Like many people you are probably aware of the growing divide between the glowing terms used to describe the conservative economic “reforms” that were incessantly championed by government, mass media, and corporate pundits and the dismal results here and around the world. Since the Reagan/Thatcher/Mulroney 1980’s the public has been constantly bombarded with the need to downsize government and to free the private sector to produce wealth as part of the new “common sense” reality. This has certainly been the case in Alberta since the era of Ralph Klein's "reforms".
We were told that there was nothing government could do that big business couldn’t do better and cheaper when the profit motive was unleashed. Globalization (outsourcing manufacturing jobs to low-wage developing world countries with little or no protection for workers and the environment), a constantly expanding economy without limits, and neoliberalism (allowing an unregulated market to reign supreme with resulting privatization, deregulation, tax cuts for the wealthy and the corporations, reduction or elimination of government medicare, education, and social programs, and the unrestricted flow of investment capital) were presented as the rising tide that would lift all boats, providing benefits to all. In reality global financial collapse, downsizing, stagnating or falling wages, sweatshops, McJobs, cutbacks, poverty, homelessness, and a growing gap between the rich and everyone else were the new economic order of the day along with environmental degredation and a state of permament war. The global financial debacle, rather than serving as a wake-up call to abandon Market Supremacy, has been siezed by Stephen Harper as a pretext for further corporate tax cuts, attacks on organized labour, and cuts to social and environmental programs, all in the name of protecting a fragile economy. Meanwhile the rich continue to get richer at the expense of the rest of the Canadian population.
Our cultural, economic, and political systems and society itself have been subverted by the need for limitless profits by a small corporate elite. The neoliberal “reforms”, “free trade” treaties, wars, and the commodification of every aspect of our lives are driven by the desire of big business to increase its already bloated profits regardless of the costs, which it externalizes to the rest of us.
Many people are fighting the isolated symptoms without addressing the underlying global disease. Poverty, developing world debt, unsustainable environmental exploitation, war and militarism, rigged trade treaties enshrining big business rights, curtailment of dissent and civil rights in the name of the “war on terror”, American hegemony (global military, political, and economic domination), and underfunding/privatization of medicare/education/social programs are overwhelmingly the goals or consequences of corporate rule. This may be defined as ownership, control, or undue influence over the economy, mass media, and government by transnational corporations and the wealthy elite who largely own them. This control allows the setting of the agenda and policies for the rest of society and the selling of these policies to the public through the corporate media. This has been the case for several decades but has been shifted into overdrive since the enthusiastic embrace of neoliberalism by the power elite. What we are left with is a hollowed out formal democracy where the citizenery's only participation in their own government consists of voting every few years for a narrow slate of candidates. Any real control over government economic policies affecting their daily lives vanishes with the resulting democratic deficit as the elected party pursues a business-friendly agenda leaving a depoliticised, disempowered, apathetic electorate. Perhaps the ultimate irony is that many of the theories underpinning these damaging policies are based on economic myths which crumble under close examination. As a further irony the information and analysis needed to counter this erroneous economic orthodoxy is readily available to the public if they knew where to look. This GUIDE is designed to bridge that gap and provide a non-partisan look at alternatives to this increasingly dysfunctional economic and political system.
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