Thursday, September 18, 2008

Harper, the new Hoover

Well, a growing number of economists are beginning to discredit Stephen Harper on the economic portfolio. The recent declines in the stock-markets will only begin to manifest themselves in the economy in a clear way through the winter and into the spring. But Harper has made it clear that, like many conservatives, he has forgotten the lessons taught to us by the great depression. Harper imagines the market, left to its own devices, will somehow solve the very problems that it created in the first place. Does this sound familiar to any of you? For years Herbert Hoover told the suffering and destitute of the United States in the 1930s that they just had to wait for the market to solve their problems. And while Hoover enjoyed the very best that life could offer, the destitute became evermore desperate. Well just today Mel Watkins, Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Toronto, wrote that “Stephen Harper looks like Herbert Hoover who brought us the Great Depression.” Now to give Mr. Hoover, who has long passed from this world and is therefore not here to defend himself, a fair hearing, he was not as committed to laissez-faire ideology as is sometimes claimed; he did make certain legislative efforts to stop the crisis in the economy. However, Hoover, like Harper didn’t understand that the economy in such a deteriorating state requires intervention en masse to stop a downward spiral. But perhaps more importantly, no matter how bad things got for average people Hoover would never commit to any serious legislative relief for those suffering the ill-effects of the depression because he believed that it would create an atmosphere of dependence. This ideological claptrap continues to be shared by most conservatives and is a particularly strong among Harper and his old-boy’s network. Even if one believes this, which I don’t and I think it is demonstrably incorrect, surely it only applies under fairly ideal conditions. After all, when people are drowning and stranded after a flood, no one says ‘let those people caught in the flood’s path work it out for themselves, if we save them now they will just become dependent on that help.” We don’t say it because a basic level of human compassion requires that we are, at some very essential level, our brother’s and sister’s keeper. Hoover opposed legislative intervention because at some simple level he did not understand the basic lessons of Christian compassion. Harper suffers from the same disease. Christianity is in fact fundamentally inconsistent with real laissez-faire ideology for the simple reason that the economy is a product of ‘man’ not of God; we create it and work it; it does not happen by some sort of magic. If we save drowning people from a flood, commonly thought of as an act of God, why would we hesitate to save people from an economic disaster which is an act of ‘man.’ Harper is like Hoover because he doesn’t understand the very basic elements of Humanity and compassion. The coming crisis demands the same kind of intervention and compassion that Roosevelt practiced, otherwise in a few years from now tens of thousands of people will loose their houses, their livelihoods, and their happiness; and Harper will suffer the same kind of historical verdict with which Hoover has rightly been branded.
Harper and Hoover; two conservative peas in a pod.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That was a really interesting read. Thanks C