I listened to a great podcast yesterday in the car on the way to Freddy Beach. It was with the heads of the news departments of CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN. They were debating the future of TV news but I was especially interested in the discussion of news as entertainment (the cable news effect – Olberman, Beck, etc.).
The idea is to take a news story and turn it into CrossFire – which was among the first examples (in their minds) of news as entertainment). Two people on opposite sides of an issue debate in a sometimes heated way about the issue and the audience is entertained – primarily because of the heightened tension of the battle.
I felt a bit like that yesterday on the 21Inc. panel discussion. I was talking about the need for New Brunswick to attract investment and focus in on ways to grow the economic foundation of the province in order to see the creation of jobs that keep people here (and help attract migrants/immigrants) and to generate the taxes required to pay for the kinds of public services that we all want. I felt like one of the other panelists – won’t take their name in vain here – was responding to my comments in a CrossFire like fashion.
I say we need to find a way to have the private sector play a more important role in New Brunswick’s future and stop always assuming it is only the role of government and that gets translated by the other panelist into a commentary on how people shouldn’t knock the importance of the state. There were several other examples of this. Because of time and format I couldn’t respond to these implied charges that I am a libertarian, rabid capitalist who hates the state.
The benefit of having a blog is that you can respond in a clear fashion to this type of thing.
First, I think the ‘state’ has a critical role to play in economic development and I think the ‘state’ more broadly has been a fundamental reason why Canada has emerged as such a great country. But I don’t think that means we are not allowed to criticize the ‘state’ (whatever that is) when there are big issues that need to be debated. The reflexive defense of the state is just as boring to me as the reflexive criticism of the state.
Second, I am not a rabid capitalist – by any means. I have witnessed first hand how the profit motive drives people to do some pretty nasty things and I have, as you have, witnessed this on a provincial, national and international basis. However, I think understanding the limitations of a profit-motivated free market economic system does not mean we have to treat it as some kind of bad system that has to be tolerated. We need to celebrate successful companies that are good employers and that are good to their communities (broadly speaking) and not feel guilty about it.
If there are companies that are exploiting workers or the environment or acting in a brutish fashion, that’s a bad thing but it’s the lack of businesses in New Brunswick that has led to out-migration, high unemployment, very high dependence on seasonal employment, the dependence on Equalization, etc. We need far more companies to set up here or to grow from here.
This should be axiomatic and I can’t believe in 2009 that we can’t agree on this.
The last point here and then I’ll stop. One of the 21incers asked if New Brunswick had a right to exist (or something to that effect) given that it can’t survive on its own without significant funds generated from the economies in the rest of Canada.
I made this statement in my TJ column two weeks ago:
“I personally believe that communities have value beyond their economic foundation. The culture, friendships, family ties and shared history that binds communities together has value beyond a straight financial calculus. “
That should clear up my position on the issue.