In the 1960s, Canada began a seismic shift away from the core policies and values upon which the country had been built. A nation of “makers” transformed itself into a nation of “takers.” Crowley argues that the time has come for the pendulum to swing back—back to a time when Canadians were less willing to rely on the state for support; when people went where the work was rather than waiting for the work to come to them. Thought-provoking, meticulously detailed and ultimately polarizing, Fearful Symmetry is required reading for anyone who is interested in where this country began, where it’s been, and where it’s going. “Founder of the Halifax-based Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, Brian Lee Crowley has written a courageous book with absolutely unique analysis and interpretation. Part lament, part celebration, Fearful Symmetry is most of all a profoundly optimistic book. Why? Rush to read it as soon as you can. ” – Globe and Mail .
Wrapped up in Crowley’s thinking is a grain of truth. But his attacks always end up blaming the system while never really proffering any solutions. Crowley used to advocate that Atl. Canada become a laissez-faire region within Canada without ever saying how this could possibly work. Now he advocates that Canada become a laissez-faire country without ever saying how this could possibly work.
We cannot unilaterally disarm. That’s what Crowley doesn’t seem to understand. We live in a globalized world. If every country agreed not to bail out the auto sector, that would be fine. Then the auto sector would have to figure it out. But if virtually every other country bails out the auto sector and Canada doesn’t – and loses the jobs – what did we gain? If Atlantic Canada says we will forgo giving grants and loans – while the provincial government and the Feds pile on billions in Ontario – how is that to the benefit of Atl. Canada? I could go on but I think the point stands.
And as for that crack about people waiting for the work to come to them, again there is a grain of truth but there has been a steady stream of workers out of New Brunswick for 140 years – with little interruption. Those that are remaining and clinging to their seasonal jobs in the fishery are a hold out. Hundreds of thousands of New Brunswickers have left this province for work over the past 100 years. We are now in a string of 15 straight years of net out-migration. The idea that everyone is waiting for the work to come here, is a Crowley fantasy.
The last point here and then I will stop. Canada is far less ‘socialized’ today than it was even 30 years ago. Back then governments owned coal mines, oil companies, telecommunications firms, and a whole list of other parts of the economy. I don’t have the numbers in front of me but the government share of GDP has been steadily going down for the past 15-20 years. I suspect this year it will turn upward but there was a time when the government in Canada was something like 35% of the national economy.
It’s almost like Crowley is locked in time – back to when he first read Hayek, Bastiat and Von Mises.
A long time ago, the famous American Socialist John Dewey drew this final conclusion about Leon Trotsky: “He was tragic. To see such brilliant native intelligence locked up in absolutes.”
I think that applies to Brian Lee Crowley. He is smart. He even has a unique and interesting set of ideas that have merit but that must be filtered through the context of the real world. But he is so locked up in absolutes that he will end up appealing to a fringe group rather than playing a real legitimate role in the public square of ideas.