single person living who does not find tax-cut an appealing notion. And so, if a government wants power, it must figure out a way to buy enough voters to do so, and at the lowest cost; for the money they must spend on getting you to vote for them is money they cannot spend on infrastructure, healthcare, education, the military, the environment, research, and, if you are the Conservatives, enriching their wealthiest
The wholesale, apolitical, reduction of the tax burden upon citizens is what every government, worthy of the responsibility to govern, will by nature strive for. But this should only be accomplished by achieving new orders of efficiency if there isn’t enough tax revenue being generated by the economy for government to fulfill all of its obligations to all of its citizens. The superordinate obligation of government is to ensure all citizens are safe and properly provided for. The best way to do this is to generate as much revenue as possible without placing an unfair tax burden on any of its citizens. At the same time, they must spend wisely. The federal Conservatives recently spent .75B of public money on partisan advertising; the Ontario Liberals squandered about 1B to move a gas plant, just to save a seat or two at Queen’s Park – so governments do not always spend wisely.
The ability to reduce tax burdens is a welcome condition; but if the reductions are motivated by a government’s self-interest, it will result in less revenue being available for the government to fulfill its obligations to each one of its citizens. This is not only unethical and immoral, it is patently un-Canadian. PM Harper is buying the votes of retirees by doubling the TFSA cap and changing the RIFF rules. Some retirees will benefit from these changes, but others will not. The Conservative do not care about who will not benefit; they care only that more will benefit than will not, and that a few dollars more will be enough to buy their votes. The changes will result in several billions being lost in tax revenues. The degree of impact the cuts will have on those wealthy enough to benefit from them is insignificant. The effect that money would have if it were shared among the retirees that struggle each winter to pay their rents and heating bills, is significant indeed.
Taxation, properly and fairly administered, is the only way for money, the life-blood of society, to circulate in a healthy way. Taxation is the most effective means of ensuring that all of the cells in the Canadian body receive the nutrition they need in order to grow into healthy cells; fully able to fulfill their purpose and their obligations to the common weal. When one is earning 100K per year and has all of their needs and desires covered, two-thousand dollars doesn’t matter a whole lot; when one cannot afford to pay rent or enrol their child in hockey school, two-thousand matters a whole lot more.
What governments aren’t doing, but need to do:
- Personal Income Taxes – we must reinvigorate the progressive income tax structure, so that people who are able to contribute more to the common weal, will actually do so. The boon which the denizens of the wealthier half are fortunate enough to enjoy by virtue of their skills, opportunities, and just plain good luck, is shared with those whose are not fortunate enough to even see to their personal and family needs. It is natural that the mid- middle class, and on up (those earning above the median income) contribute some of their income to those who exist on the other side of the median. The further away you are from the median, the more you should pay, or receive. It’s a no-brainer.
- Corporate Taxes – Corporations benefit from infrastructure, public transportation, environmental cleanup,[iv] security, and many other things that the Canadian taxpayer is on the hook for. Why shouldn’t corporations pay more for the things which help make their profiting possible? Why must individual taxpayers, particularly those who are economically vulnerable, pay so much? Corporations avoid paying what they fairly should, by threatening to move to a jurisdiction that offers to tax them less, and, as a bonus, provides them with laxer labour and environmental regulations. Governments have become beholden to corporations (ultimately, then, to investors), and are bound to them more than ever because of globalization.The solution is to implement a progressive tax on businesses. In this way, we can relieve the tax burden on the more profit- marginal enterprises by taxing them at a lower rate and giving them a better chance to become viable; while the more profitable businesses pay at a progressively higher rate, according to their profits. The more profitable a corporation is, the more it is able to the investments governments must make to maintain and expand the infrastructure from which corporations benefit and owe some of their success to. Of course, they will pay a lower return to their investors as a consequence. Corporations paying a fair amount of tax will produce a stronger, more viable, Canada; and from this corporations and investors will benefit, especially over the long term.If there is a legal way to avoid taxation, most, if not all, individuals and corporations, will take advantage of it. Money accumulating in offshore accounts is not circulating. Money needs to be moving. Where money sits, it does nothing.
- Money is the lifeblood of national societies. It is the lifeblood of the global society. The world body has a finite quantity of lifeblood. The more which is sitting, the less healthy the world can be. The more which is ‘lost,’ the worse the body fairs. For national bodies, it is the same. The healthy body cannot sustain too great a loss for too long, and be able to recover afterwards. Globalization is exacerbating the problem but it can also provide the solution. If nations are openly communicating and collaborating with one another, and exchanging financial transaction data automatically, accurately, and in real-time, then money ‘leaks’ will be discovered quickly and ‘stoppered.’ The flow of money can be properly regulated, and it can be fairly taxed.[vii]
- According to an article on the Canadians for Tax Fairness website (10 May 2013), Statistics Canada reported that more than $170B was sitting in offshore accounts held by Canadian individuals and corporations. “This amounts to a quarter of all Canadian money going abroad,” the article claims, an amount “equivalent to ten per cent of Canada’s $1.8 trillion GDP.”[v] French economist Thomas Piketty says, complete transparency between governments and financial institutions is critical to gaining control over and fairly taxing the money flows. [vi] This is just one of the reasons why.
- A Tax on Wealth and Capital Gains – A progressive tax regime applied to wealth will prevent the unhealthy concentration of a country’s wealth and therefore prevent the wealthiest from acquiring an inordinate amount of economic and political power over society. The progressive tax structure would be such that r, over the long run, will be less than g, and not place a heavy tax burden on the lower and middle classes. This will prevent the concentration of national and global wealth to the point that it becomes socially and economically dysfunctional.If we do nothing, it will almost certainly be war and unimaginable misery, especially for the poor. We can also choose to make a better world for everyone, including the wealthy, by making it fairer. A progressive tax on wealth regime will help to accomplish that. I do not believe a third option exists.
Progressive taxation is a proactive response to wealth and income inequality; war is a reactive response to wealth and income inequality. A corrective response to inequality is both natural and inevitable. We cannot change that. We can, however, choose what form the correction will take.
Privatization– Bad, bad, BAD! The more public services and assets are owned by private investors, the less these things are public and the more they are private. Duh!The creation of a new business frontier for investors is especially important at a time when economic growth is expected to trend at a much lower level than it has since WWII.[viii]The emergence of a new business frontier provides investors with new opportunities to invest and increase their holdings. Because this frontier is in the area of publicly owned assets and services, an increasing portion of the nation’s wealth will transfer from public control to private control, along with the corollary political and social control. Our Ontario Liberals are patting themselves on the back for selling off public property (property owned by all Ontarians, not just a few Ontarians), saying they are going to come to the rescue of public transportation using the proceeds. Yay!
- Businesses in the public-services industry are responsible to their shareholders; the value in services they provide to customers (the citizens of Ontario, for example) is constrained by the value of the returns they provide to their investors. Governments traditionally provide public services, and are responsible to their citizens. With each privatization, governments become less responsible to their citizens, as their citizens become further beholden to the profit motive. That is inevitable.
- They could have raised the money by inching corporate tax rates up a wee bit, and not even that much. Instead, they are selling off a profitable enterprise to private interests (domestic and foreign). In about five years the revenue the Liberals gained this year by selling a 60 percent share of Hydro One would have been matched by the revenues Hydro One would have generated. The government will retain only 40% ownership, and therefore keep only 40% of the profits. They will be forced to make up for the lost revenue by raising taxes. How else can they do it? Oh yes, I forgot, they can reduce services….please forgive me. But as individuals, if they have anything leftover after paying the bills, to invest, they will profit from the sale, whether they consciously mean to or not.
- Businesses exist to make profits for their investors; governments exist to provide services to their citizens. Governments are allowing business to expand into public services because governments do not want to be responsible for providing them, and many of the individuals in government are of the socio-economic demographic that will actually profit from this.[ix] The inevitable outcome is that services will be rendered on the basis of, and to the degree which, they are profitable; rather than on the basis of, and to the degree which they are needed by members of the public. That is quite a difference – think about it.
- Privatization of public services effectively opens up another market frontier for investors – and it is an especially captive
Governments must not privatize basic services. Education, health care, shelter, and material support sufficient to keep everyone out of poverty – these are basic needs. Keeping them publicly owned is not only good for the individual, it is good for the society: the individual is obliged to contribute, to the extent they are able, and to the extent which is necessary (particularly when disasters happen, or when projects are conceived in order to prevent disasters) to the society; the society takes care of its citizens’ basic needs.Society requires government to provide organization; to focus the energies and efforts of disparate elements toward fulfillment of the needs and aspirations of its members. What those needs and aspiration are, of course vary, in degree, in type, and from person to person. But some things are certain and universal: every member needs a home, and the income to purchase the necessities of a healthy lifestyle; every member who gets sick will need a doctor; every child will need to go to school and receive a proper education. The provision of services by our government is as important to their citizens health and wellbeing, as the citizen’s wellbeing is to the health of society, as our military is to defending our nation’s borders, as our police and emergency services are to keeping us safe in our homes and communities. Providing services fully and effectively is the most important role governments have.
- What higher purpose could society possess than to provide for the needs of its members? What other purpose could it have that is more important or more fundamental to its nature? Only ego believes it can use society to achieve its own goals. Ego is by definition, anti-social; a society of egos is bound to fail. There is no other possible outcome….think about this.
Guaranteed Annual Income program (GAI). With a reverse-tax system, people will work jobs which pay above the poverty threshold on a fulltime equivalent basis. It will provide security in retirement, and security between jobs.GAI will greatly reduce the burden poverty puts on healthcare(especially triage services), the criminal justice system, the bureaucracy (GAI requiring one agency; replacing EI, CPP, Welfare, and a hodgepodge of charitable organizations). It will greatly reduce the anxiety which young people are feeling. It will oblige employers to treat their employees better and of course pay them better. It will oblige governments to return to an immigration policy that is sensitive to those who need respite from the imminent threat of violence, oppression, or starvation, rather than to the needs of business (cheaper labour, lower costs of training).
This is especially important: it will offer the parents of young families the opportunity to be a fulltime parent at the precise time this provides the greatest advantage to children. At an early age, children do not require daycare-type socialization. As infants and toddlers, they learn quickly, and about everything; especially how to form and maintain close and sustainable bonds with others, a skill which will help them to form lifelong friendships, to form viable and enduring families, and to participate wholesomely in their communities and places of work.
The ‘buyer-beware’ ethic– Governments are communicating with citizens in sound bites and platitudes. Beyond the surface, there is little substance. They do not feel much of an obligation to be forthright, and it becomes incumbent upon individual voters to read between the lines, dig beneath the surface, and to do much research, so that they may verify for themselves the figures governments provide, and the effects of government proposals. Governments rely on the notion that the people which their policies benefit (for the Conservatives, that would be the wealthier segment) will not want to dig deeper, because they are being told exactly what they want to hear, right off the bat. They will not, for example, recognize that it is the government itself who is creating the deficit with policies that are socially and economically deleterious, and then enacting other policies that are socially and economically deleterious to return to a balanced budget. At the end of the day, nothing is accomplished, except for the fact that the country is operating under, and its citizens struggling under, policies that are socially and economically deleterious. Go figure, eh?
Appealing to the ego of the voter – Although societies are formed of individuals, it makes for very low level of social cohesion if the bonds of association are based wholly on self-interest, just as the rope is weaker when the strands are loosely bound together. Nature shows us, by how individual atoms form bonds to create molecules(associations of atoms) that certain things must be intimately shared in order to strengthen the fabric of that which is formed. Atoms intimately share their outer orbitals, and their electrons to form cohesive and enduring molecules; individuals do this by virtue of their talents, and their qualities of tolerance, openness/honesty, mutual respect, and compassion. Most, if not all, political parties try to appeal to as many egos as are required to win an election. This stratagem is patently antisocial: ego is by its nature devoted to self-interest.
- That governments focus on voter self-interest is wrong. It is completely misguided. We are talking about serving the needs of a society. A society is only as strong to the degree it is cohesive. A society where egos predominate is very weak, because ego is anathema to the processes of social cohesion. Societies of individuals that are predominated by their egos are like ropes formed of many strands, loosely bound together: they are stronger than any single strand on its own; but far weaker than were they tightly bound together; by tension if you are a strand in a rope; by commonality of purpose if you are a member of society.
- Governments, and would-be governments, should rather appeal to the voter’s sense of ‘family.’ The family society catalyses into action an innate, higher quality, that all human beings possess. This quality is, simply put, the capacity to care for other people and other things; aka, things other than the self; that is patently social. The family setting is evocative of the innate human capacity for socio-centricity. The family is concerned with the welfare of every member within the family unit.
A Parting Shot at our current federal Conservatives:
On the global stage, Canada is expanding its military presence and becoming more aggressive.
In war, there is always ‘collateral damage.’ Innocent people, non-combatants, invariably get caught in between the opposing forces. PM Lester B. Pearson recognized this and must have reasoned that the best way to protect children, their families, and their communities from the abhorrent violence of war is to keep war from happening. The best way, when the respective sides are about to come to blows, is to insert a neutral army between potential adversaries so they cannot strike at one another.[x] That is what motivated him to re-imagine Canada’s military role as one of peacekeeping; it not only protects innocent lives; it makes perfect sense.
When a bomb is dropped, those who are in the wrong place at the wrong time become just as dead as those for whom the bomb was intended. You and I could just as easily have been born there, and that bomb would have dropped on us. The Conservatives are blind to, and ignorant of, what Lester B. saw so clearly more than 50 years ago. Instead of our military inserting itself between combatants to keep them from striking one another, the Conservatives are turning our military into one of the combatants. Used in this way, our military is a log which will keep the fire of war burning, rather than the muskeg that does not burn and will eventually cause the fire to go out.
I wish Lester B. Pearson were still living and still prime minister. In our day, in these perilous times, we need the gift of peacekeeping he made to this country, and to the world, more than ever.
[i] A note to Mr. Piketty: Don’t hurt me for this gross oversimplification. To the reader: Please read about Piketty’s theorem. The best place to go is to his website (google to find it), and to read his book. Wikipedia is also a great place to read about it. The contributor is both straightforward and straight-out. But there is no replacing getting it ‘straight from the horses mouth.’ While I am at it, please make a habit of watching our Parliament’s Question Period on the cpac channel. Then you will be able to experience our government, and what our politicians are all about, first hand. You will, after time, and if your are open, form an honest opinion on the basis of which you will vote in the next election. It will not be easy for you to form an opinion, however. None of them are perfect. It may be yet again that we are obliged to choose from among the lesser of three evils. Personally, I am beginning to form the opinion that, if the NDP remains true to its labour roots (a class to which the majority of working Canadians still belong), and if they recognize the importance of Quebec’s contribution to the formation and evolution of Canadian society and the Canadian spirit, and ditto for the Senate; and if the Liberals reconcile themselves with their founding values of tolerance, equal opportunity, and at the same time revitalizes the family as the ‘atomic’ building block of Canadian society, and recognize that a society of egocentric individuals is no society at all, then a coalition formed between the NDP and the Liberals is the best option, not only now, but going forward. The Liberals, as they are today (not just the party, because you can see the rightward shift at the riding level also) sorely need an infusion from what is left of the left, in order to bring themselves back to where they were – the party, which, by it very nature, is most representative of the aspirations and dreams of the majority of Canadians, and of the foundational spirit of this country (not at the ‘political level,’ but at the person to person, family to family, community to community level).
[ii] You can read my spin on Bill C-51 elsewhere on this site.
[iii] This is a call-out to the federal Conservatives and the provincial Liberals.
[iv] Please remember the people of Lac Mégantic, for whom the human cost of the recent tragedy can never be compensated. The material damage to their community was far higher than the financial settlement they eventually received.
[v] Please read: Canadian Money in Tax Havens at All-Time High. You can find it here: www.taxfairness.ca/en/news/canadian-money-tax-havens-all-time-high-0
[vi] You can learn much about French economist Thomas Piketty in the ‘one-stop-shop’ aka Wikipedia. There are inline links to further information, including his magnum opus, Capital in the 21st Century. The Wikipedia article is here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Piketty Note: I pulled the link from my cell phone. If it doesn’t work, simply google “Thomas Piketty Wikipedia,” and it will come up.
[vii] A further note with respect to Thomas Piketty. His theory is gaining a lot of traction with the public, and with many high profile economists (including Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, to name but one). His book is a best seller. But there are many others who poo-poo his theories outright, and some who say they agree with some, but not all, of his assertions. The criticisms I have read are well thought out but nevertheless specious. One economist implied Piketty was far too opinionated and not scientific enough in his methodology. He provided an example from Piketty’s book. I was struck with amazement, because what the critic says, Piketty himself clearly acknowledges in his book. This economist was either skipping pages as he read, or sadly (and more likely) had rejected Piketty’s theories without having first read the book, and approach his reading looking for things to criticize. He was being piketty.[Groan]. There are many economists, though well-intentioned, who do not want to believe what Mr. Piketty has discovered from his thorough investigations, and which is so simple to grasp. They have their minds made up before they get to page one. Why bother to read it at all then? Even Mr. Bill Gates, as great as his accomplishments have been, appears foolish by opening his article, “Why Equality is Necessary” by stating his general agreement with Piketty’s theories and then proceeding to torpedo Piketty’s core determinations by recommending a tax on consumption rather than a progressive tax on wealth. There are a lot of different spins being put on Piketty’s work, but I believe their value is the information they reveal about the person expressing the opinion rather than what they say about Piketty. There are some very good neutral perspectives on the net: Khan Academy provides a simple, politically neutral explanation of the core theorems in Piketty’s book in a short video series: https://www.khanacademy.org/economics-finance-domain/macroeconomics/gdp-topic/piketty-capital/v/piketty-capital I encourage you to read the book. Take your time as you do. Although it is lengthy, it is about as interesting to the layperson as a book on economics can get. Also, read anything (everything!) by Paul Krugman.
[viii] Thomas Piketty explores the relationships between wealth inequality, economic growth, and war. Thom Hartmann also does a fabulous job on the subject. Wars function like a ‘reset – button.’ The destruction of war levels the ‘playing field,’ and results in a more egalitarian distribution of income and wealth within nations. We allow wars to fix our societies – how crazy is that? There is a fix identified by Thomas Piketty, Paul Krugman, and many others, that will achieve the same end, minus the human tragedy of war.
The situation is this: there are X number of consumers; so to allow 90% of them to share 20% of the national income, and the remaining 10% to share 80% of the national income….well a person can only spend so much…what is not needed to live is reinvested in interest-bearing savings accounts, or other investment vehicles. That is how the richer you are, the faster your wealth and the income from that wealth, grows. A country can produce only so much income in a year, and overt time, and assuming (reasonably so) that the rate of return on investments is higher than the rate the economy is growing, the 80% owned by the upper decile will grow to 90%, (as it was on the eve of WWI), forcing the 20% formerly shared by the remaining 90% to fall to 10. A simpler way to say it: as the bite one takes from the apple gets larger, what’s left of the apple for everyone else gets smaller.”
[ix] If you read Thom Hartmann’s, ‘The Crash of 2016 and How to Avoid It,’ he will talk about the East India Company’s role in the American Revolution. Apparently, the Boston Tea-party was in response to the way the East India Company was muscling out local businesses, and influencing the British parliament to enact laws that favoured the operations of the East India Company to the detriment of the local business presence. Among the investors in the East India Company were the English King and members of the British parliament.
[x] …just like linesmen will try to insert themselves between hockey players before the gloves come off. Hey, Lester was a true Canadian – perhaps it was from watching Hockey Night in Canada he got the idea?