Social capital – Does it apply here?

I keep reading articles about this thing people are calling ‘social capital’ and trying to figure out where it fits in my quest to see a strong and economically prosperous New Brunswick. A general Google search gives me 9 million hits on the subject. A Google News search brings back some 200 articles in the past 30 days mentioning it. Wikipedia has a fairly wide ranging analysis of it.

But an economist in Northern Ontario crystallized it a bit better for me in this article – particularly as it relates to community development.

My questions are simple. Should the government of New Brunswick develop a social capital strategy to support community economic development? Can social capital be nurtured by government involvement? What types of social capital are supportive of economic development (note that there is positive and negative social capital development)?

Is this one way that New Brunswick could step up and take a leadership position?

Usually I claim to have some answers to the questions I pose in this corner of cyberspace but on this topic I am in truly exploratory mode.

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0 Responses to Social capital – Does it apply here?

  1. Anonymous says:

    A silly question, in fact, all those questions about social capital were answered long ago. Once again we can use the example of homelessness. Try to find a study or a book on the problem of homelessness from the seventies and early eighties. Even when I went to University in Fredericton in the early/mid nineties I never saw a single panhandler or homeless person. And this was before the days when governments passed draconian laws to ‘hide’ them.

    As far as early education, I hate to be unkind, but the article sourced here is a particular piece of propaganda. It expounds the idea that this is an old problem to which solutions need to be found.

    Not at all, in fact these are common of perhaps the last twenty years when governments began taking the axe to social programs. The idea that the government of Canada is investing in communities is HILARIOUS. No level of government has been harder on communities than them. In fact, the entire problem rests with them.

    To repeat once again, tax cheats have over 100 billion hidden in the carribean, there is almost 100 billion in EI surpluses, the rich corporations are fabulously wealthy.

    Up until Mulroney, Canada did a remarkably efficient job of community and individual investment. Education was quite good, and unemployment was generally seasonal. Those who needed government help generally got it. It was far from perfect, but even up to the early nineties we saw Canada ranked as #1 in the world.

    That changed when the liberals cut back spending to 1950’s levels and now we see the result. They control all wealth in the country, so we see the trickle down effect on those governments and people who depend on them. Virtually all services that don’t pander to upper middle class voters have been gouged.

    Investing is social capital is another way of say ‘this doesn’t work, how can we return to the old ways without saying we’ve failed’. It’s easy enough to get rich people to pay their fair share, and easy to invest that in education and programs, most countries do it, and far better than us.

    The idea that somehow we should ‘all’ become angel investors is just ridiculous, mutual funds exist for a reason, they are easy and generally profitable. What I mean is that that is exactly what governments are for. This is a way of saying-‘your government is out of the business of helping people-do it yourself’. Thats exactly what was said in the thirties, and then people figured out a better way-through their government.

  2. Anonymous says:

    First define social capital. If it means investing in people’s growth through education, living conditions, training, and providing a decent life, then I don’t think there is such a thing as negative social development.

    As for government, who else is going to do it? Communities are complete creations of the provincial government, it has the final say on virtually everything, and if a municipality does something it doesn’t like, it can just cut off funding, just like at the federal level.

    Take a look at Vermont. The state spent what we’d call a fortune on social development because like NB they had large amounts of illiteracy, a rural economy, etc. Now, they are still called a ‘model of fiscal restraint’ by the libertarian caucus -which means something. They didn’t close rural schools or start busing. Their class sizes are frozen at ten kids per teacher. This guarantees that every kid gets attention.

    To save funds new teacher salaries were frozen, then even lowered over the years.

    Now, their illiteracy level is as low as their suburban neighbour New Hampshire, and about a quarter of what NB’s is. That’s all government, nobody else. It wasn’t done by ‘investment angels’ or any of that crap. It was done by a government that works.