The Value of Money

Dr David Dick is fascinated by money.

Ms Soapbox isn’t…or wasn’t until she tried to understand why Albertans kept telling pollsters they’re okay with the NDP’s plans for greening the environment, funding education and healthcare and protecting paid farm workers as long as it doesn’t cost the taxpayers any more money. (Some Albertans swear they’ll slash their charitable contributions to zero if the NDP asks for another dime.)

Ms Soapbox knows that the keep-your-hands-off-my-money mantra is popular with the conservatives but she’s never quite understood the rationale. Is it that more money equals greater happiness? More security? Higher status? What?

This is where Dr Dick comes in.

David Dick is a professor at the University of Calgary with a joint appointment in philosophy and the Haskayne School of Business. He’s also a very nice guy, who’s just as comfortable delivering a speech to Calgary businessmen as he is roaring down the highway on a Harley.

Framing the issue

Dr Dick examined the relationship between money and altruism. He says altruistic and financial motivations are not opposites, but simply different ways of thinking about the same thing.

david-dick-sm

Dr David Dick

Dr Dick illustrates this point with the seminal research of Richard Titmuss. Titmuss examined Britain’s voluntary blood donation program to see whether paying for blood donations would increase the blood supply. He concluded that payment would have the opposite effect. It would drive down the number of donors, not increase it.

The reason for this counter-intuitive result is that paying a donor to donate blood changed the donation from an altruistic act (“I’m saving a life”) to a financial transaction (“I make $25/hour. Getting jabbed by a needle and hanging around a blood donor clinic for an hour and a half simply isn’t worth my time”).

That got Ms Soapbox thinking. Perhaps conservatives (or at least some of them) aren’t just greedy people taking care of their own bank accounts at the expense of the greater good. Perhaps they’re simply looking at public goods as a financial transaction.

Re-framing the public good

Ms Soapbox is not an expert in the economics of altruism or public goods so she’ll stick with the following simple definitions (thank God for google). Altruism is the unselfish concern for the welfare of others. A public good is a commodity or service paid for with tax dollars and provided without profit to all members of society. The two concepts come together in that they both depend on one’s willingness to share with others.

Over the last few decades the progressive conservative government conditioned Albertans to think of the environment, healthcare, education, in fact all public goods, as a financial transaction. The value of the public good was determined by Albertans’ willingness to fund it under Alberta’s low tax and low royalty regime. This low tax/low royalty regime was The Holy Grail because Albertans became convinced that it would make them fabulously wealthy (some might call it the progressive conservative version of The American Dream).

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Premier Notley

When we consider the public good in financial terms, then environmental regulations could not impede the pace of oilsands development, healthcare became a cost reduction exercise which increased privatization and shaping educational programs was nothing more than an exercise to churn out students who were attractive to Alberta employers.

The new NDP government has taken a different tack.

It’s asking Albertans to consider the environment, quality education, top tier healthcare and other public goods as values to be cherished.  Values that are driven by an unselfish concern for the welfare of all Albertans and not simply a financial calculation intended to maximize the wealth of the lucky few.

Rachel Notley is asking Albertans to consider what’s the right thing to do; not what’s the cheapest thing to do.

It’s not going to be easy.

Over 60,000 Albertans lost their jobs this year when Alberta’s one-trick-pony economy went bust. More lay-offs are coming in 2016.

It’s hard to be unselfish in these circumstances, but we need to remember another thing Dr Dick said: Money is simply a tool to achieve the things you value, it is not a value in and of itself.

If we value the environment and the well-being of our fellow Albertans, those with more will help those with less. And none would threaten to cut their charitable contributions when the government asks those with means to share a little bit of their wealth for the common good.

Money is a tool to achieve the things you value, it’s not a value in and of itself no matter how much you’ve got stashed in your bank account.  

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47 Responses to The Value of Money

  1. Roy Wright says:

    I find it very hard to understand why some people take this harsh view of “sharing”. I have always thought that to live in a civil society, you need a compassionate government that enacts laws to maintain order, provides essential services like fire and police protection, health care and education. We all have a fundamental responsibility to help fund such actions. Privatizing things like health care flips things around to where profit and cost cutting become the driving force rather than helping people get better.

    I recently finished reading a book entitled “How Much is Enough?” It talked about earlier civilizations who placed different values on measures of success. You were thought to be successful in Roman times if you were a great orator or a lyrical poet. In fact, people looked down upon people that amassed money as lesser citizens. Our arts community does not seem to fare as well today unless you are a Hollywood box office phenom (and pulling in gazillions of dollars per show, movie or whatever.)

    Maybe it’s time to “re-tune” our value system and associate success with your contributions to society, either in terms of altruistic service, helping the less fortunate or providing healthy debate and discourse about our changing civil society. Enough of this flagrant showing off with your toys, or complaining bitterly that tax rates will go up for those making more than $200k (with the associated threat of hinting that charitable donations will now stop).

    • Well hello Mr Soapbox! Your suggestion that it’s time to “re-tune” our value system is bang on, particularly since the accumulation of wealth for wealth’s sake means that now there’s no limit to how much is enough. The paradigm shifted from accumulating enough wealth to live well to having more than that other guy. Donald Trump (that idiot) described the drive to make more money as nothing more than a way to “keep score”. The more money you have, the “better” you are than the other guy. If that isn’t the epitome of senseless consumption I don’t know what is.

  2. Sky Weir says:

    I think that every time we have had a “bust”, some money moves out of town, prices become a little more reasonable, Calgary slows down and becomes a more interesting place to live. I think that the idea of “enough” is able to come closer to the surface during tight times. People get more creative and interdependent. A community spirit threatens. I really like the direction the new NDP government is going.

    • Sky, in a recent speech to supporters Notley outlined the government’s agenda for the spring session. She’ll work on phasing out coal and implementing the carbon tax to create green technology and green jobs. She’ll introduce a new royalty regime and an economic development plan and work with the federal government on a new health accord to strengthening publicly funded healthcare in Alberta.
      She’s not going to cut public services because (and she put it so well) the answer to hard economic times isn’t to create even harder economic times by slashing public service supports to Alberta families.
      I too really like the direction the new NDP government is going.
      Here’s the link:
      http://globalnews.ca/video/2397687/raw-rachel-notley-speaks-to-ndp-members

      • janice williamson says:

        Thank you susanonthesoapbox for your thoughtful analysis. & Yes, I was at that speech by Rachel Notley and very cheered by her commitment to follow through on the NDP programmes that promise to benefit so many. It is too bad that the transformation comes at a time when the decades of PC management left us with few alternatives to the resource economy in very tough times. In spite of the naysayers, I wish the Notley government good wishes as they implement important changes….

  3. anonymous says:

    A friend once told me I should charge money for my work. I told him that the work didn’t belong to me, and that once it was in the air it belonged to everyone. He’s now wealthy, and I live in relative poverty and definite obscurity. A perfect situation.

    • Anonymous, your comment reminded me of an article I read about a photographer. He lived in the same tiny apartment in New York all his life. He had a few close friends, but was getting on in years and they were dying out. He didn’t have many possessions other than his cameras. His work was breath taking. The article said he could have been a big name in the world of art and photography but fame (and money) weren’t important to him. He was happy with his life. Oh that all of us could find the same equilibrium.

  4. berryfarmer says:

    Have you ever heard of the “degrowth movement?”

    • Berryfarmer, I hadn’t heard of the “degrowth movement”. I googled it and came across its webpage bearing the caption “Research and actions to consume less and share more.” Sounds like a worthy endeavor. Thanks for adding this to the conversation. Here’s the link for those who are interested: http://www.degrowth.org/

  5. GoinFawr says:

    “God has ordered the world so that we may learn to help with one another’s burdens; for no one is without fault, no one is without their burdens, no one is sufficient in themselves, no one is wise enough by themselves; therefore we ought to bear with one another, comfort one another, help, instruct, and admonish one another.” Thomas à Kempis

    “Hell, after all, is the too-late realization of interdependence.”
    Derrick Jensen.

    To Money that means:
    “Canadian institutions have substantial unsecured debt obligations in the wholesale market and as well as other classes of capital, and they have substantial capital as well, so once you stack all of that up, regardless of whether one would look to reach into it … it’s hard to fathom why it would be necessary.”-Mark Carney on ‘bail-ins’

    I guess Poloz is currently doing some ‘fathoming’ because once his negative interest rates trial balloon kicks in, when it comes to the Queen’s currency it’ll be,

    “Free for those who can afford it, very expensive for those who can’t” – Withnail

    all the more; I mean, for those who have the least ‘negative interest rates’ have effectively been the norm through transaction/withdrawal fees, etc. for quite some time already.

    “It seems there are a lot of people in this country who think the poor have too much money.”-Rep Keith Ellison

    And, the most important Canadian Money Elephant in the Room

    “Usury once in control will wreck any nation…Until the control of the issue of currency and credit is restored to government and recognized as its most conspicuous and sacred responsibility, all talk of the sovereignty of Parliament and of Democracy is idle and futile.” W.L.MacKenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada (1934)

    futile, I tells ya.

    • GoinFawr: What a wonderfully clever and clear analysis of where we are today when it comes to Money. You ended with a comment about the futility of it all. The never-say-die optimist in me holds out hope that it won’t all come crashing down but I’ll be darned if I can see a path through this. Still, there are groups of people all over the world who reject rampant consumerism and the me-me-me society, so who knows.

      • GoinFawr says:

        You keep that optimism shining brightly Susan, I’m counting on it!
        Things are only futile until needed change occurs, and I am not without my hopes either. Indeed, have a look at the following piece of democracy in action:

        http://positivemoney.org/2015/12/switzerland-will-have-a-referendum-on-whether-to-stop-private-banks-from-creating-money/

        and keep your chin up! Got to love a nation with elected representatives that will respect their constituents’ wishes to hold a referendum on crucial issues if enough people will sign on to voice their mandate; especially when it is concerning such an important one as national monetary sovereignty.

        I will always maintain that such a strong spirit of political responsibility could catch on around here again too, despite elites’ endless efforts to derail it.

        All the King’s Horses and all the King’s Men….

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Thank you for the article GoinFawr. This is not surprising coming from the Swiss, they understand democracy and that is the reason why they are who they are. The question to me is who had the bright idea that private banks should print money and what type of government allows that to happen? Why is this still happening is mind boggling to me. The fact that any bank can loan out 10 times the money they get from you and me (you know the PEOPLE) and can make interest on that is something we should make poems about. We then except our economies to be fine. The bank or should I say the MAFIA, built the rules and the gurus in our governments accepted them. The consequences do not matter because when austerity is needed we have the force to implement them.

      • Carlos and GoinFawr: thanks for the link and discussion about the ability to create money. Most people don’t give any thought to where money comes from. They just want more of it. One can’t help but wonder what would happen if we (like the Swiss) demanded a greater say in this artificial construct that drives our economy. Taking GoinFawr’s advice I’m optimistic that the Swiss referendum will spur changes that may be small at the outset but will gather steam and have a meaningful influence over the long term. Tally ho! or whatever the appropriate encouraging remark is to pick up on GowinFawr”s “all the King’s Horses” comment. 🙂

  6. jerrymacgp says:

    For an interesting take on the extremes of libertarianism, which lead to a society without any government at all, read this 2004 short story by Canadian sf writer Robert J Sawyer, “The Right’s Tough”. To be clear, Mr Sawyer disavows libertarianism in the preface to this story in an anthology in which it is published (“Identity Theft and Other Stories”, Red Deer Press, 2008); he wrote it against the grain, as it were. But it is an entertaining bit of speculation on the ultimate potential consequences of the “small government” philosophy.

    • GoinFawr says:

      “It’s tough to be a pure libertarian, because reality has a way of messing with that beautiful theory.” Ezra Levant

    • Jerry: Sawyer did a good job of setting up the premise that the people in the post-government world thought they were free but that freedom was an illusion. They could do anything they wanted, provided they had corporate points and a high enough trustworthiness scale. They got corporate points by selling stuff to corporations and their trustworthiness was determined by others who commented about them on line from the day they were born. An entertaining and insightful preview of what could happen down the road.

  7. Bert McFadyen says:

    So what you are saying is that because all people in Alberta are created equally that everyone should have the same level of lifestyle no matter how hard they work or what they contribute to society. Nice thought but history has proven that human nature starts a rush to the lowest common denominator i.e. lowest effort, least productivity, central planning, and irradication of all personal initiative. Nirvana. Of course we all know from the USSR experiment what a failure that philosophy is!
    It is high time that we emphasized indivdual initiative, NOT collectivism so that we all may prosper.

    • GoinFawr says:

      Being born to ‘Equal rights’ does not necessarily mean born with ‘Equal skills’; so it is only you asserting it has to mean,
      “..everyone should have the same level of lifestyle no matter how hard they work or what they contribute to society.”
      not anyone else.

      Ideals are perfection, so as absolutes they are ultimately out of reach, but that doesn’t mean the values they represent aren’t worth striving for.

      Personally, I’ll pass on your false dichotomy and strawman, thanks; historically, human innovation has existed in pretty much any environment, political or otherwise, since necessity (both collective and individual) is the mother of innovation/production.

      “All things for all men, since all men have need of them, since all men worked to produce them in the measure of their strength, and since it is not possible to evaluate everyone’s part in the production of the world’s wealth… All is for all!” P Kropotkin

      • GoinFawr says:

        IE The idea of being ‘created equal’ simply strives to acknowledge that everyone ought to be born with the same baseline set of rights, presumably designed to meet a human’s most basic needs, so that how well the individual does from there is entirely up to themselves alone, and their personal special snowflake skill set.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      I would like to understand why when we talk about collectivism we always have to use the USSR. Socialism has existed successfully in at least 3 Northern countries that although not perfect, they score the highest scores of human dignity, education and even for business. Somehow we use the US for an example of the great capitalist experiment and then we use the USSR for the socialist experiment. The USSR was nothing but a MAFIA run by people that figured out a way of getting a country of 150 million people work for them for slave salaries and convince them that they were very lucky to be Russian and protected from the capitalist exploitation. A powerful propaganda machine with a brutal central police force, controlled everything and everyone. A really far cry from a socialist society.
      On the other hand every time we talk about capitalism we talk about the US and their amazing development after the Second World War when everyone had no economy except them. No doubts they became a very powerful nation with lots of money. Now the situation is not much different than the USSR. 6 people in the US have more wealth than the bottom 180 million. The Mafia is the same except in the US they allow their people to have a better life than the drunk MAFIA in the USSR. Yes they allow their people to protest (sometimes these days) but if you look in depth, you can easily understand how the US became so wealthy. It was not just innovation and personal initiative. It was the total control of governments in South America in the 50s and 60s giving their companies free exploitation rights. It was the change of governments in the Middle East like Mogadesh to give the control of oil exploration to their companies and British Petroleum.
      Summarizing a full blown imperialist system that is now starting to unravel. Donald Trump is the Caligula of modern times. Nothing new just more of the same. Another Empire bites the dust. If you want examples of capitalism similar to the ones you use for the collectivist side just look around the world in places like Brazil, Mexico where the innovation and personal greed enriched half a dozen people just like in the old USSR..
      I think that we have to be a bit more careful and less ethnocentric when we criticize other systems other than the ones we are used to and made to believe they are the best ones.

  8. Neil Fleming says:

    If, in fact all people were created equally, Bert, then there may be some validity to your argument. The greatest lie of all time is that “all people are created equal”. It is pretty apparent to me that people are created with different physical, mental, emotional, psychological, you name it, attributes and that is precisely why those born with these advantages have a responsibility to society to assist those less fortunate. It is clearly not a level playing field out there. One of my favourite sayings is, the most important decision we make in life is who our parents are.

    • Bert, I wasn’t making an argument for everyone having the same level of lifestyle. My point was similar to the one made by GoinFawr and Neil–all people have a right to quality healthcare, a good education and a clean environment, regardless of their income level. These public goods have a value that can’t be analyzed in terms of a financial transaction.

  9. ABCanuck says:

    Lots of thoughtful comments to this column, Ms. Soapbox – well done!

    For my part, I say all should share equitably, i.e., fairly and impartially (according to the Oxford dictonary), which is of course vastly different than equally, in society.

    But no one should fall through the cracks and all in need should be helped.

  10. Einar Davison says:

    Hi Susan, I wonder if it isn’t because Albertans have been told since forever that governments waste money and they think if the Government is just going to waste it, then we should be able to keep it. Each one of knows of a story where a government spent a ton of money and accomplished nothing.
    I’d like to think that most Albertans aren’t that self-centered or greedy, I think that is proven whenever something truly terrible, or important happens we step up with our time and money. I also think that people are just flat out tired of the government largesse that occurred during the latter part of the PC reign in Alberta and the Conservative reign in Ottawa, while they were being asked to step up and do more with less (schools, health care etc) or just pay more for less service.
    I feel that way too…I want the best health care system and education system we can afford, but I also want it to run efficiently and be more patient or student centric than just about dollars and cents. However if you are spending $1.00 on patient care or on educating our students I kind of want .95 cents of it to go towards making patients better and better educating our students. I don’t want a lot of big bureaucracies or patronage spots for political supporters. If we have anything less then why are we paying so much. Now I may be completely off base on this because I have found that things always sound worse than they really are.
    I think there is a perfect opportunity while we are in an economic slump to fix what waste there is, but also bring Alberta into the 21st century in how our government functions and how government provides services. I think we are discovering that privatization cost just as much if not more as public provided services. Maybe we all just need to accept the fact that unless we want a private system that works like the American system…badly, then we might have to accept the fact that government should provide some services. They might not be as efficient. However they will be provided to all Albertans fairly and as needed.
    Once again Susan, you have written a thought provoking blog. Thank you for the enjoyable reads.

    • Valid point Einar. Nothing is more frustrating than finding out your tax dollars are paying for government boondoggles and cronyism or being wasted due to inefficiency. We have an opportunity to fix this under the new government. This will be a challenge after decades of the PC bureaucracy, but it must be done because the alternative–flipping everything to the private sector and siphoning tax dollars into the hands of private shareholders–is not a solution.

      A Parkland Institute report on long term care facilities said for-profit providers expect an average return (profit) of 27% for 2014. That’s $5,500 per bed that could have gone to caring for Albertans in a not-for-profit facility. Notley believes the public sector can do a better job at providing LTC and has announced a plan to open 2000 additional beds. Good on her!

      • Einar Davison says:

        Oh Susan, don’t get me started on long term care. My mother was a resident of the Strathmore Hospital Long Term Care which was shut down in favour of Agecare a private provider with deep connections to AHS “governance”. Who was basically given half the funds required to build the Agecare facility as a grant, with some vague agreement to maintain government regulated fees for 30 years. I believe quality of care isn’t anywhere near what it was at the hospital LTC. With seniors who are medically at risk, who suffer a medical problem requiring an ambulance ride to the hospital and then the family needs to arrange for the return to Agecare. For some people this can mean many trips to a hospital that is short on beds to begin with and for extended stays over a month there is a possibility the seniors might lose their room at Agecare.
        This was the project that Allison Redford stated that after she reviewed the plans was the greatest idea she’d had ever seen. Meanwhile the 25 beds of the former LTC remain empty to this day. The closure was announced with a letter to the family members, a meeting where a bureaucrat told us that our only choice was Agecare or we could take our family members home (as if that was a possibility, or we wouldn’t have put our parents in long term care to begin with). This one made me so angry that I have a silent prayer to all the people involved in this from Allison Redford down to the Rural Director of Senior Care in our area that sometime in the future when they are a senior that they get to experience the treatment they put these seniors through just long enough for them to understand how wrong they were. We need to make sure that the people we put in positions of authority have the interest of Albertans at heart and not their own personal benefit or that of their friends.
        Don’t get me wrong I don’t believe anyone needs Rolls Royce treatment (like an MRI for a headache), but patients deserve appropriate treatment and they need to be the priority and not some crony who happens to know the right people in government. I suspect many friends of the former PC Government got rich or even richer from their patronage, lets hope that never happens again. The only way to ensure that is to make sure we don’t leave anyone in government for decades as we have throughout Alberta’s history.

      • Einar, your experience with Agecare demonstrates the folly of a government expecting the private sector to provide public services more efficiently. Such arguments are based on the premise that the private market is more efficient at weeding out inefficiencies. And yet these disciples of the private market think it’s fine to accept government funding to build their facilities (that’s taxpayer dollars) and reserve to themselves the power to toss seniors out if they’re hospitalized for over a month (likely because such seniors would require more care once they returned to Agecare and the per bed unit cost would rise thereby eroding Agecare’s profit margin). No doubt the owners of Agecare see themselves as astute entrepreneurs, and let’s face it they are, getting the taxpayer to fund half the costs of construction and being able to eliminate any senior who’s a drag on profit generation is a pretty nifty business model…but not appropriate in the public sector.

  11. John F. says:

    “Some Albertans swear they’ll slash their charitable contributions to zero if the NDP asks for another dime.”

    God, just screw people like this. I remember that quartet of clueless execs prior to the election telling the public they’d stop funding the Children’s Hospital if the public didn’t shape up and vote how they were told. If you genuinely can’t afford charitable giving then don’t do it, you can make that decision without grandstanding about it like a petulant toddler. If you can afford it but you’re going to say “screw children and the unfortunate” every time a policy decision doesn’t go your way, then you’re an unbelievably worthless human being.

    • John, that’s a perfect example. The Edmonton businessmen included Doug Goss who was then the Chairman of the U of A Board of Governors. Someone pointed out the irony of the chair of an institution of higher learning (which presumably encourages students to think for themselves) telling Albertans not to think for themselves and just vote PC because he says so.
      The other comment that was really over the top was made by John Cameron who owns a construction company. He was complaining about the increase in corporate taxes and said “Why? Why is it me? Why is it the corporation?”
      Some people live in a different world.

  12. DHT says:

    I pass along two links that require an investment of time, but accrue a nice pay-out for those who pay attention:
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/mans-near-fatal-experience-depicts-the-pitiless-realities-of-modern-china/article27742103/

    http://nautil.us/issue/30/identity/quantum-mechanics-is-putting-human-identity-on-trial

    The first speaks to the fact that the political system, as defined by those at the top of that system, provides no guarantees that Care is inherent in said system. The second speaks to the very real effects of relativity and entanglement and what that determines about identity, including what we all care about. Why?

    Pretty simple actually…I think that those that threaten monetary withdrawal are simply making explicit the need for a political body that ebbs and flows with the circumstances faced by the society in question. The withholder’s claim that the “economic answer” provides “care for all” simply does not hold as true. As Susan’s post points out, there is plenty of empirical research that shows that the result of caring (sharing) is not something expressed to the same degree or level, by every constituent of the whole. When told to share, withholders re-gain control by exercising their still remaining options. I see nothing wrong with this: these people should move to places in the world where this is common behaviour…because they’d be much happier in a place where there is little to no expectation to care.

    This “self-selecting out to be where I’m with my own kind” is a pretty normal thing, and has been expressed to the extreme in any “cleansing” efforts taken on, politically or otherwise, throughout the ages…it’s usually starts with tantruming and threats or any other unstable emotional state you care to recognize (recent cyber threats to politicians being an interesting example). Where things do get a little confusing (for some) is this business of “equal-ness” and “equity-ness”. On much smaller scales we are indistinguishable from one another (article 2) which allows for the uniqueness-es among us, including what we “value”.

    Quite frankly, I get the euphemism of “public good” as a political expression to offend the fewest voters, but I wish that when certain people announce that their charity gene has withered, the rest of us (with still robust genetic fitness) would just recognize that the only remaining option is to (calmly) vote for “care” because we, at all times, share the same indistinguishable imposition for those like us (which, if the science is true, is ACTUALLY ALL OF US), while allowing those that don’t (care) to take their chequebooks elsewhere. That to me, is the “lowest common denominator” solution.

  13. DHT, thank you for your comment and the links. The article about poor Mr Zhang pointed out the horror of living in a society in which “no one is responsible for each other”. The second article did indeed demonstrate that when you zoom in on human beings at a smaller and smaller scale we’re indistinguishable. That was a beautifully written article BTW. Who knew one could describe an electron’s worldline (whatever that is) as “a great smoky dragon with a well-defined head, a distinct tail and nothing but vapor in between”.
    And I agree with your last paragraph, when certain people play the “high taxes, no charity” card, the rest of us should simply vote for “care”.

  14. DHT says:

    And then, as though there is a “harmony of the universe”, I open the NY Times to this…what a perfect place for all those who don’t like it here, to hide themselves and their gains…
    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/15/us/shell-company-bel-air-mansion.html?emc=edit_na_20151214&nlid=60642152&ref=cta&_r=0
    Now you see them, now you don’t 🙂 Grrrr, broke the ‘one and done’ rule again!

    • Wow, DHT, that’s quite a story. When I read the story about these elusive people who hide behind the L.L.C corporate structure so they can break the law with impunity in order to build multi-million dollar homes I’m reminded of the other point Dr Dick made in his presentation. He referred to Kahneman and Deaton’s “$75,000 study”. These researchers studied the happiness level of 450,000 Americans and discovered that once someone reaches $75,000 in income there is absolutely no improvement in emotional well-being (happiness, sadness, stress). The only thing that continued to improve was one’s sense of life-evaluation (the feeling that one was making progress). Wouldn’t it be interesting to test this theory on the multi-millionaire home owners in Bel Air, assuming you could persuade one to come out from behind his L.L.C.

  15. fjwhite says:

    It will be interesting to see what position PM Trudeau, Rachel Notley et al. take when they attempt to sort out the “values” embodied in the devilishly complex 6,000 pages, 30 chapters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership document. Will TPP primarily serve the public good, or corporate interests? For some public policy decisions, contribution to the public good is transparent; sadly, TPP is not one of these.

    Perhaps you could sort out TPP for us Susan? ;=)

  16. Carlos Beca says:

    Susan what you wrote about tax levels and expectations is a legacy of 30 years of blaming the government for everything that goes wrong and is badly managed versus the ultra efficiency and ultimate concern for money spent of the private sector. Albertans want better free education better healthcare, better roads more efficient public services but they also want their taxes lowered. That a teenager can accept that reality is no surprise but adults that really believe that Brian Jean is going to lower their taxes to nothing and still give them all they have now is to me mind boggling. I am not sure how this mind set is changed but I doubt that it will ever be, especially when we live right beside the US where these very far right wing ideas are on television day in and day out. I read this morning that Carson is promising or requesting the National Guard in all border controls between the US and Canada. I would suggest him to pay more attention to his own government. According to Thomas Drake, John Kiriakou, senator Graham and others it is very clear that 9/11 could have been avoided but was dismissed possibly because George Bush and Dick Cheney were looking for a strong reason for war and invade Iraq.
    Another great point by Roy is the what is really enough. We teach our children science, languages, computers, we tell them over and over to share and be respectful of the rule of law and then we throw them into a society where greed is the motto, where politicians show anything but respect for others and where success is nothing but being a celebrity. Having billions and aspiring to those levels of wealth which are revered with God like status, is the reality. We really worry about teaching them banking and investment, but God forbid teaching them citizenship, honesty and integrity. Furthermore we are so far down this path that I believe the reason we do not teach them is because we ourselves do not believe anymore that they can make it with those positive attitudes in the society we have created and accepted. Many business now cheat in order to provide their owners with these astronomical profit levels expected. CEOs in large corporations now make so much money that people have to be laid off to pay for their salaries and benefits. Tax evasion is now expected from those who can do it. Moving money to tax havens is now a fact of life. Governments do nothing about any of this. They prefer to go after the little person like most of us that do not even have any money left to send anywhere.

    • Many many excellent points here Carlos. The one about CEOs making so much money people have to be laid off reminded me of Royal Dutch Shell’s plan to buy BG. Shell will pay $70 billion for BG. Shell has roughly 94,000 employees world wide. BG has 5,500. Shell laid off 7,500 in July and is planning on laying off an additional 2,800 from the Shell/BG entity once the deal is done. Shell’s CEO will get a nice big bonus when it’s all over. 10,300 people will lose their jobs. Moral of the story: if you have to live in turbulent times make sure you’re at the top of the food chain.

  17. Einar Davison says:

    A quick comment (I am capable of a few). Why is it that we always talk about “being John Wayne” an actor, who promoted the idea of individualism, stand alone, fight alone, ask no quarter and give none. Yet all through history those type of people in reality eventually fail, winding up corpses in a desert, a forest, the Arctic, where ever. However history shows that when people join together in an unselfish act, whether it is fighting a war or helping people after a flood. The most amazing things get accomplished. If anyone calls that communism or socialism, then they are just ignorant. Instead of saying it can’t be done, lets create a vision and work towards making it happen. We can either stand still and wind up becoming a have not province again or we can figure out how to make the future happen here and set the course for the future here in Alberta. That one should be easy, I can’t believe Albertans are too lazy to try.

    • I like your optimistic challenge to all Albertans Einar. You’re right Albertans aren’t too lazy to try, but many of them have been brainwashed into thinking that Big Oil is the only road to prosperity. This downturn demonstrates the fallacy of that thinking. It’s time to get creative and try something new.
      As to why we think John Wayne’s example is the one to follow…your guess is as good as mine 🙂

  18. david says:

    Bravo Susan- you nailed the difference between progressive values (‘what’s good for the community is good for society’) and Conservative values (‘what’s good for business is good for society’). One is based on notions of sufficiency and the other based on scarcity and fear (and greed, in my opinion). This important discussion needs to happen in our families, communities and workplaces – not to mention the legislatures!

    • Well put David. Many people say they’re not interested in politics, but surely they’d be interested in a discussion along the lines you set out.

      Thank you for continuing to be a reasonable voice in the Legislature! All the best in 2016.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      ‘Not to mention the Legislatures’ – that is the one I would like to understand why it does not happen.
      They spend most of the time discussing garbage. The media helps that process along. A clear example is the Syrian refugees. Everyone is on the fact that it was supposed to be 25 thousand until the end of the year. The real issues, in this case how much the refugees were being given versus Canadians on welfare only came up because it exploded on facebook.
      Who the heck cares whether we have 25 thousand by the end of January or March? It is ridiculous. Unfortunately that is all that MPs and most of the media are concerned with. The government promised by the end of the year and it did not do it!!!!!

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