On the Political Economy of Social Democracy

On the Political Economy of Social Democracy: Selected Papers of J.C. Weldon

Allen Fenichel
Sidney H. Ingerman
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    On the Political Economy of Social Democracy
    Book Description:

    Weldon's writings address many of the themes that have preoccupied Canadian political economists over the last thirty years: unemployment, wage controls, inflation, pensions, privatization and social ownership, economic planning, social policy, the means and extent of state intervention, and the rise of neo-conservatism.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6272-1
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface: John Cathcart Weldon, 1922–87
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxvi)

    This book contains a collection of papers written by John Cathcart Weldon on the role of government in the economy. Two central questions run through the papers that have been chosen: To what degree should the state actively intervene in the economy? And by what means should the state intervene? The papers appear during a quarter of a century, beginning in 1961, and they reflect the approach of a Canadian social democrat to political economy during this period. However, the questions that are dealt with in these papers are of more than Canadian interest. They are now in the forefront...

    • CHAPTER ONE On the Economics of Social Democracy
      (pp. 3-28)

      What is the nature of the economic policy of social democracy? On what economic principles does it depend, by what methods and to what goals is it directed? I have in mind Canadian problems and Canadian institutions, for I want to discuss these questions in a familiar environment and with the facts of a specific system at hand. There is a reasonable unity to social democratic thought here and abroad, but its economic expression is dominated by the variety of circumstances that distinguishes Ottawa and London, to say nothing of the extremes that separate Ottawa and New Delhi. It is...

    • CHAPTER TWO What Is Planning?
      (pp. 29-43)

      Only yesterday it was just one more example of leftist folly to call for a planned economy. Along with the rest of the program of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, it was labelled impractical and visionary and revolutionary and wicked. And now today almost everyone is saying that planning is a good thing and there should be more of it. The Quebec Liberals claim they are already indulging in something called democratic planning. The federal Liberals confess that they too will plan if they are allowed a further chance in office. And as if there were no end to wonders, even...

    • CHAPTER THREE Social Democracy: Notes on “Ownership”
      (pp. 44-48)

      Social democracy has objects of policy and means of policy. Its objects of policy are well known throughout the party, and become obscure only as means are confused with ends. I submit that the objects of policy arethree: as in Bernstein’s view, that the method of acquiring policy is itself a policy and that this method must be democratic; that waste – as, say, from unemployment – should not be tolerated; and that equality (not mere equality of opportunity, butequalitysimple) must be pursued. I submit further that the means of policy isone, the determined, unrestricted use of the...

    • CHAPTER FOUR The Role of Government in the Economy
      (pp. 49-56)

      You will know that a speaker who comes before you in November to talk on something like the “role of government in the economy” must have accepted his invitation in June or earlier. It is like talking on the role of God in the universe. It is even like talking on what the role of God should be in the universe. Still, the easy commitment in June is what leads to the heavy November harangue.

      My theme is this: most of the attack on the role of governments in the economy is dangerous nonsense. Our governments in Canada are not...

    • CHAPTER FIVE A Critique of Privatization
      (pp. 57-82)

      In the federal budget of late June [1982], there was an open attack upon three of the principal supports of the society reconstructed from World War II and the Great Depression. The direct pursuit of full employment was abandoned. The practices of the welfare state were reduced. The trade union movement was subverted.

      None of the three supports had escaped earlier attacks, of course. Even by the beginning of the 1960s the notion had gained ground that compensation for unemployment would substitute very well for actual employment, and during the 1970s it became increasingly fashionable to propose any measures by...

    • CHAPTER SIX The Unity of Economics
      (pp. 83-91)

      Economics is the social science that analyses howsurplusis produced in a community and distributed among its members. The terms of the definition are strong enough to give the science unity, and flexible enough to account for its evolution and the considerable variation in its expression.

      This fundamental conception of surplus is easiest to understand in a stylized example. An agricultural community, say, produces grain and sets aside certain amounts for seed. After a period of production new totals of grain are available, sufficiently large to replace both the seed and all other depreciation entailed by the productive process,...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN The Attack Upon the Democratic Left
      (pp. 92-108)

      The most important fact about the Canadian economy is the attack upon the democratic left that has gathered strength throughout the seventies. I intend to deal with the strength and weaknesses of the economy in terms of that threat. What is the “democratic left” supposed to define? The obvious people and institutions the various organizations of the labour union movement, the ordinary working men and women whether organized or not and in whatever occupations, their families, the unemployed as well as the employed, and the political bodies that are the democratic allies of labour. This does not imply that industrial...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT On Social Policies in the Canadian Economy, 1986
      (pp. 109-128)

      So that the message is not altogether hidden by the narrative, let me point to three ideas that the message will contain. First, in social policies our relative situations certainly do have, and probably should have, much more weight than our absolute situations. Second, the rationale of social policies is how best to respond to inescapable uncertainty. Third, social well being – the wealth of nations, the wealth of Canada – must be defined by moralists for the economist, not by economists for the moralist.

      With a topic like “social policies, 1986,” I think the argument has to beself-containedto be...

    • CHAPTER NINE Wage Controls and the Canadian Labour Movement
      (pp. 131-157)

      In early June the Governor of the Bank of Canada does not recall whether his staff has prepared any studies of the effects of the Anti-inflation Board. In late June the Minister of Finance has a scheme in hand to transform inflation and prepare recovery in a “6%” year followed by a “5%” year. Whether the memory of the governor was faulty, whether the pace of research was dramatically accelerated, whether monetary policy and incomes policy were totally compartmentalized as between the governor and the minister, I do not know; and whether the missing studies (newly compiled or rediscovered) would...

    • CHAPTER TEN On Private Plans in the Theory of Pensions
      (pp. 158-175)

      In an earlier paper we set out a simple theory of government pensions, illustrated by an account of some of the features of the Canadian pension system.¹ Here we would like to extend that conceptual framework, adding private pensions to the theoretical structure and connecting both government and private pensions to savings. The models used are highly stylized, and are not intended todescribepension arrangements either as they are or as they should be. Our purpose is rather to identify what seem to us the essential abstractions in an economic system where the generations are linked, where the future...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Pension Policy: Practice and Positive Theory
      (pp. 176-205)

      This will be too long a paper, even though I shall make no attempt to comment on the mass of statistics others have gathered about the living conditions of those in retirement.² The elderly, it appears, too often enter a ghetto upon retirement that in its economic aspects is cruel, discriminatory, and permitted only by failures of policy. Women are victims in greater degree than men: life expectancy and work histories are well-known factors in explaining that difference. Like most other papers on pension policy, this paper had its origin in such disquieting facts. The facts themselves, though, I shall...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Preface to The Challenge of Full Employment
      (pp. 206-213)

      Half a century after Keynes published hisGeneral Theory, the great issue of policy he raised is still at the centre of political economy. In this volume, Diane Bellemare and Lise Poulin Simon reaffirm that full employment is a sharply defined idea, that programs of full employment can be realized in societies like our own, and that the advantage to well-being from implementing such programs is vast. Their investigation would have little foundation without a determined effort to clarify an inherited theory that is incomplete and badly confused: they have made the effort and, I think, with considerable success. Their...