Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Right-wing Economic Ignorance. . . . .

The issues surrounding the Vancouver 'safe injection site' are actually an excellent illustration of what is wrong with right-wing ideology here and abroad. I have heard right-winger continually criticize Insite because it is a "waste of taxpayer's money." This is, of course, a deeply disingenuous argument. For every dollar that a provincial government spends on a safe injection site they stand to save up to ten times that amount in other costs including basic health-care monies, long-term care costs, as well as costs relating to various criminal activities. And since safe injection site have demonstrated increases in people looking for help overcoming addiction, the longterm savings overall could be massive. There are, of course, many other reasons to support safe injection programs based on moral or compassionate grounds. But one would think that right-wingers would, for all their lack of morality and compassion, at least be able to understand the economic arguments.

But the truth is that, herein lies the rub. The right-wing seldom, in fact understands economic arguments despite the fact that they claim fiscal awareness as central to their political ideology. I have seen a number of studies, for example, that demonstrate that for every dollar governments take out of programs such as community centres or criminal rehabilitation programs, the government spends three or four dollars on that part of the justice system that deals with enforcement and incarceration. It is not complicated and yet right-wingers such as those in the Harper government pull money out of community programs and rehabilitation programs and pour billions into enforcement and prisons which overall actually increase crime and cost so much more.

At a larger scale many right-wingers don't seem to comprehend the issue of economies of scale. If you fund a school system properly, for example, from a central location it is much less costly than if you download those costs to smaller and smaller bodies, eventually into the hands of parents. When the Harris Government in Ontario, for example, took huge amounts of money out of education in Ontario, we spent twice as much just on school fees and supplies than any of the Conservative tax cuts ever gave us. The reason is pretty simple; it costs me a lot more to go buy a few supplies than it does a school board to buy them in bulk.

Now raise this problem with right-wing thinking to a much wider scale. The right-wing everywhere fails to understand that if you continue to encourage a society in which bankers make billions and billions and average people feel more and more squeezed you will eventually have a social deficit which will lead to one of two things; total social breakdown or genuine political revolution. Look at the present Wall Street protests. This is precisely the kind of social movement that will eventually lead to revolution in a country like the US. While corporations and the financial sector has never made more money, average people are suffering more and more. Seventy years ago, FDR understood this at a basic level. He knew that unless the average people had a meaningful stake in their society revolution would be the result. One needn't be a radical socialist to understand that stakeholders are what a society needs.


Owen Gray said...

It's interesting that NDP governments in Manitoba and Saskatchewan consistently balanced their budgets.

The largest deficits have occurred -- provincially and federally -- under Conservative administrations.

Jib Halyard said...

Most right-wing arguments tend to fail Econ 101. mantras like, "You can't spend your way to prosperity", etc, are completely at odds with basic economics.
Not sure why you would be surprised though: right-wing ideology is an entirely emotion-driven phenomenon.