Delusional Pragmatism

“Keeping the public and press in the dark about what’s happening at the DFO is not without dangerous historical precedent, says Kelly Toughill, a journalism professor at King’s University in Halifax. “About 18 years ago the federal government ignored, then muzzled DFO scientists who were warning that cod was being over-fished in Newfoundland,” she wrote to me over email. “The result was the complete collapse of the cod fishery and the complete collapse of the economy of what was then Canada’s poorest province.”


This Vice article is a good followup to my comments about the destruction and hiding of information regarding Canada’s natural resource industry by the Conservative government. Economists agree that access to information is essential to help business make the decisions necessary for their operations The suppression of this information will certainly make it harder to determine the true costs of these industries in the long run. In other words, the government is making industries with far less stability than is popularly believed into Canada’s economic foundation. Sound familiar? Think along the lines of a financial market based on bad mortgages.

The Conservative party has posed as a hard-nosed, realistic, pragmatic party informed by economic science and devoted to building up Canada’s economy in a productive industry, unlike bleeding heart Liberals and NDPers who would rather save a couple of grizzlies than build up Canada’s economy. This is false. These actions ignore basic economic principles about freedom of information for determining costs and externalities. This comes in addition torepeated warnings about the dangerously high level of Canadian private debt, recently at 165% of disposable income. This situation is dangerously similar to what the US faced in the run-up to the Great Recession: jubilation at a growing economy, high debt, derision when it came to criticisms, and suppression of information which revealed instabilities. Those currently entering the workforce should be weary of this situation. Try to limit (or eliminate) debt, focus on fields which you can find work in even during downward swings in the economy.

There’s a lesson here too for those who consider themselves pragmatic and objective, informed by reason and evidence. It’s frighteningly easy to get caught up in the image of being objective to the point where you no longer really are. The Left bashes creationists while ignoring or banning science which undermines it. So-called Conservatives do the same when it comes to free market ideologies and science which undermines the free trade agenda (climate change and environmental externalities, in this case). Consider being willing to admit you were wrong a worthwhile investment which builds up the resiliency of your ideas…instead of having them crash down around you because you didn’t want to be disquieted.

In this case, it’s a party which would rather destroy scientific research than force companies to take proper precautions and take account of the true cost of our economic program. A hard nose is no excuse for a soft head.