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Death of an ideal

Another pointless federal election just flew by, and Canada is a little worse off for it. Not because the Conservatives won or because they didn’t win a majority, or even because it cost taxpayers about $350 million to find out that we still agree to disagree. It’s because the only real ideas any of the parties had this time around involved cutting our taxes while somehow providing us with better everything.

Not that this tactic is anything new, but what really made it interesting this time around was the global economic meltdown taking place in the background while the campaign unfolded.

Although some blame banks and investment houses for their greed, governments past and present for their lack of oversight and regulations, or even the poor suckers who bought all those overpriced homes with subprime mortgages without reading the small print, it was clear that something bigger was afoot.

As many economists have pointed out, the economic crisis actually represents the implosion of an ideology that has governed capitalism and conservatism since end of World War II — the concept that free markets are always self-correcting, that government interference and regulations are always bad, that laissez-faire economics work, that bigger banks are less likely to fail. It represents the death of Reaganomics, two flavours of Bushenomics, trickle-down economy theory, the privatization of the public interest, and maybe even the concept of privately held U.S. Federal Reserve Bank.

Progressives can be forgiven for their obvious enjoyment of the meltdown, for it merely proves what many of us have argued all along — we sink or swim together, whether we like it or not, and even the richest at the top are dependent on a healthy society below. You can’t divorce the needs of the economy from the needs of society, because at the end of the day the economy needs a functioning society more than society needs the economy.

The economy is just a concept after all, an artificial set of rules and regulations we’ve created to govern the production of money and the trade of goods and services. It works best when wealth is fairly distributed, when the middle class is strong, when employment is high, when the economy is diversified, and most of all when it benefits society as a whole. When the rich get richer and the middle class gets poorer, it inevitably fails. If it wasn’t the subprime fiasco and mortgage bubble it would have been something else that brought the economy down. Maybe personal debt levels, or the price of energy.

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