Remembering John Loxley

The progressive economics community, in Canada and around the world, lost a wonderful colleague, comrade and friend with the passing of John Loxley on July 28, 2020. Here I would like to share some personal reflections on John’s impact on my life as a progressive economist, and the very rich legacy he has left our shared community. (I also commend […]

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Ten things to know about CMHC’s Insured Mortgage Purchase Program

In March 2020, the Trudeau government launched a new version of the Insured Mortgage Purchase Program (IMPP). According to CMHC’s website: “Under this program, the government will purchase up to $50 billion of insured mortgage pools through CMHC.” Here are 10 things to know: 1. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is a federally-owned crown corporation. Many of us know […]

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Economic Response to Pandemic: Go Big, Go Fast

The health emergency created by the COVID-19 pandemic is of course the primary concern of Canadians, and the first priority for government to address. But it is increasingly clear that the economic fallout from the pandemic is also going to constitute an emergency. And it requires government to respond as urgently and powerfully in the economic sphere, as they are […]

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Behind Chile’s political crisis

More than one million people marched in Santiago on October 26 to protest the Government’s security response to Chile’s current political crisis and to demand structural economic reforms to reduce inequality and increase social services. In this post I analyze these grievances from a quantitative perspective and explore what it would take to translate them into policy. This is my […]

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Canadian Political Economy on Staple Thesis

In an impressive overview of the state of Canadian Political Economy, a new book Change and Continuity ed. by Mark P. Thomas et.al. includes two important articles on the continuing relevance of the staple thesis. On the one hand, Jim Stanford’s “Staples Dependence Renewed and Betrayed: Canada’s Twenty-First Century Boom and Best” does just as its title tells because of […]

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Plausible Socialism

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was a widespread sense that liberal capitalism had triumphed in the battle of ideas, and that socialism as a plausible alternative was pretty much dead. But the many crises of contemporary capitalism – obscene levels of economic inequality, looming ecological disaster, the rise of the racist and anti democratic populist right, the […]

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Ontario Electricity VII – Committee Testimony

The PC Government in Ontario has introduced Bill 87 which would eliminate the rate-based borrowing to subsidize electricity prices and replace it with Government borrowing. Last week’s Provincial Budget estimates that the required borrowing to subsidize electricity prices for 2018/19 was $2.8 billion. It is likely to exceed $3 billion in 2019/20. Ontario is the only jurisdiction in North America […]

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Populism in the Time of Neoliberalism

The way of the world in recent and present time is the preach and the practice of neoliberalism, of pushing markets to their extremes. The Turkish writer and political analyst Ece Temelkuran in her new book How to Lose a Country: the Seven Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship, draws on her Turkish experience and applies its lesson elsewhere, notably to […]

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Help please!

Can anyone out there help me? Just saw a headline on CNN saying that, in spite of Brexit chaos, unemployment was at an historic low. Likewise in US where in spite of Trump — could it really be because of? — unemployment is also at an historic low. Reminds me that back in the late 1970s there was a G-7 […]

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Technology and Democracy (continued)

Post the Second World War, the US became dominant in the world economy and a shift from coal to oil was deliberately taken by the state to weaken the power of coal-centred industrialization and tie the Middle East into American and European control. Transport of oil by pipeline and tanker created a fluidity that tended to eliminate nodal points where […]

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Technology and Democracy: Contrasting Coal and Oil

The opening sentence of the 2011 book, Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil by the historian Timothy Mitchell, reads “Fossil fuels helped create both the possibility of modern democracy and its limits.” Carbon democracy is “a certain kind of democratic politics.” He observes: “Countries that depend upon petroleum resources for a large part of their earnings from […]

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Possessive Individualism

That’s what the political theorist C.B. Macpherson (1911-1987) saw emerging historically with the rise of capitalism. Frank Cunningham in his just published intellectual biography of Macpherson, The Political Thought of C.B. Macpherson: Contemporary Applications describes possessive individualism as “The individual is proprietor of his own person, for which he owes nothing to society”. That sounds like an apt description of […]

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Abraham Rotstein and the Radical Decade from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies

Remarks at a posthumous book launch of his Myth, Mind and Religion at Massey College, University of Toronto, October 2018 For more than 50 years, going back to the days of the old Department of Political Economy, Abe was my colleague in teaching and researching economic history and political economy, my intellectual soulmate, and my closest friend. I have many […]

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The New Language of Resource Exploitation: From Staples Dependency to Extraction Empire

“Staples dependency” we know from Innis onwards.  It can mean reliant upon, dependent on, the export of staples, and permits of a staple theory of linkages as economic theory. It can also mean a resource margin of a more developed imperium. Economic theory is infused by the power relations inherent in “dependency” and is transformed into political economy. In the […]

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Rotstein’s Monumental Epitaph

The late Abraham/Abe Rotstein (1929-2015) was an economist of a leftist persuasion, literally a Left Liberal. He left behind an almost completed manuscript which he had been working on for more than three decades. It has now been published.  Its title Myth, Mind and Religion: The Apocalyptic Narrative is indicative of its extraordinary breadth. Problems, possibilities, catastrophes, which compel resolution […]

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Was Innis Wrong?

The question is taken from the title of an article by Nancy Olewiler of Simon Fraser University in the Canadian Journal of Economics (November 2017), which, as it happens, was delivered as the Innis Lecture at the meetings of the Canadian Economics Association in 2017: “Canada’s dependence on natural capital wealth: Was Innis wrong?”  Her answer: she writes “Literature and […]

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The Bank of Canada should target full employment: 61 economists

On May 28th, 61 Canadian economists (myself included) signed the following letter urging the federal government to instruct the Bank of Canada to consider full employment and not only inflation when conducting interest rate decisions.  It was through the great organization of Mario Seccareccia that this was made possible and has received reviews by several media commentators, notably Barrie McKenna and Neil […]

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Winner of the 2018 Galbraith Prize in Economics: Jim Stanford

The Progressive Economics Forum is pleased to announce Jim Stanford as the winner of the 2018 Galbraith Prize in Economics. The selection committee included Fletcher Baragar (Manitoba), Hassan Bougrine (Laurentian), Toby Sanger (Canadian Union of Public Employees), Christine Saulnier (CCPA-NS) and Kevin Young (University of Massachusetts at Amherst), and was chaired by David Pringle (PEF). Jim has accepted the Prize […]

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A Tale of Two Books

Just published is Volume I of an exhaustive – occasionally exhausting – biography of Paul Samuelson. It’s titled Founder of Modern Economics: Paul A Samuelson Vol I: Becoming Samuelson, 1915-1948 and authored by Roger E Backhouse. The two books of my blog title are Foundations of Economic Analysis, published in 1947, a revision of Samuelson’s Harvard doctoral dissertation, in which he unearthed the mathematical scaffolding […]

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Media release: Alberta needs a provincial sales tax

(March 20, 2018-Edmonton) Today, a coalition of researchers, economists, and members of civil society released an alternative budget to boost Alberta’s economic growth while reducing income inequality. “Alberta is on the road to recovery after a deep recession,” said economist Nick Falvo, “now is not the time to reverse the course.” The document, High Stakes, Clear Choices, sets a progressive […]

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Toward a Better World

That is the well chosen title of a marvelous new book by Gerry Helleiner,  sub-titled Memoirs of a Life in International and Development Economics. Helleiner, from his home base at the University of Toronto, tells us in this most readable book, in his own modest way, the stories, notably from Africa, of how he devoted his life as an economist to […]

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Ontario’s Electricity Sector IV: Pre-Election Update

My first, second and third posts on the Ontario electricity sector described how policy and administrative decisions by different Liberal Governments gave rise to excess electricity generation with an inflated cost structure, leading to higher electricity prices. In anticipation of June 2018 elections, the Liberal Government recently implemented a costly and first-in-Canada financial scheme to fund its “Fair Hydro Plan” […]

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Update on Jimbo’s Minimum Wage Wager

It’s been over a week now since I challenged the authors of 5 business-friendly economic reports to a friendly wager over the future trajectory of employment in provinces that are raising their minimum wage to $15 per hour.  The challenge was issued in my Globe and Mail column of October 3. I was responding to the several business groups and […]

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