Friday, November 14, 2008

Disaster Federalism

(I had a post on this subject during the election that drew the broad outlines of the Harper strategy. Now that it is playing out in real time, I felt it was important to flesh it out.)

"Only a crisis, real or perceived, produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable". - Milton Friedman

In the Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein lays out her thesis for the concept of disaster capitalism; As outlined on the related webpage, The Shock Doctrine uses..."the public’s disorientation following massive collective shocks – wars, terrorist attacks, or natural disasters -- to achieve control by imposing economic shock therapy".

A country desperately in need of a crisis
Canadians have had the good fortune to avoid the sort of natural disasters, political turmoil and war that have allowed the shock doctrine to be introduced elsewhere. Given the historic political stability of Canada and its immense geography, any single event along the lines of the Banda Aceh tsunami or the Chilean coup are unlikely to provide the necessary shock.

So how does a self proclaimed right wing ideologue bring about a Friedmanesque change to the Canadian state? After coming to power with a minority of the seats in Parliament and a majority of the popular vote against him, how does he effect the transformative change he desires? Time is running out since this dogma of globalization, drastic cuts to government services and taxes has proven disastrous in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Like a dedicated Marxist watching the wall come down, he must, as a true believer, take one last stab at establishing the utopia that Dr. Friedman predicted.

The previous government left him with one of the best balance sheets, if not the strongest, of any government in the world. There would appear to be few opportunities to force Canadians to accept the evisceration of the public support networks that members of the Calgary School hate so intensely and Canadians love so much.

Through an offshoot of Disaster Capitalism; Disaster Federalism. The shock to the country must be generated within the government. As shown by Worthwhile Canadian Initiative, the seeds to destroy the government surpluses began as soon as the Conservatives achieved their minority government. The key chart is shown below. I expect that the bureaucrats in Finance pointed out the folly of this type of budgeting.

Other experts have weighed in. Curiously enough this helpful information wasn't released prior to the election.

Crisis what Crisis
"...a crisis, real or perceived..."
Again from WCI, evidence that this is only a perceived crisis. I expect that this too has been pointed out to Messrs. Harper and Flaherty. Another key graph is below.
No matter says He That Must Be Obeyed. Let us press ahead with cuts.

First things first. The seeds of justification have been sown. Now the fertilizer must be added through the application of an on-line poll.

On top of all this strategizing and planning, Providence has aided this dodge by tossing what may be the worst recession in decades onto the pile. Canada would have been well prepared to weather this better than any other country. "Thank goodness we got rid of that surplus, eh Deficit Jim?"

This is going to hurt you more than it will Harper
The advent of a deficit and the subject of significant cuts were broached without a whimper from a passive, to some extent approving, media. Cuts will be necessary. There will be no backtracking on any reckless tax cuts. The code phrase to insulate the government from their foolishness is the need to avoid "structural deficits".

But a population in a state of shock about economic events has been prepped to accept cuts to long time programs such as equalization, programs and government assets.

For anyone who has been paying attention, it isn't a surprise that Flaherty would offer to sell government real estate. These guys are a one trick pony. Last year, Impolitical had an excellent series on the Harper attempts to sell off assets such as our embassies and government office buildings. (Tip of the stetson and a tug of the forelock to Impolitical for providing the last two links. Thanks a ton).

As the last link demonstrates, the Conservatives remain true to the spirit of Disaster Capitalism by directing the assets towards cronies at firesale prices. These people do have an admirable single mindedness.

So, is this how Canada meets it end?
Will an extremely right wing prime minister leading a government elected with the lowest ever level of popular support be able to hold a pillow over the programs that helped make this the best country in the world.

Will the infrastructure built up over generations be taken away from our descendants so that a discredited dogma can have one last kick at the cat?

Will an economic event that has been needlessly and purposely exacerbated be used to justify converting Canada into a neo-con dystopia?

I hope not but based on our current reality there is little apparent reason for optimism.Recommend this Post

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