Different welfare states
29/04/2012, 16:10
Filed under: Economics, Ephemera, Politics, Sociology

Those that know me will hear me frequently defending “the welfare state.” It’s hard not to talk about “the welfare state” and make it sounds like it’s some kind of grand unified concept.

In fact, there are many kinds of welfare state—as many kinds as their are countries. A number of high profile sociologists and economists have spent a lot of time thinking about and trying to classify all the different kinds of welfare states out there. There is little question that not all are created equal.

Here is a good and interesting read, from Neil Macdonald—editorialist extraordinaire, and brother of somewhat famous comedian Norm Macdonald—on the current state of Italy’s economy/welfare state.  Continue reading

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Stupid kids
20/04/2012, 03:45
Filed under: Culture, Politics

Last week I heard a lot of people dismissing the protesters as a bunch of stupid kids out for a good time. I prefer the masks and costumes, but this is real. The kids know what they are fighting for.

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Let the race to the left begin!
15/04/2012, 23:27
Filed under: Culture, Ephemera, Politics

Alternate title: Alberta politics round-up, The Twilight Zone edition

I have a lot faith in Canadians—all Canadians, even Albertans.* We’re not perfect, we never will be, but we work pretty darn hard and most people have good intentions.

For anyone following the current Alberta provincial election campaign, it would appear that knee-jerk social conservatism has finally gone as far as it’s going to go in Canadian politics, as the Wildrose Party—credited by some to be one of Canada’s most socially and economically conservative political parties ever—is scrambling to distance itself from the unsavory homophibic and anti-women positions held by some of its members.

Of course, the federal Conservatives have been known to do this, but I think a lot of people might have interpreted those efforts a little too narrowly: aimed solely at Ontario and Quebec, as though there didn’t exist a single centrist west of Kenora.

It turns out that even in Alberta, people only have so much patience for hate. Continue reading

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The Simpson family values
13/04/2012, 20:12
Filed under: Culture, Ephemera

The intrawebs are aflutter with Matt Groening’s announcement of which Springfield is the real Springfield,

Springfield was named after Springfield, Oregon. The only reason is that when I was a kid, the TV show “Father Knows Best” took place in the town of Springfield, and I was thrilled because I imagined that it was the town next to Portland, my hometown. When I grew up, I realized it was just a fictitious name. I also figured out that Springfield was one of the most common names for a city in the U.S. In anticipation of the success of the show, I thought, “This will be cool; everyone will think it’s their Springfield.” And they do.

I know, brillant, right?  Continue reading

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“It’s nasty. It’s ethnic cleansing.”
12/04/2012, 23:20
Filed under: Culture, Ephemera, Sociology

And this, my friends, is why class and identity are not the same thing,

In a debate on CTV Monday, the president and managing director of Megantic Asset Management compared Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s proposal for a tax hike on the rich to ethnic cleansing.

“It’s nasty. It’s ethnic cleansing,” Doak said, referring to the NDP’s demand for a two percentage point increase in the provincial income tax for people earning more than $500,000, as a way to close Ontario’s large budget deficit.

“She’s defining a group not by culture or language, but by how much money they make, and she wants to get rid of them,” Doak added.
Continue reading

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Life is a double barreled question
11/04/2012, 06:13
Filed under: Economics, Policy, Politics, Sociology, Statistics, Thought

This is what is what is called a double barreled question: “[Would you] personally be very, somewhat, not very or not at all willing to pay slightly higher taxes if that’s what it would take to protect our social programs like health care, pensions and access to post-secondary education?” (Toronto Star article).

There are two questions being asked: first, “Would you be willing to pay higher taxes?” second, “Do you want to protect our social programs like health care, pensions and access to post-secondary education?” The Broadbent Institute found that, “In all, 64 per cent said they would be willing to pay “slightly higher taxes,” although what exactly “slightly” higher meant was not specified. Of the 64 per cent, 41 per cent were “somewhat” open and 23 per cent were “very” willing to pay more.”

Interestingly, they “found a majority of support across gender, ages, education levels, family income and employment levels, and in most regions.” And even that, “a majority of Conservative voters (58 per cent) are somewhat willing to pay higher taxes to protect social programs […] Liberal and NDP voters are more supportive (72 per cent would pay more.)”

Social scientists are taught not to ask double barreled questions. Continue reading

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If they can’t do it, no one can
10/04/2012, 16:11
Filed under: Policy, Politics

Picking up on yesterday’s post regarding Neil deGrasse Tyson’s impassioned call for more federal funding for NASA, I’d like to reflect a little more on what it means to say that the private sector can’t be relied on to plan for our long-term future, but the public sector can.

Saying that only the public sector boasts an incentive structure amendable to encouraging basic research, doesn’t mean that if the government starts investing in basic research they will get it right. Governments are not all the same—some governments are more efficient, better managed, less corrupt—in other words, some governments are better than others. The point is merely that if they can’t do it, no one can.  Continue reading