Smart Picks -- Breaking Point, Feeling Good Can Be Stupid

Maybe this is what's happening. I can speak virtually for free to almost anywhere with anyone on the planet. I can see what is happening to almost anyone living in a major urban centre anywhere. The state can be a vehicle for social justice and it can be a beast. Over time human beings will tend to emphasize with each other. Of course it doesn't happen quickly, it doesn't happen seamlessly, it doesn't happen quickly but it happens. A thoughtful article on this idea from the Financial Times

A couple of future excellent and future lousy suggestions. And when feeling good can be dumb.

Global empathy brought on by communication.

The global economy has shattered. The fossil fuels that propelled an industrial revolution are running out and the infrastructure built with these energies is barely clinging to life. Worse, more than two centuries of rising carbon emissions now threaten us with catastrophic climate change. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ce074954-3134-11df-8e6f-00144feabdc0.html

Increasingly as Canadians understand the terrible consequences of worst in class Canadian Aboriginal education, health, community and economic outcomes, a harsh light is being shown on the whole spectrum of reasons for this.

This includes mismanagement at the core of Canadian Aboriginal leadership.

This study recommends getting post-secondary school funding directly into the hands of students and by passing the Aboriginal band councils.

A new think tank wants Indian band councils stripped of their power to give out post-secondary education grants. Instead, it says, Ottawa should create accounts for each Indian child at birth that would be used later for tuition and living expenses. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-urged-to-end-indian-band-councils-post-secondary-funding/article1501658/

Related.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/for-economics-and-decencys-sake-lets-help-our-indian-students/article1501388/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/editorials/for-students-both-on-and-off-reserves/article1502728/

An excellent future could use a lot of financial literacy. Adults sure but the key is teaching children about money in grade school. The power of compound interest works both ways. Why we another Task Force however is beyond me. Just Do It.

The Task Force on Financial Literacy has begun an unprecedented round of consultations with Canadians, including cross-country face-to-face meetings, written submissions, Internet outreach and roundtables with key stakeholders. The goal is to gather input on a national strategy to strengthen financial literacy and to report to the federal Minister of Finance by the end of 2010. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/why-now-making-financial-literacy-a-priority/article1501423/

Matching the economic and political importance of cities -- like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal -- with political importance could be accomplished by making them provinces. Strange how a coyote problem in rural Ontario has sparked the discussion.

Could a struggle to rid rural areas of coyotes become the basis for the creation of a Canada's 11th province?  http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=2690534

On the other hand, Jim Travers continues his narrative that the Prime Minister is criminally eroding the tradition of Parliamentary responsibility. A voice worth listening too.

Too often in politics, principle is the hapless victim of expediency. In the struggle to pry Afghanistan documents from Stephen Harper's grasp, principle never had a chance. http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/780400--travers-they-used-to-behead-kings-for-what-harper-is-doing 

Andrew Coyne makes the same point but uses a much bigger brush.

This Parliament began, a little more than a year ago, with a short-lived attempt at forming a coalition government. In its place has emerged something much more enduring: a coalition non-government. The government pretends to govern, and the opposition pretends to oppose it, and both sides seem quite content with their appointed roles. Because everyone’s too afraid to do anything else. Fear is the order of the day in today’s Parliament, and it has paralyzed the place.  http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/03/15/politics-of-fear/

Iranians continue to protest their government.

Iranians defied a ban on events marking a traditional festival on Tuesday, turning an annual celebration into a show of antigovernment sentiment. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/17/world/middleeast/17iran.html?ref=todayspaper

Thais continue to protest their government.

Blood was spilled on Tuesday, the third day of mass demonstrations in Bangkok, but not in the way that many had feared.  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/17/world/asia/17thai.html?ref=todayspaper

It probably feels good to tell the handful of women in Quebec that wear clothing that reveals only their eyes that they will not be served in public institutions, it probably feels good to say that user fees will rationalise the use of public health care services, it probably feels good to remove birth control from a third world health strategy, and it probably feels good to track down the person who stole your remarkably expensive stroller for twins on Craigslist, set up a meeting at a mall parking lot, take a big friend, and grab it back.

In each case however what feels good it not a good idea and in some cases is stupid and dangerous.

There is nothing in the law that says a women cannot cover up her own body. Until there is we must bend. And we may find it really doesn't matter. The next step is merchants refusing to accept payment without a picture id. Then what?

The idea that user fees will end frivolous visits to the doctor has been tested in many places and failed*.
 
All it does is rationalize access to health care to the poor.
 
Dumb idea.
I like most of the doctors I know. They are earthy and unsqueamish, about minds as well as bodies. Few, however, know much about economics. This normally does not matter. But doctors occasionally stray off piste, get on to health policy issues and make fools of themselves. Yesterday’s letters page of The Times contained a vivid example.  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article7064626.ece#cid=OTC-RSS&attr=2270657
* http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2588047
And to the father who tracked down the thief to get back his $750 kid's stroller?
 
After his $750 stroller was stolen off his front porch, Lindsay Taylor did what any web-savvy parent would do: he looked for it on Craigslist. http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/780873--father-retrieves-stolen-stroller-in-craigslist-sting?bn=1
 
 
It is mind numbing  that some feel good opposition to birth control would lead the Canadian government to design a programme designed to improve the lives of women and children absent it. Maybe we are seeing the Prime Minister's agenda after all.
 
The Conservative government has offered an explanation for why it will exclude contraception from its initiative to improve the health of mothers in poor countries: Birth control doesn't fit with saving lives. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/birth-control-wont-be-in-g8-plan-to-protect-mothers-tories-say/article1502796/ 
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Twin Virtues: Inequality of Outcomes & Equality of Opportunity©

Twin Virtues

Ultimately, the most successful societies find the balance between the twin virtues of inequality of outcomes and equality of opportunity.

The new politics must marry the twin virtues of unequal outcomes and equality of opportunity.

When too few get too much everybody loses.

Feminism is about women living their lives on their own terms, marshalling the resources of the society to make that possible, and men embracing this as vital to a successful society and their own liberation.

Can it be that striving for equality of opportunity however imperfect the process not only benefits the individual but also creates benefits for the society that are unintended but wonderful?

Economics must be a 'moral enterprise' as much as politics claims to be. Economic outcomes need to be framed in terms of right and wrong not just efficiency if only because these often align in surprising ways that are good for society and the economy.

My vision of Canada is that any Canadian child from a family of limited circumstance can expect to have a chance at lifetime of unlimited opportunities.

Free trade is a wonderful thing. Time and time again economists have proven that free trade creates enormous wealth for each country 'on the whole'. Historians have shown that free trade is usually associated with rising political, social and cultural liberty. The perennial problem is that free trade always creates tremendous disruption for thousands even millions of individuals often concentrated in one geography, and where the state is idle, not investing in best in class instruments of social justice, free trade can be a permanent ticket out of the middle class, down, not up.

Tax policy should be founded on the principle of generating steady tax revenues sufficient to maximise environmentally sustainable economic growth in order to fund fair government.

Public policy should be designed to decrease inequality before the law and increase equality of opportunity.

Capitalism is not the problem; the problem is what we do with capitalism.

Content is always more difficult to argue than conspiracy.

Let the state regulate and the market operate (most things).

Welfare strategies are best designed as a hand up, not as a hand out.

Political debate should not be fact free fighting.

Explanation lasts longer than eloquence.

Always favour empowerment over dependency.

The most enduring public figures are embraced for the causes they fought for and not the concept of themselves they hoped others would remember them by.

Find your voice and don't be the echo of somebody else.

It is possible to operate on two different levels: the practical, cautious and conservative; and the realm of ideas, open, free, and radical.