Economic development 101, 102, etc.

I read this weekend a letter to the editor in a Jamaican paper and it really piqued my curiosity. A Mr. Spence wrote that “Wealth creation should be taught in schools”. He chastises politicians for not talking about economic issues and concludes:

At the end of their [the politicians’] tenure, we end up with a legacy of increased poverty and neglected garrisons of murderous criminal hopelessness where dons become slave masters, benefactors and the people’s government, judge and jury.

Now, as you can imagine, I thought of Mr. Spence’s editorial in the context of New Brunswick. While there is no direct parallel here (I don’t see much ‘murderous criminal hopelessness’ here), I do think we can learn something (no disrespect to my fellow blogger who didn’t like my linking Pravda with the Times and Transcript – I don’t posit for one moment that New Brunswick’s society is anything like Jamaica’s).

Let’s face it. We don’t teach ‘economic development’ even at a peripheral level at the high school and even university levels. I took economics courses right through to the master’s level and I don’t recall one course on ‘economic development’ in the sense of communities and industries rallying together to stimulate an economy for the good of society (for those of you that think my education was in the 1920s, think again – I finished my MBA in 1991).

So, your humble servant, proposes a slate of economic development courses to be taught at the high school and then university level:

Suggested Titles:
-Why economies die and can we do anything about it?
-The Irish model of attracting international investment – could it work here?
-Building a successful economy in a post resource-based community
-The auto sector in Ontario: A case study in positive government investment
-The pharmaceutical sector in Montreal: A 30 year experiment
-The economics of dependancy: why increasing Equalization will accelerate New Brunswick’s decline.
-Can cold climates have strong economies?
-Investing less than 1% – Is it good enough? The role of government in economic development.
-Economic development and immigration: chicken and egg dilemma?
-Subsidies versus investments/propping up dying industries vs. stimulating emerging industries
-Rebuilding rural communities: revisiting why they started in the first place
-The role of New Brunswick universities in economic development: Subsidizers of Ontario’s labour pool or genuine economic development engines?
-Politics and economic development: incompatable?
-Is economic development education necessary?

Now, you may disagree with some or all of my titles. And maybe teaching kids about Alfred Marshall’s supply/demand curve is more important or David Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage or JM Keynes’ theory of aggressive government support of economies. Or maybe just getting them out on the track is more important because we are the most obese society in Canada. I would like to think we could squeeze a few of these courses in – maybe as extra credit during lunch hour.

Heck, maybe we should make this adult education and invite the politicians.

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0 Responses to Economic development 101, 102, etc.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Just thought I’d supply the flip side, though I completely agree about teaching economics, it is also a major failing of media AND government.

    However, your economics was a bit biased, if we were teaching it, I’d prefer it wasn’t just the one side. So I thought I’d posit the ‘left’ side and as usual, the best scenario is somewhere down the middle and includes both sides.

    Some don’t need a reply, I’m assuming if you’re thinking of teaching economics there’s no point in teaching whether it’s ‘necessary’ or not.

    -Why the New Brunswick economy died and how do we reverse this?

    -(Irish model) How 2 billion in agricultural subsidies can affect a rural economy-and should New Brunswick look at joining the EU rather than Canada.

    -The auto sector in Ontario: Investing half a billion to keep Ontarian jobs and ignoring the rest of Canada.

    -The pharmaceutical sector in Montreal: ditto

    -The economics of dependancy: why increasing Equalization will accelerate New Brunswick’s decline. (this isn’t economics at all, you’ve got to have a pretty philosophical view of economic development if more money coming into the province equals faster devolution of services, that’s grade one math)

    -Can cold climates have strong economies? That’s just silly, there’s a reason practically every third world country is in a tropical or semi temperate zone) For my money I’d take one of the scandinavian economies over ours any day of the week.

    -Rebuilding rural communities: revisiting why they started in the first place

    Why in heavens name would an analysis of rural communities be why they started in the first place? Unless the idea is somehow that they aren’t that necessary.

    How about just the rebuilding rural communities part.

    The ONLY really relevant economic question is simply to posit ‘how’ in front of the desired question. Yet just looking at the question shows a lot about what the answer will be.

    For example, try positing ‘Cuba’ for ‘Ireland’ and you can see the two ends of the spectrum. However, I see a good exercise in economics in analyzing how a tiny island with a forty year embargo can not only offer one of the best educational systems in the hemisphere but also one of the best health care systems. In fact, a good exercise is to join one of the thousands of Canadians who regularly visit Cuba for a ‘field trip’.

    When you start asking ‘how’, that’s when the real economic development analysis begins. But of course we don’t even have the opportunity to ask the questions.

  2. David Campbell says:

    First of all, some of my hypothetical courses were meant to be humourous (don’t be so literal anonymous – you’ll end up on Altace prematurely!).

    Secondly, I think you are dead wrong about the issue of revisiting why communities started in the first place. There was a reason why Parrsboro became a community. There was a reason why Campbellton became a community. If we reconstruct the historical drivers that led to the development of those communities, we may then be able to replicate that in the new economy. I know that’s theoretical but I am tired of all the doom and gloom around. Like the six million dollar man, we can rebuild him – but it will take time and effort.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Dude, you’ve GOT to find yourself another Parrsboro! Kouchibouguac used to be a huge shipbuilding centre, but knowing that certainly doesn’t help understand how it can be rejuvenated. Towns existed because they were based in a geographically favourable spot or just because a group of people ‘liked it there’.

    They’re usually located by rivers, but that’s not much help anymore, the days of wind water and sail are long gone. Rehashing WHY they came into existence isn’t much help, only moderately more helpful is why they faded away-and even that is no surprise. The vast majority of people want to stay where they are, it takes a huge amount of economic DIS incentives to get them to leave.

  4. David Campbell says:

    We look at the world through different lenses, my friend. I work off the premise that communities aren’t destined to die. The industries that supported us in the last century won’t be enough to support us in this one. Therefore, I see no other alternatives. We either figure out how to embed new economy industries in the province or we shut it down.

    Look around. If you put a ‘life cycle’ model on New Brunswick and gave it a hundred year time horizon, we would now be well into the decline phase with the shrinking economic activity consolidating into one or two areas. If we didn’t have this arbitrary $1.43 billion in Equalization, we would not have been a viable political or economic entity as far back as 30 years ago. Therefore, we need to put a new life cycle model on New Brunswick and start over again with new industries, new ideas, new energy. Let that grow, mature and decline over the next 100 years. Then two guys like you and me will be debating whether or not we should ship all EI dependant folks to Mars.

  5. Anonymous says:

    You said it best right here: “We either figure out how to embed new economy industries …” Exactly, everything else is moot, the only thing the history of a town tells you is what failed-so don’t do that.

    Economic development is not very hard, take a look at third world populations who now sell items at 10,000 villages. It only takes a few to keep a village going. This is because people are resilient and resourceful. And everybody wants a better life.

    This is where I disagree with many ‘economic developers’ who think the resolution to poverty is to cut off ANY supports so that the people will move to where the jobs are (west or to cities at least). Far from it, and that’s pretty much what we’ve been doing. Here’s where we see not only the dysfunction of Canada but also the ‘inevitability’ of decline.

    Nobody said it was inevitable, but even Mr.Savoie recognizes that it’s POLITICAL. When you have no representation, and you have no control, you are simply screwed. New Brunswick is about to finish off the north by using the bad excuse that now that there are no more people-because industry has been centralized in the south-there shouldn’t be as much representation. Notice how Nackawic gets a multi-million dollar deal to keep it viable, while the Miramichi and Bathurst are told ‘it’s the market, whaddya gonna do?’ It doesn’t get more blatant than that. In fact they BETTER change the boundaries because every northerner knows that fact.

    It’s pretty basic if you look at how the government operates. There’s a reason why the Committee on Electoral Boundaries is headed by a judge and their final decision is binding on the government (probably the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard of in a ‘democracy’-government saying that its can’t refuse it’s own committee). However, we note that the Committee on Legislative Democracy is just ‘elective’ which means their idea for a referendum on proportional representation falls on deaf ears. In other words, the government WANTS less representation up north, but doesn’t want to be blamed for it.

    And that’s just at the provincial level, so when you take into account the feds, which is where the REAL money is, and the lack of representation is really evident. We have that hundred year life cycle as proof. Notice that Toronto is about the same ‘age’ yet it’s current prognosis is far different.

    This is why every homogonized culture has demanded what (almost half) of Quebecers and most natives want- SELF government. They know how the system works-and know it’s not in the favour of the smaller market.