Main menu:

Posts by Author

History of RPE Thought

Posts by Tag

RSS New from the CCPA

Progressive Bloggers

Meta

Recent Blog Posts

Recent Blog Comments

The Progressive Economics Forum

Impact of Fur Trade in U.S.

The fur trade in Canada is often said to have been less malign than in the US, and it was, but that doesn’t say much given the extraordinary disruption it is said to have createn in colonial America by the American historian Bernard Bailyn in his recent (2012) book, appropriately titled The Barbarous Years: The […]

Call for Research

“The interpretation of the history of North America in terms of rum and brandy has not been written, but in the fur trade, rum represented the contribution of the West Indies to trade of the Old Empire, and brandy the emphasis on French vineyards and self-sufficienty.” Innis, 1933 So far as I know, still not […]

Kari Levitt Honoured

Kari Polanyi Levitt, one of own, has been given the Order of Canada. Congratulations to Kari. Richly deserved.

Not Trickledown But Gush-Up

“Trickledown hadn’t worked. But Gush-Up certainly has. That’s why in a nation of 1.2 billion, India’s one hundred richest people own assets equivalent to one fourth of the GDP.” [Yesterday’s election results only promise to worsen that.] That’s how the extrordinary writer-and-activist Arundhati Roy, one of the world’s leading public intellectuals, describes contemporary capitalism in […]

From pulp and paper to magazines to progessive politics

Harold Innis wrote the history of Canada around its succession of staple exports, first to Europe and then to the US. He then wrote the history of empires and civilizations around the succession of media of communications. One of the bridges between these two phases of his work was the study of newsprint as a […]

Mel Clark 1921-2014

Mel Clark, a long time trade negotiator for Canada, passed away on March 14. His Notice of Death in the April 24 Globe and Mail describes him as “an independent and progressive thinker with a strong sense of social responsibility.“ “Mel`s decades of experience in the world of international trade had convinced him that free […]

Fur trade and tar sands

Here is Joseph Boyden talking with the Globe and Mail last fall about his novel Orenda: “You look at this novel and you think immigration, who you allow in and who you don’t. The Hurons allow in the ones who ulimately destroy them, because the Huron aren’t perfect either. They need the trade, and how […]

In Praise of our Distinguished Predecessor

J. King Gordon (b.1900, d.1989) was not a professional economist, though as a Rhodes Scholar he studied philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford while inhaling the Fabianism in the air. He was a progressive and a political activist who deserves to be remembered by us. Twice in his life he was there at the birth […]

Oil as a Staple

“By 1901, Baku [then part of the Russian Empire, now the capital of Azerbaijan Republic] produced half the world’s oil…Baku was a melting pot of pitiful poverty and incredible wealth…[T]he derricks and the refineries poisoned the city and corrupted the people…[O]il townships were polluted slums. The 48,000 workers toiled in terrible conditions, living and fighting […]

Surely lighthouses are simply a good thing?

“From a conventional view of progress, there were few projects more useful and less problematic than building lighthhouses to save life and cargo. From the shore, however, this was not so obvious. Among the local population were wreckers, who waited for storms to drive vessels ashore which they looted for cargo and parts – or […]

Staples Redux: Wheat and Canola

Acceptance or rejection of genetically modified food has tended to be analyzed with respect to the attitudes of consumers. But the attitudes of producers matter. For example, western grain farmers have mostly accepted GM canola and most rejected GM wheat. Emily Eaton of the University of Regina explores why in a new book Growing Resistance: […]

Staples Redux: Oil and Honey

Oil is a staple. Honey isn’t. That’s the point. The odd coupling comes from Bill McKibben’s most recent book, which is titled “Oil and Honey.” Oil is crude. Honey is sweet. That says it all. The central point that McKibben is making is that oil is global and honey is local, and that the disruptive […]

Kari Polanyi-Levitt’s New Book

The much respected progressive economist, and my long time friend and intellectual soulmade, Kari Polanyi Levitt, having just turned 90, has published a book of no less than 16 scholarly articles, all written in the past 25 years and mostly much more recently. Its title, From the Great Transformation to the Great Financialization: On Karl […]

Wordly Philosopher

This is the title of a recently published biography of Albert Hirschmam by Jeremy Adelman, a Canadian who teaches history at Princeton University. Hirschman’s life as an economist – which spanned so much of the 20th century – is worth learning about for it makes us think hard about what has happened to economics over […]

Re-reading Hirschman

Since I was a graduate student in the last millennium, I’ve been fascinated by the role of the cotton textile industry in recent economic history, beginning with that momentous event still being heard around the world, the First Industrial Revolution. It just caught fire in Bengladesh. There are books about cotton as a staple – […]

A Taxonomy of Linkages

As we discuss Dutch disease and the staples trap, it is good to be reminded that these discussions can benefit by being put in the context of Albert Hirschman’s linkages from commodity/resource/staple export. It so happens that a recent monograph begins with Hirschman and then elaborates on his linkages, and applies them in case studies. […]

Who Benefits from M&A?

The Globe and Mail (Feb 28) reports that “in the past few years…Canada’s resource plays have attracted international attention, and Canada has punched above its weight in generating fees for bankers and lawyers. Deals last year such as the takeovers of Nexen Inc. and Progess Energy made Canada the second-biggest source of deal fees in […]

How Productivity Falls When Planes Takeoff and Land

Late in the last calender year, the U.S. FCC (Federal Communications Commission) sent a letter to the FAA (U.S. Federal Aviation Administration) advising it to “enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable devices” during flights. “They empower people to stay informed and connected with friends and family, and they enable both large and […]

What Caused the American Civil War?

One hundred and fifty years ago Americans were fighting a most bloody civil war. There were serious persons then and now that blamed the war on Eli Whitney for his invention of the cotton gin in 1794. While Whitney’s gin directly reduced the demand for slaves to separate cotton fibre from the seeds, it broke […]

Albert Hirschman 1915-2012

Albert Hirschman died in December of last year at the grand old age of 97. I never had the pleasure of meeting him but I was an avid reader of his writings and much influenced by them. In the 1950s and 1960s, as the field of economic development emerged within economics, there was a debate […]

M&A 2012

We knew that the takeover of Nexen by CNOOC was big but I at least didn’t realize how big it was till I saw the Wall Street Journal’s list (Jan.2, 2013) of the 25 biggest M&A deals world-wide in 2012 where it ranked 5th and was the largest deal made by a Chinese company. Canada […]

LBJ on Economics

“Making a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your leg. It may seem hot to you,but it never does to anyone else.” Cited in Robert A. Caro, Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson (2012)

Dutch disease revised

As we know, Dutch disease is about damage to industry from resource exports. As we witness the widespread drought this summer in North America and the damage to crops, Dutch disease needs to be redefined to also include the damage to agriculture. The Canadian West eats its own as it produces oil.

Changing concepts of time

Occasionally we can still get a glimpse of the radical difference between modern and pre-modern concepts of time. A significant number of Marshall Islanders have migrated to the U.S. According to a recent story in the NY Times (july 4): “They puzzle over the American obsession with time…” The principal of an Arkansas school where […]

Dutch disease actually Canadian disease

Resources(\”staples\”) trap is Canadian Disease

The Curious Case of Guano as a Staple

Peru – the heart of the Inca Empire – and thereabouts is where the potato originated, to be spread around the world after Europeans ‘discovered’ it. Off Peru’s coast a “weird trick of climate and topogrophy” created “[s]warms of anchovies (which) fed the birds that produced the guano that fertilized the fields that yielded such […]

Globaloney

So recent is the word “globalization” that, if you consult the revised 1978 edition of The New Political Dictionary: The Definitive Guide to the New Language of Politics by the eminent neo-conservative writer William Safire, you will not find it. Instead you will find “Globaloney,” a term used in the early 1940s to riducule the […]

Globalization, Literally Speaking

What is this thing called “globalization?” To be absolutely precise, it’s the word that took over discourse about the global economy and pretty much everything else for what seemed like an eternity but, in fact, labelled a phenomenon that lasted only for a single decade, that of the 1990s, from the end of the Cold […]

Empire and Trade

Empires vary: of conquest, of settlement, of trade; contiguous and maritime. Empires abound: a long list, longer even than many books on empire admit to. Wikipedia lists over 200 empires from the Akkadian Empire of Sargon the Great in the 24th century BCE to today’s American Empire. In terms of territory the largest are the […]

Risk, Uncertainty, and Black Swans

In 2009, in the midst of the financial and economic crises, Robert Skidelsky, the acclaimed three volume biographer of Keynes, added a fourth, Keynes: The Return of the Master. It is a radical and provocative assessment of economic theory since Keynes, insisting that at its core Keynes’ s Keynesianism was about uncertainty, about the irreducible […]