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Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d'etudes canadiennes Editor Associate Editor Editorial Assistants Editorial Board Days of drift DENIS SMITH Redacteur RALPH HEINTZMAN Redacteur adjoint ARLENE DAVIS Assistantes MARGARET PEARCE JEAN-PIERRE LAPOINTE Comite de redaction MARGARET LAURENCE HARVEY McCUE JACQUES MONET, S. J. W. L. MORTON W. F. W. NEVILLE GORDON ROPER DONALD V. SMILEY PHILIP STRATFORD T. H. B. SYMONS W. E. TAYLOR CLARA THOMAS JOHN WADLAND MELVILLE H. WATKINS ALAN WILSON When Robert Heilbroner and Geoffrey Barraclough wrote their pessimistic essays on "The Human Prospect" and "The Coming Depression" they were lonely prophets. Now, in less than a year, they have become the bleak spokesmen of orthodoxy. Everywhere in the industrial west the predictions of economic collapse multiply, the signs of disintegration increase, the paralysis of governments is manifest. Canadian and American politicians remain aJmost the last devotees of optimism, and their protests of normalcy are uttered with ever-decreasing conviction. The common impression is one of rudderless drift; the prospect appears as a kind of epidemic or natural disaster which will be beyond the ingenuity of man to turn aside. From boundless faith in the possibility of endless development of the economy, we have been plunged into fatalism and despair. History asserts its revenge on J. M. Keynes and the Harvard Business School. Journal of Canadian Studies As the stock markets fall we are reassured that 1929 cannot happen again because of changes in the structure and regulation of the capital market. But that is faint reassurance when set against other evidence that this crisis is more fundamental than that of the Great Crash. The international capital market is highly unstable and beyond national control ; the flow of funds to OPEC countries is enormous and apparently unbalanceable; the industrial countries are pathetically dependent on depleting oil and gas for their indus1 trial prosperity, and that dependence is inflexible in the short run; consumption at current and projected levels promises to exhaust resources and poison the atmosphere within a generation. The immediate panic over energy supplies has promoted no serious programs of conservation; on the contrary, it has stimulated ever more lunatic efforts to mine what resources remain as quickly and extravagantly as possible. The politicians, in their hypnotic commitment to economic growth, seem bankrupt of any strategy with which to confront the end of growth. The question, this time, does not seem to be "How can prosperity and expansion be maintained or restored?" but "How can renewed scarcity be shared to minimize suffering?" The maldistribution of wealth and power (both domestic and international ) with which the crisis begins, and the accompanying reluctance to surrender their benefits, do not point to any easy resolution . For Canada as for other industrial countries the economic outlook is bleak; but perhaps one potential source of economic disruption has. been exaggerated. As the prospect of rapid resource depletion has grown more certain, the first instinct of government and the resource companies has been to cure the disease by intensifying it: to promote emergency programs of capital investment that are more and more exploitative and costly in every sense. Herman Kahn's nightmare of 30,000 Korean labourers constructing a new oil sands plant every year may have been rejected as too absurd; but the superficially more sober schemes for Mackenzie and Arctic pipelines, tar sands plants, James Bay power and uranium enrichment plants, and intensified nuclear power development, have been extravagant enough commitments to greed. Resource investment on this scale will intensify foreign control of the economy, feed inflation, devastate the landscape, and distort the balance of economic development for the dubious benefit of the foreign corporations and one 2 or two more generations of undisciplined consumers. But inflation and recession may at least save the country from some of these instant follies. The signs are already appearing that all the projects cannot be rapidly and simultaneously financed, even from international sources. In another six months or year the conservationists, the nationalists and the native peoples may have won most of these battles by default, as the sources of capital evaporate. The country will have gained time for a careful reassessment of the total impact of such development before it is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1911-0251
Print ISSN
0021-9495
Pages
pp. 1-64
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-03
Open Access
No
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