Socialism, Restraint, and Public Policy: Observations on Recent Canadian Literature
- Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d'études canadiennes
- University of Toronto Press
- Volume 22, Number 3, Fall 1987
- pp. 134-143
- Additional Information
Reviews Socialism, Restraint, and Public Policy: Observations on Recent Canadian Literature RESTRAINING THE ECONOMY: SOCIAL CREDIT ECONOMIC POLICIES FOR B. C. IN THE EIGHTIES. Robert C. Allen and Gideon Rosenbluth, eds. Vancouver: B. C. Economic Policy Institute and New Star Books, 1986. 320 pp. AFTER BENNETT: A NEW POLITICS FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA. Warren Magnusson, R.B.J. Walker, Charles Doyle, and John Demarco, eds. Vancouver : New Star Books, 1986. 429 pp. INDUSTRIAL INNOVATION: ITS PLACE IN THE PUBLIC POLICY AGENDA. Kristian S. Palda. Vancouver : The Fraser Institute, 1984. 211 pp. CANADA, WHAT'S LEFT?: A NEW SOCIAL CONTRACT PRO AND CON. John Richards and Don Kerr, eds. Edmonton : NeWest Press, 1986. 204 pp. REGIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT : CANADA'S SEARCH FOR SOLUTIONS. Donald J. Savoie. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986. 212 pp. These lively volumes on Canadian public policy share a refreshing characteristic - none deals directly with the issue of Canadian-American free trade! They focus instead on such vital topics as the proper content of socialist economic policy, the nature of regional economic disparities, the stimulation of research and development, and the issue of "restraint" in government budgeting with emphasis on the much debated recent experience of British Columbia. Their focus on such topics reminds us 134 forcefully how the free trade debate has monopolized the policy agenda to the detriment of informed discussion ofother relevant problems. The edited volumes by Magnusson et al., Allen and Rosenbluth, and, to a lesser degree, Richards and Kerr, are particularly relevant for students of western Canadian political economy. They probe the strength of right-wing ideas and the dilemmas posed for critics of public policy in the context of open and very troubled resource-based economies. But their importance transcends the complex problems of the modern Canadian west. While rooted in the recent British Columbia experience, Allen and Rosenbluth's Restraining the Economy provides a compelling antidote to the hardening orthodoxy about the virtues and "necessity" of restraint in public sector budgeting. As such, it is a timely contribution to the broader national debate about the proper course of fiscal and economic policy. This essay reviews the themes of these volumes, offers a few criticisms, and occasionally points to areas where further research is required. In so doing, I argue the perhaps obvious, yet fundamental, point that the effective analysis of contemporary policy issues must be rooted in several related scholarly disciplines, notably, but certainly not exclusively, political science and economics. The necessity of interdisciplinary work is effectively illustrated by the Allen and Rosenbluth volume which persuasively critiques the confused economic reasoning of Social Credit "restraint" in B.C., but fails to account for the political support enjoyed by such policies in various segments of the electorate. The impact of several other volumes is also reduced by a too narrow approach. Some Problems of Canadian Social Democracy After Bennett: A New Politics for British Columbia is a vigorous, committed , and provocative.prescription for a new political agenda for the left in British Revue detudes canadiennes Vol. 22, No. 3 (Automne 1987 Fall) Columbia. It is a substantial volume comprising twenty-one essays as well as an editors' introduction and conclusion. Written as a sequel to The New Reality, it differs from its well-known predecessor in its greater emphasis on political reform and its lesser emphasis on the various injustices of the Bennett government . 1 Interestingly, After Bennett was written before the 1986 provincial election which returned the Socreds under the leadership of Bill Vander Zalm. Whether anticipated or not, the commitment of the new government to the mainstream of its predecessors' policies and the seeming disarray of the social democratic opposition ·add impetus to reformers ' pleas for a revised socialist agenda. Put as crisply as possible, After Bennett argues that "neo-conservative" ideas and policies are patently unjust and wrong. But the success of such ideas challenges the traditional social democratic alternative, resting as it does on a large, interventionist state as society 's guardian against the excesses of markets and the extraordinary power of corporate capitalism. The left must therefore reject state intervention as its primary policy and replace it with a vision of a much revised political democracy wherein...