Friday, October 03, 2014

Harperism : From Harper and Hayek to Koch and Coyne

Neo-liberalism : trickle-down, deregulating, deunionizing, globalizing free market privatization of government.

When Stephen Harper was studying under the "Calgary school" in the 80's, he became so enamored with the neo-liberalism of Austrian philosopher Friedrich von Hayek - guru to Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, the Chicago boys, the IMF, and the WTO - it formed the basis of his 1991 political economics thesis. 

Why, wondered Harper at the time, did the conservative revolution of Thatcher and Reagan bypass Canada and what could be done about it?

Happily, the Mont Pelerin Society - founded by Hayek and Milton Friedman of the Chicago School, and featuring Charles Koch CEO of Koch Industries as a board member - was there to help, founding and funding a plethora of free market think tanks in Canada via the corporate-funded neo-liberal prototype, the Institute of Economic Affairs in London UK. 

The Charles Koch Foundation on their Fraser Institute grant funding page :
"Since its inception twenty-five years ago at a series of conferences hosted by Milton Friedman and Michael Walker [executive director of the Fraser Institute from its inception in 1974], the Economic Freedom of the World Index has been used as a reliable measure of economic freedom in countries around the world."
As Donald Gutstein explains in Harperism: How Stephen Harper and his think tank colleagues have transformed Canada, this transformation was achieved through what Hayek called *professional second-hand dealers* - "newspaper columnists and editorial writers who parrot reports by neoliberal think tanks such as the Fraser Institute, Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Frontier Centre for Public Policy, Montreal Economic Institute, and Atlantic Institute for Market Studies."

As it happens, the heads of all those think tanks he mentions :
  • Michael Walker, founding Senior Fellow of the Fraser Institute; 
  • Brian Lee Crowley, founding President of Atlantic Institute for Market Studies [Atlantica!!!], and Managing Director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute;
  • Peter Holle, President of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy;
  • Michel Kelly Gagnon, CEO of the Montreal Economic Institute
are themselves all members of the Mont Pelerin Society.

Funding to link think tanks, politicians, and journalists comes from corporations and U.S. donors, but also Canadian billionaires like Peter Munk of Barrick Gold and his Aurea Foundation.
The Aurea Foundation was founded by Peter Munk, the head of Barrick Gold, and is a major funder of a small but influential network of free-market think tanks in Canada, including: The Fraser Institute, the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, the Frontier Center for Public Policy, the Montreal Economic Institute and the MacDonald Laurier Institute.
Gosh, same bunch again.

National Post columnist/CBC political analyst/Manning Centre for Democracy advisor Andrew Coyne is a director at Aurea Foundation, along with former National Post editor Ken Whyte and, up until he became Stephen Harper's chief of staff, Nigel Wright.  

Hayek devotee, former advisor at the federal Department of Finance in 2007-8, and Coyne's friend, Brian Lee Crowley of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute is also particularly ubiquitous in promedia. Crowley has written regular columns for the Ottawa Citizen and G&M (where he spent two years on the editorial board) expounding on subjects dear to Harper : why all of Canada benefits from the tarsands, why we need more foreign investment, the benefits of two-tier healthcare and tankers off the westcoast, and why inequality is no biggie because poverty is a matter of character.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty hosted a private fund-raising dinner for Macdonald-Laurier Institute, advising invited corporate executives that he was giving MLI his personal backing and "I hope you will consider doing the same."

"Gutstein makes the case that neoliberalism is far more sinister than simply having a desire for smaller government. A central tenet of his new book is that Harper is undermining democracy by marshalling the power of government to create and enforce markets where they’ve never existed before.
“He’s gradually moving the country from one that’s based on democracy to one that’s based on the market, which means that the decisions are not made by our duly elected representatives through the laws that they pass and the regulations that they enact,” Gutstein says."
Coyne responded : 

You can buy HarperismHow Stephen Harper and his think tank colleagues have transformed Canada directly from Lorimer Publishing

Book launch with expert panel on issues raised by the book and hosted by the author - Wednesday October 8, 5:30 to 7:30pm at SFU Harbour Centre 

OK, if you must have a sneak peak, here's a few pages on former Liberal leadership hopeful Martha Hall Findlay at the Calgary School of Public Policy advising Harper how he could successfully dump supply management without losing any votes in order to ease Canada's entry into the investor rights deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP. 
The "second-hand dealers" went absolutely apeshit for that one.
Edited @ 11:15 for clarity

Monday update : Well this will help to cloister the second hand dealers....

The Tyee : Postmedia could soon own almost every English newspaper in Canada. What could possibly go wrong?

Tyee also has an excerpt from Gutstein's book up today : Meet the people who made possible Stephen Harper's reign.

which in turn leads to this from Andrew Mitrovica :  The Hill media war chorus clears its throat … politely


Beijing York said...

Excellent overview of all those connected dots. Sounds like an excellent book. Ugh, Martha Hall Findlay gives me the creeps.

As for market driven governance, I had no idea that the Harper legislation to destroy the single desk marketing function of the Canadian Wheat Board (in order to give farmers market choice aka strengthen agribusiness' global monopoly) also included privatizing the public institution by 2016. I wonder which of these three giants will get the sweetheart deal: Archer-Daniels-Midland Company, Cargill, Incorporated or ConocoPhillips?

scotty on denman said...

Adam Smith's seminal work, "The Wealth of Nations", concludes that sovereign states must intervene in the market place, not simply for quelling the excesses of capitalism and the "invisible hand" inhumanely inflicted, but for their own existence as sovereign states. Unfortunately, this very un-Fraser-Institute creed is at the very end of the book and easily torn out without being much missed---a pity because this is one of the most distinguishing aspects of Smith's philosophy set against Marx's own that sovereign states are instrumental in oppressing workers and that, ideally, they would become extinct. But ain't that just like economic theoreticians, eh? statisticians pretending to be scientists who have discovered an immutable, universal law of nature. When the real numbers don't always agree, fudge it like the most insanely bent and twisted derivative junk bond. The Soviets accomplished the much same thing, ostensibly from the opposite end of the ideological spectrum.

Traditional conservatives and liberals never expressly sought to destroy sovereign states; neo-rightists' corollary to a good-for-all-time economic template is the once-and-for-all destruction of the freely self-governed society---they therefore do not deserve any hint of traditional titles. Maybe "neo-cherrypickers" or "neo-Texas sharpshooters" (after the common conceptual biases commonly employed by think-tanks), but neoconservative/liberal? No way!

"Neo-greed-o-crats" doesn't really work either---cuz there's nothing new about that. Just like reality is too unpredictable and ornate to actually codify and formulate, think-tank thinking will eventually lead to think-tank tanking.

Cocoabean said...

A true free market approach would necessitate the ABSENCE of government intrusion into the economy. Yet we now see just the opposite: bigger, more interventionist, more centralized and more powerful government.

Harper is no libertarian. He does Hayek a disservice.

If he really wants to mend fences, he should SHRINK government, cut taxes, increase civil liberties, downsize the militarism and cut back social spending.

But his client groups wouldn't like that.

thwap said...

Coyne is probably genuinely mystified at the idea that his elite-servicing economic delusions, which are imposed upon an unwilling majority by a series of anti-democratic governments, using a variety of tricks such as "deficit hysteria" can be seen as undemocratic.

I'll give him that he's a true believer. Too deluded to see the truth.

Alison said...

BY : No, and doesn't seem like smaller stakeholders know anything about it either.
Secrecy on sale of CWB raises concerns

Also : Shortages of rail cars to move last year’s record wheat and canola crops left a backlog of as much as C$20 billion of grain stuck on prairie farms.

Scotty : I agree the "liberal" part of the term "neoliberal" is confusing to a lot people - especially as it refers to economics and not politics - but I fear my own preference for "ratbastards" probably fails to adequately convey their passionate belief in the absolute supremacy of individual liberty except where it might impinge on unfettered growth of the surveillance/military state or increased tax breaks for the rich or a free hand for corps to infringe on the individual liberties of, you know, actual individuals.

Cocoabean : No one we're discussing here, shy a few idealistic libertarians, argues for the absence of government from the economy - only the particular form a partial absence will take. Neolibs are parasites - having been carried to 3rd base by the connective social fabric that bred them, they would now like to clear homeplate and declare a self-propelled victorious home run.

Thwap : I really enjoy Coyne much of the time - his wit, his often plain language, his annual shit-kicking of the Manning Centre for abandoning conservatism, his cheerful exuberance while being utterly and spectacularly in the wrong.

Owen Gray said...

You detail just how committed and careful these folks have been in shifting the country from democracy to market supremacy, Alison.

That they have been so remarkably successful is frightening.

Anonymous said...

What is the difference between a neoliberal and a neoconservative?

Anonymous said...

"Ratbastards" is good, too.

Alison said...

Owen : It's the 'incrementalism' Flanagan once referred to in a slightly different context, isn't it? That these think tankers figure so prominently in promedia rollodexes makes me completely nuts.

Anon@10:17 : Roughly, very very roughly ...
Neoliberals arose in the 70s and 80s as a reaction against Keynesian state control of markets and social welfare policies. Instead, the corp-friendly neolibs proposed freedom for markets, global free trade, smaller government, disempowering unions, privatizing public services, lowering taxes, increasing private property rights, and invisible-hand trickle-down economics.
Think Thatcher, Reagan, Harper, Pinochet, Ayn Rand, Hayek, Friedman, Koch Bros; and NAFTA, TPP, FIPA, IMF, Goldman Sachs.

Neoconservatives agree with most or all of these neolib economic policies but stress aggressive political foreign policy measures to promote them instead - including unstinting support for Israel - and national policies like increasing the security state and a cynical promotion of tea-baggy religious fervour as a sort of nationalist glue.
Neo-cons advocate preemptive military actions against foreign countries to further US economic and military power.
Think Leo Strauss, George W Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, PNAC, Kissinger, global war on terror, Iraq war, military-industrial complex.

Both require the state to act as their agent, ie the state bombs some hapless oil-laden country in the interest of *spreading democracy*, and this benefits both the mil-ind complex and their contractors/arms dealers (neocons/Raytheon), and the refinanciers of the country (neolibs/IMF/Goldman Sachs).

Neither group is very keen on democracy and a political arm of the Kochs' is currently being investigated for election voter fraud.

Unknown said...

I saw that book last week at the bookstore, and I intend on buying it. Doesn't surprise me in the least re: Coyne. This whole concept of free markets has done little for society as a whole while making the 1% even richer than they thought possible.

Unknown said...

"A Koch brothers group is being investigated for sending mailers with incorrect information about how to register to vote ..." Am I surprised, No. Sound like Harper's 2011 campaign, Yes way to much only he used phones.

These people are all leeches and survive because the rest of us work time to start something new and go after their assets, which could maybe with a changed law or two be proven illegal gains.

double nickel said...

I think I have Harperoids.

Boris said...

"In this sense the 20th century was certainly an outstanding age of superstition, and the cause of of this is an overestimation of what science has acheived - not in the field of the comparatively simple phenomena, where it has been extradinarily successful, but in the field of complex phenomena where the application of the techniques which proved so helpful with essentially simple phenomena has proved to be very mislreading' - Hayek in LT Hobhouse Memorial Lecture, LSE 1978

Anonymous said...

Why are we only hearing about this now?

Anonymous said...

Alison @ 3:00: Thanks for the easy breakdown of the differences between Neolibs and Neocons. Makes it easy to understand.

Alison said...

Chris : Glad to hear it's available in Vancouver bookshops. I tried to order it through various wholesale Canadian book distributors but they weren't carrying it.
Not surprising that there's lots of lovely corp money available to create libertarian/free market think tanks, or "do tank" as one styles itself, to disseminate their interests through promedia, but it does rather skew and curtail the public discourse. Hence the prevailing myth so damaging at election time and despite all evidence to the contrary, that the Cons are good on economy.

Mogs : Yes, I thought that too re election fraud.
Thanks by the way for your plug of this post in Tyee comments - much appreciated.

Double nickel : Important to remember however that while neo-liberalism got its start in Canada via Mulroney, it was considerably further entrenched by Chretien and Martin; Harper only inherited it and cranked it up.

Boris : Is Hayek referring to attempts to predict 'spontaneous order' in that quote? Hayek is way above my intellectual pay grade.

Anon@8:17 : Oh my. Tons has been written about this. It's been seven years since I linked to How Did We Get Into This Mess by Monbiot.
But running down how it operates in Canada and who is funding it is entirely missing from promedia discourse. Try to imagine CBC rounding off an 'expert' interview with a tank spokesey by using more than just the adjective "conservative" - if that. It's just too ubiquitous. In Tax Is Not a Four-Letter Word, Alex and Jordan Himmelfarb (Alex is former clerk of the privy council) point out that Canadians under 40 have never known anything but neo-liberal politics.

Alison said...

Anon@9:39 : You're very welcome. I tried to find a catchy vid on the diffs but failed. If anyone knows of a witty succinct one, let me know so I can post it - get this subject more interesting to more people .

Boris said...

Alison, it's a quote lifted from something else I'm currently reading used to illustrate the idea that that world is complex and can't be boiled down into a simple analysisor solution to its problems. Quite the opposite to the way these guys are actually applying Hayek (who, like all intellectuals, simply weaves ideas and not practicalities), which mostly involves intellectually rigged 'think-tanks' and minds that always conclude neoliberalisation is the answer all things, much the same way religious fanatics operate.

Alison said...

Boris : So ... it is about the difficulty of predicting spontaneous order then ;-)

Boris said...

Yes. :)

Unknown said...

You are welcome Alison as I've said before keep up the excellent blog.


PS: I love your way of viewing/reporting ;)

GregH said...

cocoabean: "Harper is no libertarian. He does Hayek a disservice."

Well, Hayek isn't really a Libertarian either. He's a Neoliberal hero & one of the people who started the Mont Pelerin Society. This whole set of ideas is pretty mixed up, but Neoliberals are ok with that, because they do their best work when the public is looking the other way.

Anonymous said... Why are we only hearing about this now?

(See above) Because Gutstein and his book have been all over the CBC, The Globe, The Star, and all the usual Postmedia outlets. Haven't they?

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