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The unseemly nature of the welfare state

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Jun. 12 2012
You can track government programs by economic cost and consequence. You can also track them by moral cost and consequence. The latter was once the more important of these considerations. In the 19th century and well into the 20th century, the New World embodied the word “industry” – meaning not a category of commerce but a virtue of hard-working people. This moral perspective on the worth of work had practical consequences.

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Ottawa should do the math: Productivity trumps head counts

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Apr. 23, 2012
…the problem with government isn’t so much payroll as productivity. Make a single percentage-point increase in efficiency in the federal work force annually for 10 years – and you would save 40,000 jobs: once again, with no loss in either quality or quantity. (Alternatively, as some people would see it, the government could increase services by 10 per cent with no increase in payroll.) … The public sector is Canada’s largest industry by far, administering one-third of the country’s entire economy. Excused from the need to get productive, it constitutes a constant drag on economic growth.

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The caging of capitalism

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

Mar. 05, 2012
It has taken a century to turn capitalism from an awesome force of nature, rude, raw and rambunctious, to the subservient thing it is today… Getting the right balance between economic and political freedoms isn’t as easy as ideological rhetoric makes it appear.

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The moose and the modern welfare state

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Dec. 27, 2011
Sweden was perhaps the most fiscally disciplined of the EU countries, a discipline maintained since the 1990s when it hit the wall early on (as did Canada). In 2009, Sweden’s deficit was running at 0.9 per cent of GDP, the lowest in Europe. It became the only euro-club member to need no extraordinary fiscal restraint. Paradoxically, however, Sweden employs more public-sector workers, as a percentage of labour force, than any other OECD country: 31 per cent.

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The folly of benevolence

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Aug. 15, 2011
Australian philosopher David Stove’s What’s Wrong with Benevolence… is assertive… specifically, the benevolence of governments taken to its nth degree, its uttermost limit… Enacted in Elizabethan times, the Poor Laws originally gave succour to the poor, the sick and the elderly by means of a modest tax levied at the parish level. With the passage of time, the civic administrators noted a perplexing paradox: “It was found… that the proportion of the population receiving money under the [Poor] Laws (and consequently, of course, the burden on those who paid the tax) always increased.”

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With government spending, virtue hath its own rewards

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Jul. 25, 2011
…the Lausanne-based IMD Business School’s World Competitiveness Report… puts average government spending in the world’s 58 most developed countries at 47 per cent of GDP and says the 23 biggest state spenders are all European countries. From this perspective, the very concept of limited government – from which many of our blessings flow – looks quaintly anachronistic… Canadian governments spend less than 40 per cent of GDP. By WCR assessment, Canada is the seventh most competitive nation on Earth.

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The withering of the state

Monday, March 7th, 2011

March 7, 2011
The welfare state, Prof. van Creveld said, peaked in 1977, when governments realized the only way to expand programs was to pay for the expansion with borrowed money… the welfare state was effectively destroyed by its own success… “The shrinking of the state,” he said, “will affect every living person, producing upheavals as profound, and probably as bloody, as the upheavals that propelled humanity out of the Middle Ages.” The state responded by swapping sovereignty for economic growth… It adopted free-market economics to generate faster growth – and to capture more tax revenue. It began to break its promises.

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Redact all you want, we’ve gone overboard on equalization

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

March 3, 2011
… “the [government’s] reluctance to release the study seemingly confirms that equalization is coming from the people least able to afford it, going to regions that have much more accessible services than Ontario.”… Call it the disequilibrium of equalization. Everyone knows about it, of course: the transfer currently of as much as $50-billion a year from provinces of higher productivity… to provinces with lower productivity… With each passing year, the needs-based gap grows wider, and the public sectors of the “have-not” provinces grow bigger.

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Canada, one of the freest (markets) at last

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Jan 26, 2011
… the Heritage Foundation-Wall Street Journal’s Index of Economic Freedom 2011 says Canada has edged upward in capitalist sentiment and free-market rights in the past couple of years, thereby earning an elite ranking as a “free economy.” In the entire world, only six economies qualify (by scoring 80 points or more on a scale of 1-to-100) for this distinction: Hong Kong (89.7), Singapore (87.20), Australia (82.5), New Zealand 82.3), Switzerland (81.9) and Canada (80.8). Free at last.

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Proof is in the numbers for Flaherty’s corporate tax cuts

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Jan. 05, 2011
… the Finance Department reported in October that corporate tax revenues had increased, year over year, by 3 per cent – notwithstanding lower corporate earnings and Mr. Flaherty’s incremental corporate tax cut a year ago… Corporate tax revenues in the past decade averaged 12.6 per cent of the government’s income; in 2010, it provided 13.9 per cent… Mr. Flaherty has worked hard to get corporate rates down – not to 15 per cent, which is merely the federal share, but to 25 per cent: the target he has championed for federal and provincial rates combined.

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