Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Paul Martin: Mr. Dithers

The Economist has dubbed Paul Martin [Prime Minister of Canada], "Mr. Dithers" because he appears to vacillate so often on policy issues. They refer to "a fiscal cafeteria" because he seems to have handouts for so many different groups. The Trono Globe & Mail reports,

“Mr. Martin, a successful finance minister for almost a decade until 2002, cannot quite shake off the impression that Canada's top job is too big for him,” says the Economist in an article posted to its website Thursday and expected to be featured in next edition on Canadian news stands Monday.

“His faltering leadership has earned him the sobriquet of ‘Mr Dithers.' ”
I am unimpressed. Nowhere does the article mention that Martin leads a minority gubmnt. The result of minority gubmnts is often that, in order to maintain a fragile coalition, the party that is sort-of-in-power must kow-tow to MPs from other parties. In the early 1970s, Canada got some of its worst economic policies, with which we are still saddled, due to the brief unholy alliance between Trudeau's Liberals and David Lewis's NDP (socialists).

Now, however, the minorityLiberal gubmnt must deal with the Conservatives, the Bloc Quebecois (separatists), and the NDP (socialists). To some extent, the Liberals can play them off against each other, since they are extremely unlikely to form a coalition to defeat the gubmnt immediately. At the same time, however, the Liberals must in various ways appease each of the other parties. The result is the appearance of dithering and a fiscal cafeteria. But to stop at the appearance without examining the cause is really shallow analysis of the situation.

It might be understandable if a U.S. journalist, unfamiliar with the parliamentary system, had written that piece, but a Brit article should have been better.

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