The Liberal Party of Canada has often been accused of campaigning on the Left and then governing from the Right. They certainly out-flanked the social democrats on the Left in the last election and effectively sucked the wind out of the sails of the social democratic leader Thomas Mulcair (who, to their dismay, alienated even his own base of support by running on a small-c conservative or Blairite platform).
One of the “star candidates” for the Liberal Party was Chrystia Freeland, now Minister of International Trade in the Trudeau government. Freeland was a promising candidate and appointment because of an apparent distaste for wide-open neo-liberalism. Not only was she chums with Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz, who is himself very critical of neo-liberalism, but Freeland was the author of Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else. She seemed, therefore, to understand the problem and the threats to democracy that so-called “free trade” deals represented.
Now, in an apparent flip-flop, Freeland is campaigning around the globe to get very controversial trade agreements ratified, such as CETA and the TPP, including a prospective one with China. She has, apparently (and against Joe Stiglitz’s advice it seems) become an enthusiast for the very trade system that paved the way for the Plutocratic dominance she critiqued in the first place.
(I haven’t read her book Plutocrats. I’ve only read reviews, so maybe I should read her book before I accuse her of the traditional Liberal Flip-Flop).
It seems that no one, conservative, liberal, or social democrat, has any other plan or model than following the same old Yellow Brick Road into its inevitable dead end in Plutocracy or Corporatocracy or climate catastrophe, even when they recognise and acknowledge the problem. Governments become mere facilitators, and parliaments and congresses more like Boards of Directors or the Steering Committees of what Sheldon Wolin calls “Democracy, Inc” — the corporate or managerial state.
Even the social democrats seem to have no other plan but the follow the same Yellow Brick Road into political irrelevancy, if not political oblivion.
Neo-liberal economics is itself, also, the great threat of climate disaster. Not only does it encourage more rapid “development” of already precarious natural resources, and globalises demand for them, but the egregious investor-state provisions, which often allow private corporations to sue governments for potential lost profits, also accelerates the rate of extraction and distribution of natural resources resulting in accelerated depletion.
In fact, while I was preparing this post, I received by email from The Nation Institute, another dystopian projection for the fate of the Earth by the American energy expert Michael Klare (which some of you have already seen, I suspect), and it is not encouraging about our prospects or hopes for a safe and orderly transition to a conservation economics or sustainability or, for that matter, our chances to dodge climate catastrophe. Klare’s analysis of the futility of the Paris Agreements and the likelihood of the worst-case scenario materialising are pretty convincing.
What’s the problem here but a total lack of hindsight and a total lack of foresight? If the future inherits anything from the present it may well be only… Regret — “the most destructive force in the universe” is how I heard it described once by a character in a recent movie.
That’s a horrid legacy to pass on.